Climate Geopolitics and What Happened At COP28?

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This training describes a summary of the main impacts, takeaways and results of this past year's gathering of the UN Conference of the Parties in Dubai (COP28) as well as the process of global climate negotiations, which began with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, and related topics. Each year, COP is attended by a delegation of CCL staff and volunteers and this training also includes the major agreements and outcomes resulting from the Conference of Parties negotiations COP27 (Sharm el-Sheikh, November 2022) and COP26 (Glasgow, November 2021). 

TOC and Guide Section
COP 28 Outcomes: Making new law for climate-smart transformation
  • The historic decision to formalize creation of a Loss and Damage Fund;
  • The decision to transition away from fossil fuels;
  • Recognition this must align with the Convention mandate to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, and align with the science findings laid out in the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report;
  • Recognition of “the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including in forests, the ocean, mountains, and the cryosphere”;
  • The Global Stocktake process, and lessons learned for such reviews and recommendations for upgrading, in the future;
  • The decision to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency, as part of the overall transition;
  • The importance of ensuring expanded access to affordable clean energy, to ensure a just transition and inclusive climate-resilient development;
  • The Global Goal on Adaptation, which now requires further refined metrics, along with better structural incentives, cooperative approaches, and financing;
  • Voluntary commitments on food systems, climate-smart investment, data-sharing, and cooperation to enhanced overall ambition;
  • The need to better realize the needed shift in mindset and practice from visionary policy negotiation to everyday implementation of climate goals;
  • And, the nature of the negotiating process, including how it is affected by the presence of industry interests and by limits on observers’ freedom to comment, organize, and intervene.

Each report provides more clarity and precision, but we have known since the 1890s that each ton of CO2 emitted contributes to global heating. New evidence shows that each increment of 0.1ºC carries significant, measurable heating effects, which add to Earth’s energy imbalance and create expanded risk of destabilizing climate impacts.

Political priorities and constraints have repeatedly caused decision-making at the national and international levels to diverge from the safer course science shows we should follow. We know we must eliminate global heating emissions, and yet political and geopolitical forces continue to align with the idea that short-term profits from pollution are too convenient to pass up.

For more information about the Earth Diplomacy Leadership Initiative, and preparatory workshops ahead of United Nations Climate Change negotiations and other intergovernmental processes, go to

In 2023, fossil fuel subsidies reached an all-time high, and major corporate polluters are paying record dividends to shareholders. That is bad for the climate, and for all of the human impacts that result from destabilization of the climate system. It is also economically and fiscally unhealthy, and precisely the kind of dynamic that observers attribute to the global breakdown in trust toward public institutions and leading corporations.

We once again highlighted, for context, the deep and pervasive human impact of unchecked climate change, driven by business as usual, as outlined in the 2023 State of the Climate report. That report, released just weeks before the COP28, included the finding that:

“By the end of this century, an estimated 3 to 6 billion individuals — approximately one-third to one-half of the global population — might find themselves confined beyond the livable region, encountering severe heat, limited food availability, and elevated mortality rates because of the effects of climate change (Lenton et al. 2023).”

Citizens’ Climate International’s perspective on the COP28 was that, according to the Convention mandate, Paris Agreement, consensus science, and overall range of agreed commitments, the transition away from fossil fuels is now effectively international law. Language seeking to carve out room for expanded global heating emissions, by contrast, is really just a wish—not altering the overall legal responsibility of governments to prevent dangerous climate change.

There are some expected areas of advance work on the way to the COP29 round of negotiations in Baku, Azerbaijan. Advances in the areas listed below will be critical for converting ambitious commitments into real-world progress toward successful climate-resilient development.

There were several mentions by presenters, and multiple questions in the closing discussion, about carbon pricing. Since non-market carbon taxes were discussed in Dubai as an efficient way for countries to enhance NDCs, and a possible mode of international cooperation to set new incentives for cleaner business models, we looked at what might be needed, institutionally, to unlock that opportunity.

Countries are asking for guidance on policy choices, and on pathways to evolving their respective incentive structures, to reshape their economies, but there is resistance to enforcement from abroad, or conditionalities in international financial arrangements. Those enforcement mechanisms and conditionalities might come anyway, however, if overall climate crisis response continues to move too slowly, adding to the overall risk, harm, and cost facing countries, regions, and the international financial system.

Vulnerability and justice were consistent themes throughout the session. Financial arrangements must evolve to account for vulnerability and decline to impose additional debt burden due to vulnerability. The Loss and Damage Fund can be part of such a process, if it does not impose new debt on countries forced to deal with climate impacts they did not create. But financial innovation must go beyond that, to include vulnerability-sensitive debt relief and to support direct access to international finance for affected communities.

Some preliminary takeaways, beyond what we report above:

  • The Illusion of Immunity – Some people, countries, and businesses, might be safe from serious climate damage for some time, while others experience danger, but such selective safety can be misleading. By the time the privileged and protected experience danger personally, extreme climate destabilization and nature breakdown will have advanced so far as to be unrecoverable.
  • Extreme fossil fuel subsidies are a sign of industrial, commercial, and political failure. Healthy dominant industries should not need, seek, or extract windfall profits from record subsidies, and governments should not be left with no choice but to reinforce such schemes. Transition strategies need to include smart subsidy shifting and pollution pricing.
  • Climate-smart economies are good for everyone. We need to evolve economies that meet human needs and aspirations. This is critical for the climate, but also for restoring trust in governance overall. Climate-degrading activities are degrading our ability to work together, to solve problems, both in the everyday and at planetary scale.
  • Funding to address Loss and Damage is an area of overwhelming need, and the last area where financial arrangements should generate additional debt. Funding for loss and damage response should include direct access, with less room for money going to something other than the needs of the vulnerable.
  • Transparency is legitimacy – All nations need factual information about progress toward climate goals. Underlying international law is the implicit requirement that legal commitments, even voluntary ones, are made in good faith, and all Parties will act to achieve the healthiest collective outcome. Future success for everyone depends on actions that meet the moment, now.

These structural insights and the hard work of converting commitments made in negotiating rooms into real-world transformation in the everyday lives of communities, will be among the subjects needing focused attention during the mid-year UN Climate Change negotiations in June, in Bonn, Germany. Photo credit: CCI.

In closing, Rachel Kyte noted that we are moving into a new era, in which practical diplomacy will gather momentum. What countries perceive as practical may vary, and we know to expect some countries to work against the global transition away from fossil fuels. We also know that increasingly refined and effective tools are emerging for understanding progress toward effective climate crisis response and for incentivizing actions toward a better future.

We are now working toward a February session which will focus on the Journey to Baku:

  • What critical legal and policy innovations are ready to go?
  • What actions need to see expanded and sustained international support?
  • Which key events across the multilateral landscape provide opportunities for upgrading climate ambition, before it is too late to avoid a future of deep destabilization, insecurity, and deprivation?

We will add further background materials, reports, comments, and events, from participants in this session and other Earth Diplomacy Leadership instructors, in the COP28 Debrief section of the site. Read further COP28 reporting and partner insights at

Global climate negotiations: how the process works
  • The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. It was signed by President George H.W. Bush; it was approved by the Senate and became a ratified treaty.
  • Its mandate is most clearly distilled with the phrase “to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
  • The UN Framework established a standard of “common but differentiated responsibilities“ (Article 3.1) and placed a greater action burden on historic polluters. Article 3.1 thus calls on industrialized countries to “take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.”
  • Every year for two weeks in November or December, the 196 signatory nations meet as the Conference of Parties (or COP) to the UN Framework Convention.
  • They also meet as the COP acting on the Kyoto Protocol, and as the COP acting on the Paris Agreement, and as two subsidiary bodies for implementation and technical assistance.
  • Thus every COP is actually five separate COPs: 
    • COP (Conference of Parties). The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention.
    • CMP (Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol). The CMP oversees the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and takes decisions to promote its effective implementation.
    • CMA (Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement). The CMA oversees the implementation of the Paris Agreement and takes decisions to promote its effective implementation.
    • SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation). The SBI assists the governing bodies in the assessment and review of the implementation of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
    • SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice). The SBSTA assists the governing bodies through the provision of information and advice on scientific and technological matters.
  • The COP makes legal decisions that have consequences in international law for how areas like trade and finance relate to climate action. 
  • The COP makes decisions by consensus. If any country doesn't want a proposed agreement to go forward, it can't go forward. So what comes out at the end of the two weeks has been agreed to by all of the countries.

The Paris Agreement 

  • Upheld the ”common but differentiated responsibilities” standard, but also required all Parties to make Nationally Determined Contributions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 

  • Exists to provide a regular update on the scientific consensus regarding “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

1.5ºC is the upper limit for acceptable warming 

  • The Paris Agreement mandated a scientific review, which this year showed that warming above 1.5ºC would be unacceptably dangerous.

Who’s Involved in the Negotiations?

Delegation Categories

  • Parties (Nations): 195 nations and the EU, with power to negotiate, grant or withhold consensus. 
  • United Nations: Climate Secretariat experts, diplomats and observers from across U.N. system. 
  • Observers / NGOs : CCE, CAN, NGOs, research institutions, stakeholders, incl. trade associations. 
  • Media: Lowest level of access, can’t join negotiating sessions; do interview delegates of all types. 
Article 6.8: “Non-market approaches”

Article 6.8 of the Paris Agreement is about how countries work together to reduce emissions that is not emissions trading (cap-and-trade and similar). Instead article 6.8 outlines non-market-based strategies such as cooperative emissions agreements.
This includes:

  • Allow nations to cooperate to secure a faster pace of decarbonization
  • Signal wisdom of climate income policies, to set strong carbon prices
  • Make room for carbon border adjustments, to ensure climate leaders don’t lose trade to pollution offshoring 
  • Increase likelihood of international “floor price” for carbon pollution 
  • Recognize regulatory measures that mandate accounting, disclosure, and avoidance of carbon-related liabilities 
  • Create conditions for climate-smart, nature-positive financial instruments 
  • Link Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to Paris Agreement action and funding
  • Expand opportunity for mainstreaming of climate-smart finance 
  • Invite integration of Earth science data platforms into financial decision-making information flows 
  • Empower existing international institutions to become engines for climate action incentives and enforcement 
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) and the People's Pavilion

Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) is described in Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement.

The overarching goal of ACE is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action through

  • Education
  • Training
  • Public participation
  • Public awareness
  • Public access to information
  • International Cooperation

At COP26, governments adopted the 10-year Glasgow work program to strengthen the implementation of ACE. The Glasgow work program reconfirms the key role that a broad range of stakeholders, such as national and sub-national governments, educational and cultural institutions, the private sector, international and non-governmental organizations, and the media, play in implementing ACE, and promotes cooperation, collaboration and partnerships among the diverse stakeholders.

The Glasgow work program recognised the critical role of youth, as well as their right to engage in decisions and action on climate change. Countries are encouraged to build the capacity of youth to embark on and lead ACE implementation, and to promote youth participation in relevant climate action processes.

The People’s Pavillon

The People’s Pavillon is a virtual space for people from all around the world to interact with and share their vision for a climate-smart future. CCL created this platform for those who could not attend COPs with the goal of making this process accessible to all. 

The Peoples' Pavilion seeks to elevate Action for Climate Empowerment efforts and open the civic space of the UNFCCC. This program aims to provide a blueprint on how to make open public participation in climate negotiations a norm.

During COP 26, The platform was available for two weeks, had 100 participants and included 60 sessions related to ACE.  During COP27, it provided people world-wide access to live streams of more than 500 events. The online community involved more than 400 people and near round-the-clock engagement. 

COP27 Updates

COP27 took place in November 2022 at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  From 6 to 18 November, Heads of State, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives and CEOs met in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh for the largest annual gathering on climate action. The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP27 – built on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries. Faced with a growing energy crisis, record greenhouse gas concentrations, and increasing extreme weather events, COP27 sought renewed solidarity between countries, to deliver on the landmark Paris Agreement, for people and the planet.

From CCI's Executive Director Joseph Robertson:

I want to first of all thank all of you who participated in our COP27 effort. It was not an easy COP to get to, and the where and how of constructive engagement were not always clear. You all did a great job, under sometimes adverse conditions, and made important breakthroughs happen. 

The People’s Pavilion gave hundreds of people around the world access to hundreds of events throughout the two weeks, ensuring a deeper, richer COP27 experience both for people who traveled to Sharm el-Sheikh and for people who did not. It will serve as a model for the OpenCOP process we have been working with allies to create, and will be greatly expanded for COP28.

I am proud that our team included CCI leaders from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe, and from four different generations. We are already working now to expand our numbers for COP28, and we look forward to repeating the Climate Diplomacy Workshops on the way to Bonn and to Dubai. dc97ac2c253190a12da2f3285955870b-huge-co

A more detailed note on the COP27 outcomes will follow. (You can find a short index of COP27 outcome documents in our Briefing Notes file.) A few early notes on the outcomes: 

  • The big news is that the world agreed by consensus to create a fund to address loss and damage, to be operationalized at COP28. 
  • Also important is that the Transitional Committee will start identifying and facilitating the mobilization of funding from existing institutions already in 2023, while the Fund is being designed. 
  • Though the words did not make it into the text, the surge of support from a diverse coalition of countries for eventual phaseout of all fossil fuels is historic, and will gain momentum. 
  • The COP27 also acknowledged the need for systems transformation in food, energy, and finance; this will have very positive effects over the coming year. 

We are still struggling to get universal support for rapid decarbonization, for the protection and prioritization of human rights in all areas of climate action and governance, and for narrowing carbon offsetting only to additional actions “beyond 1.5ºC”. We will say more about that in the coming days.

We are asking G20 Leaders to follow follow the money, reform finance, accelerate decarbonization, and drive ambition. 

Read more about the overall COP27 negotiating process in the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

CCL’s COP27 team included members drawn from CCL, CCL Education, and CCL International staff and volunteers. There were 22 people at the conference using our badges as observers or coordinating directly with the team. Additionally at the conference there were 14 close collaborators working as part of our team. Ten more team members provided remote support, making a total team of 46. 

Team members joined meetings involving more than 30 government ministers and heads of state, engaged with negotiators and leaders, and contributed substantially to the planning and content of meetings involving another 40 ministers, mayors and senior diplomats.

Meetings we were involved in covered decarbonization, climate adaptation, funding to address climate-related loss and damage, food systems, human health, civic engagement, and the transformation of finance.

CCL also set up and managed the People’s Pavillon, a digital platform that allowed people world-wide to access live streams of more than 500 events. The online community involved more than 400 people and near round-the-clock engagement. 

More on key outcomes of COP27

COP27 achieved historic progress in an integrated approach to climate vulnerability. Treaties tend to be divided up so typically there are documents where you talk about food, documents  where you talk about nature, or documents where you talk about the ocean. But COP27 saw more integration than in previous COPs, integrating food ecosystems, watersheds, and the ocean.

All 197 parties approved a consensus agreement to create a fund to reduce and overcome climate-related loss and damage. A transitional committee was established for the creation of that fund. They will identify funding streams from existing institutions to begin in March 2023, even before a permanent plan is developed, so resources can be delivered immediately to people in need. 

Human rights was recognized as a cross-cutting concern for all climate action. That has been done before in general terms, but throughout sessions at COP27 negotiators from all kinds of country backgrounds talked about the importance of listening to stakeholders, not just about what they're experiencing from climate impacts but what they want to happen to address them.

The right to a clean healthy environment was recognized by all 196 nations participating in COP27 (it had been already recognized by the EU). While it also had been recognized by the U.N General Assembly, the fact that it's been reiterated and confirmed as a key right that underscores climate negotiations is very important. 

Reinventing Prosperity Report

This report, created by CCI and shared at COP27, focuses on the participatory delivery of funds to communities impacted by climate change. The strategy is to allow citizens to engage with public officials and financial institutions to help shape the programs that will address the effects of climate change in their communities. Also, funding institutions should track performance of the programs using direct contact with community members to verify that in fact, the programs are delivering desired results. 

CCI received positive feedback on the concept from the very institutions that have resisted citizen engagement historically, assuming that consulting citizens would be inefficient. However, they now recognized that insights gained from engagement with communities make it less likely that mistakes will be made.  

COP26 Updates

COP 26 was held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. It was a particularly important COP, as the fifth COP since the Paris Agreement in 2015. (It had been postponed in 2020 due to Covid.) 

The Paris Agreement had upheld the ”common but differentiated responsibilities” standard, but also required all Parties to make Nationally Determined Contributions, asking each country to self-determine the actions it will take.  In Paris it was agreed that after five years, nations would evaluate their progress and increase their commitments to reducing emissions. 

The Paris Agreement also mandated a scientific review, which this year showed that warming above 1.5ºC would be unacceptably dangerous.

Additionally, an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report in August 2021 concluded that if we don't reduce global emissions by nearly half by 2030, we will have a very hard time avoiding persistent climate emergencies. (The IPCC, an intergovernmental body of the UN, provides policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks.)

CCL’s delegation members were significant participants at Glasgow: 

  • 15 badges per week (our most ever) 
  • 23 total delegates (larger than 30% of national delegations) 
  • 33 team members in Glasgow, representing 15 countries 
  • Overall team, including remote support: 46
  • 6 team-members with Party (country) badges
  • 310 contacts and leaders tracked, across 531 affiliations
  • 237 events tracking affiliations
  • 50 bilateral meetings
  • Meeting with 11 ministers or heads of state 
  • People’s Pavilion - 51 sessions 
  • Isatis Cintrón addressing the High-Level Segment 

Major voluntary commitments achieved at COP26

  • Powering Past Coal Alliance - 168 members 
  • Regen 10 - Regenerative Agriculture support for 500 million farmers
  • Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero - $130 trillion AUM
  • Methane Pledge - 105 nations to cut emissions 30 x 30
  • Ending Deforestation - More than 100 countries, 91% of forests, $19.2 billion
  • Zero Emissions Transport - More than 100 nations, cities, states, and businesses
  • Clydebank Shipping Declaration - 19 Countries sign up to zero-emissions shipping routes
  • FACT - Countries with more than 75% of global trade to develop green commodities
  • Nature, People, Planet - MDBs will foster nature-positive policy investment
  • AIM4C - 30 countries to work on accelerating sustainable agriculture with $4 billion in new funding

COP26 official outcomes (selected) 

  • First ever global commitment to phase down use of coal
  • Global commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies
  • Frames convention mandate (avoiding danger) as requiring “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, (45 per cent by 2030) in line with 1.5ºC
  • Doubling financial support for adaptation
  • International financial institutions to consider climate vulnerabilities in concessional financial and other forms of support, including Special Drawing Rights (more than $600 billion in 2021) 
  • Glasgow Work Programme for Action for Climate Empowerment (public information & climate civics)
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  • (0:00) Intro & Agenda
  • (2:38) CCI Contributes To Global Policy
  • (10:34) Pre-COP 28 Diplomatic Insights
  • (19:08) The UAE Consensus
  • (29:03) COP28 Voluntary Commitments
  • (37:04) On the Way to Baku (COP29)
  • Joseph Robertson 

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Skip ahead to the following section(s):
  • (0:00) Intro & Agenda
  • (2:38) CCI Contributes To Global Policy
  • (10:34) Pre-COP 28 Diplomatic Insights
  • (19:08) The UAE Consensus
  • (29:03) COP28 Voluntary Commitments
  • (37:04) On the Way to Baku (COP29)
  • Joseph Robertson 
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