When representatives from nearly 200 countries gathered in Dubai to attend the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), they had one mission: to devise a strategy to avert climate catastrophe and save the planet for our future generations. Even before the start of the conference, climate campaigners had maintained that the complete phase-out of fossil fuels is a necessary step to save the world from future natural calamities. But many participants opposed the idea of a complete phase-out. After almost two weeks that involved hard-fought negotiations, the conference (which ran from November 30 to December 12) has ended on a positive note: delegates have agreed on a deal that calls on countries to transition away from fossil fuels. It merits a mention that the year 2023 is all set to become the hottest year on record, and this makes such deals even more critical. The year has also witnessed climatic disasters like early fires in Australia, heatwaves in India and floods in Sudan. All of this highlights the irreversible and devastating effects of countries’ unchecked development, which is slowly making the world increasingly uninhabitable for a large number of people, especially those who are less privileged. Given the challenges that countries face, it is indeed good to learn that COP28 has managed to get an agreement signed on the necessary transition to renewable energy from fossil fuels – the agreement “calls for a tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030.”
Another highlight of COP28 was that the event dedicated an entire day focusing on health on December 3. The event’s proceedings allowed health experts to highlight the links between climate and health, a move that was appreciated by the world’s prestigious medical journal ‘The Lancet’. It was also the first time that countries came together to publish the global stocktake – an accounting of how much progress countries are making towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and where further action is needed. COP28 was also instrumental in encouraging countries to donate to the Loss and Damage Fund so that low-income developing countries that are more vulnerable to climate change and witness apocalyptic, climate-induced disasters can rebuild themselves. But several climate campaigners have criticized the conference for making weak references to the complete phase-out of fossil fuels, a move that most climate experts see as vital for tackling the horrendous effects of climate change. Others have said that all eyes are now set on the implementation of the agreements signed at COP28 to see whether countries are serious about the wellbeing of the planet. The historic deal signed at COP28 will be celebrated only when it starts producing the desired results, compelling countries to stop its reliance on fossil fuels and move towards sustainable living.