What Is COP, and Why Is It Important?

Known as COP, the Conference of Parties is a gathering of world leaders who signed the United Nations (UN) climate agreement in 1992.

Every year, leaders gather in a selected country to discuss efforts and gains made in the ongoing climate change crisis and measures to reduce global warming.

This year, over 70,000 delegates are in Dubai Expo City in the United Arab City for the 28th annual United Nations (UN) climate meeting, where governments will discuss how to limit and prepare for future climate change.

The summit, which began on 30th November, will end on 12th December 2023. Key issues discussed are extreme weather events, floods, loss, and damage to poorer nations. The conference will shine a light on the goal of limiting long-term global temperature rises to 1.5°C.

This was agreed upon by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming by 1.5°C. The 1.5°C target is crucial to avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change, according to the UN’s climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Long-term warming currently stands at about 1.1°C or 1.2°C compared with pre-industrial times — the period before humans started burning fossil fuels at scale.

The UAE is one of the world’s top 10 oil-producing nations. It has appointed the chief executive of the state-owned oil company, Sultan al-Jaber, as the president of the COP28 talks. China, America, and India are the biggest polluters, contributing 42.6% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere.

President George Weah, who departed the country last weekend to join his colleagues in Dubai, called on major polluters to take full responsibility for compensating poorer countries that contribute less to GHG emissions. “As we convene here at COP28, I stand before you in recognition of the unprecedented challenges our world faces today due to climate change,” Weah said.

Similarly, in 2021 and 2022 at the COP in Glasgow, Scotland, and Egypt, Weah called on world leaders to pay countries that are heavily impacted by climate change to help them conserve their forests. “I challenge each of you to contribute to the preservation of Planet Earth, our only home, for the sake of generations yet unborn.”

He underscored the strong need to candidly assess progress on the commitments made during the 2015 Paris Agreement, adding that “extraordinary climate shocks experienced this year are not only a wake-up call but a call to action.”

“Of the progress we have made so far towards achieving our aspirational goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030,” Weah added, “it will now become the responsibility of all countries present at COP28 to adopt an imperative and more realistic agenda to implement and transform key climate-related decisions into concrete actions and credible plans.”

He reminded delegates and colleagues of the suggestions he made in 2021 about “the need for a fundamental shift in the way that we tackle this mismatch in climate investments.” “Today, let me reiterate that major greenhouse gas-emitting countries will need to develop new initiatives for emissions reductions and not only fulfill — but significantly increase — the financial pledges that they have previously made for funding United Nations climate financing initiatives.” 

Weah also admonished delegates about the imperative of ensuring that care is taken in overhauling and regulating carbon credit financing mechanisms to ensure more transparency and accountability so that they are not used merely as an avenue for high emitters to avoid responsibility for reducing emissions. He said vulnerable nations such as Liberia “will require more financial support to protect us from the ravages of global warming and climate change.”