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Faith and Climate: The Road to COP 28

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byAleksander Esmann
onMay 15, 2023

By Aleksander Esmann
HAF Intern
The webinar “Faith and Climate: The Road to COP 28” took place on May 4, 2023, as a preparatory meeting for COP 28, the UN Climate Change Conference 2023 in Dubai. This session discussed the anticipated main topics of the conference including the role that faith organizations play and what impact they can have in the fight against climate change.

In the webinar, Niklas Hagelberg from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) gave a brief overview of the current situation regarding global warming and the agreements and changes that must be put into place to meet the 1.5 °C target adopted in the Paris Agreement in 2015. He explained how last year’s global temperatures were the hottest in the history of climate records. Continuing this trend with today´s current policies in place would mean a 2.8 °C increase in temperature by the end of the century, which would have disastrous consequences for our planet and for humanity.

To reverse this development and reach the 1.5 °C goal, we must close the emissions gap between the current 37 gigatons of CO2 equivalent emissions and the maximum emissions allowed. While some countries have begun to decrease emissions in energy, industry, transportation, agriculture, and forestry sectors, most countries still continue to increase their emissions, contributing to the high global rate.

However, that does not mean that it is impossible to reverse this trend. The G20 countries account for 80% of global emissions, and decreasing their emissions and reducing fossil fuel usage requires strict policy implementation in all development sectors. G20 country leaders are aiming to address these multifaceted, global issues through discussions and action at COP 28.

The conference itself will consist of two main parts: the negotiations and the trade fair. There are six topics which are expected to be heavily negotiated. These include the global stocktake of CO2 emissions, the mitigation work programme, the global goal on adaptation, the loss and damage fund, financing, and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement establishes voluntary cooperation between countries in order to achieve emission reduction targets. This approach encourages the transferring of earned carbon credits from the reduction of GHG emissions to help other countries meet climate targets.

These negotiations often occur via closed room discussions within informal settings, making them difficult to follow. However, the trade fair is easily accessible as the biggest trade fair in the world for climate action. In this second portion of the conference, 30,000 climate change actors come together to exchange information and knowledge, build partnerships, plan projects, and make announcements.

Prior to the conference, COP 28 leaders have set out an extensive list of priorities. This includes an emissions mitigation work programme, operationalizing a loss and damages fund, raising a goal of $100 billion for climate action in developing countries, establishing the necessary financial architecture for funding distribution, setting new quantified goals for climate finance, phasing out fossil fuel usage, and developing sustainable solutions that protect the environment. All of these priorities are encapsulated within the global goal of community adaptation to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change, and ensure a just transition to a sustainable future and energy system.

There are several challenges in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy due to the strong dependency of countries and people on the current energy system. Global leaders must ensure that vulnerable populations are not left behind in the transition to renewable energy. Areas such as the transportation sector are already making good progress in the renewable energy direction. However, sectors such as the cement or shipping industry are still far behind, requiring initial funding for the research and development of sustainable practices that can lower emissions. Upgrading the international climate finance structure that is required to fund energy projects and initiatives will be one of the main topics discussed at COP 28. The event is aiming to raise $100 billion that will be used for climate action in developing countries.

Another major topic, which has been previously discussed in prior climate conferences, is the loss and damage fund. This refers to the provision of technical and financial assistance for countries encountering heavy infrastructural losses and damages due to climate change. While progress has been made in recent years, the goal of the conference is to agree on the implementation of early warning systems that will help with the mitigation of damages.

The success of this conference largely depends on the transition from seemingly endless negotiations to legitimate agreements, goals, and policies. The need for definite action is one of the biggest discussions amongst fossil fuel usage. While investments in renewable energy continue to break records every year, so does our dependence on fossil fuels. To change this trend, a concrete action plan to reduce and phase out of fossil fuels must be agreed upon and implemented. Many are also looking towards the faith organizations and African countries attending COP 28, and what their future roles will entail.

Faith organizations are huge financers, making up the fourth biggest financial power in the world. Oftentimes, these investments are directed towards fossil fuel projects, which continue to cause extreme harm to the environment. The negotiations section of the climate conference is where faith organizations play a role. While the investments of faith organizations can be environmentally destructive, their role gives them the power and opportunity to potentially influence negotiations in a positive direction. By increasing investments in green, renewable energy projects, faith organizations could send a powerful message and push national governments and decision-makers to implement more climate-friendly solutions. Additionally, with 85% of people being religious, faith communities have a great opportunity to use their outreach and influence to mobilize their members to become agents of positive development in the fight against climate change. It’s up to faith organization leaders to take advantage of their unique positionality and reach out to fellow leaders, negotiators, and civilians to raise awareness for climate change and the importance of protecting our planet Earth.

Leading up to the conference, many are also looking to see how Africa will position itself in regards to negotiations, especially when it comes to losses and damages. The African continent only accounts for 3-4% of global emissions and has historically low per capita emissions. Additionally, the economies of many African countries are extremely dependent on climatic conditions. For example, many farmers rely on regular rainfall levels for irrigation, and water and temperature fluctuations threaten crop levels and food security.

The African Union has stressed that although Africa has not historically contributed to the bulk of climate catastrophes, it wants to be a partner in the COP 28 who can create change and benefit from improving energy access on the continent and spreading renewable energies. Within the conference, they are hoping to address the issues of food security through building more resilience in food systems and supporting decarbonization. The African Union also strives to involve children and youth in their climate action investments. Green technology innovation and development brings many opportunities for young people to become educated and drivers of change in their communities.

Improving access to and the quality of education is the centerpiece of a successful long-term transition to a climate-aware society and a climate-friendly future. It is crucial for not just educators, but the general public to have a better understanding of climate change and its impact. Teachers who are well-versed in climate topics can more effectively raise awareness for climate change and encourage their students to take action. By learning how to live in harmony with nature and how human activities affect the environment, people can begin to make more climate-friendly decisions and take action to protect their communities.

Since 2000, the High Atlas Foundation has been committed to advancing sustainable prosperity throughout Morocco. HAF works with Moroccan communities and agencies to create social and economic sustainability driven by participatory planningِ. We provide hands-on training to ensure communitɵ members can grow and monitor healthy and viable treesِ.

We aim to achieve local, regional and global benefits by collaborating with companies and institutions that want to balance their carbon footprints and we do this by planting trees. For more information visit the HAF website.