Expert Opinion 3 minute read

All eyes on Dubai as global climate conference begins

Environmental Defense Fund's Amanda Leland on the challenges the world faces at COP28.


As we head into this year’s global climate talks, we’re facing the urgent crises of a warming world alongside escalating wars in Ukraine and the Middle East and widespread anxiety about our future.  

But I believe there is a path to a safer, more hopeful future — if we do the work necessary to build it.  

COP28, as these U.N. talks are known, is our opportunity to show that international cooperation can help us solve tough problems and to hold each other accountable for ambitious action.  

At COP28, the world needs to focus on three key priorities:  

1. Driving a global energy transition 

An entry way with Road to COP28 on the wall
United Arab Emirates readies itself to host the world climate conference, COP28 starting Nov. 30. (Getty)

The clean energy transition is already happening, but not nearly fast enough. We need sustained commitment from policymakers and especially from the energy industry itself to slash greenhouse gas pollution and meet the pace of the climate crisis. 

This year’s conference is in the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s largest oil- and gas-producing countries. This presents a unique opportunity for the energy industry to deliver meaningful action.  

A team from my organization, Environmental Defense Fund, will be at the conference, urging industry action on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas — it's more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term. Cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is the fastest way to limit temperature increases over the next decade. 

We need to see companies commit to ambitious action — and we need an independent system of monitoring and accountability to ensure results.  

2. Creating sustainable food systems 

Climate change is disrupting food production across the globe, putting people’s health and livelihoods at risk. Yet even as farmers and fishers face drought, floods and dwindling catches, food systems also cause 30% of global climate emissions.  

At COP28, EDF is co-hosting the Food Pavilion where we’ll be advocating for climate-smart livestock farming, including better manure management to reduce methane, and accelerated support for farmers and fishers to adapt to new climate realities. We’ll also be highlighting the importance of comprehensive data to sustainably manage water supplies. 

3. Conserving nature as a climate solution 

Forests, lands and oceans not only store carbon, they sustain the livelihoods of Indigenous peoples and local communities. At COP28, we’ll be advocating to make sure that the tools created under the Paris Agreement, such as international carbon markets, work to harness nature's power to fight climate change. 

For example, forest countries face major barriers to scaling up their forest conservation efforts. Scale is enormously important: Science shows we must halt and reverse tropical deforestation by 2030 to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. 

EDF is working to ensure that forest countries have the necessary tools and capacity needed to scale up conservation. These nations need to be able to leverage the existing opportunities — like large-scale tropical forest carbon crediting — that offer the resources and support to protect vast swaths of forests more efficiently and cost-effectively.   

Climate action must be swift and just 

Our solutions must solve far more than the climate crisis. They must also improve lives, support sustainable development, and create economic opportunity — especially for the world’s most vulnerable communities and countries. 

EDF will be participating in and convening critical conversations at COP28 to explore opportunities to transform our global economic systems to ensure every developing country and frontline community is included in a just global transition.  

It was at COP21 in 2015, that the world created the Paris Agreement — a global commitment to limit greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. COP28 marks the culmination of the first Global Stocktake, a process where countries take a comprehensive assessment of their progress toward their individual Paris Agreement goals.  

The stocktake will tell us what we already know: that we aren’t moving fast enough. Under current climate pledges, we would likely surpass 2 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century, which would have catastrophic consequences globally.  

By the close of COP28, we need all countries to have acknowledged this challenging fact, and to have committed to amping up their ambition when they submit new climate pollution reduction targets to the U.N. in 2025.   

COP28 is more than just a conference; it's a global moment to connect, collaborate and catalyze meaningful action — to show up for each other as an international community. 

But COP isn’t the end-all-be-all, either. Implementing transformative, global change doesn’t happen over the course of two weeks. Long after the doors close on COP28, EDF will be here, pushing for a vital Earth for all.   

Amanda Leland is the Executive Director for Environmental Defense Fund.

Hope for a warming planet

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