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On the road to COP28: have we already breached the Paris Agreement targets?

Earth briefly passed a critical warming threshold on 17 November, according to data from ERA5, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts’ (ECMWF) fifth-generation reanalysis of the global climate from 1940 to the present.

This happened in the same month world leaders are set to convene at COP28, which is about to start in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on 30 November.

“The ERA5 record now contains two days where global temperatures exceed the pre-industrial level by more than 2°C,” said Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) Director Carlo Buontempo. “[…] It sends a very clear message – the time for definitive action to tackle climate change is now.”

He pointed out that exceeding the 2°C threshold for several days does not mean that we have breached the Paris Agreement targets. However, the more often that we exceed this threshold, the more serious the cumulative effects of these breaches will become. And this is what we should be working on.

Hungary to pursue a realistic and responsible policy in the field of climate protection

In fact, the COP28 Action Agenda is said to be guided by “a single North Star; keeping 1.5C within reach.” To do this, we must reduce 22 gigatons of emissions before 2030. However, many experts indicate that the world is not on track with the green energy transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index 2023 reports that Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland) continue to maintain their top rankings and a few countries, such as Kenya and Azerbaijan, jumped significantly in rank following an improvement in their regulatory environment and infrastructure.

When it comes to Central and Eastern Europe, there are even more challenges compared to the rest of Europe, as underlined by Barbara Botos, Ambassador at Large for Climate at the Hungarian Ministry of Energy.

“The updated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) of Hungary states that the Hungarian Government must pursue a realistic and responsible policy in the field of climate protection,” she tells CEENERGYNEWS. “It should be realistic in terms of the expected results of interventions under current technologies and their cost implications. This is in line with the energy mix and climate targets of Central and Eastern European countries.”

Hungary, in particular, could play an important role next year, when holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“The European Union expects its member countries to have an overall climate-neutral economy by 2050,” Ms Botos continues, noting that Hungary remains committed to achieving its short- and long-term climate targets of reducing its gross greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 and becoming climate neutral by 2050.

“In the period up to 2035, the extra investment cost of the WAM (With Additional Measures) scenario is in the order of 500 billion Hungarian forints [approximately 1.3 billion euros] per year,” she points out. “On the other hand, investments reduce operating and carbon quota costs. Thus, the annual net additional financing needs are 155 billion Hungarian forints [approximately 408 million euros]. In the view of the Hungarian Government, this objective is achievable for Hungary, but this requires a substantial financial contribution from the European Union.”

Indeed, financing will be one of the areas in focus on COP28’s Action Agenda, together with fast-tracking a just and orderly transition; focusing on nature, lives and livelihoods; and fostering inclusivity for all.

Fierce competition in the world of climate policy: Bulgaria on the map of climate diplomacy

Other than rising temperatures, COP28 is also happening at a particular time, when geopolitical tensions threaten to undermine decades of globalisation, severe energy security concerns, high fossil fuel demand and worsening climate disasters and ongoing food crisis. We often hear that the 1 per cent of the richest people on the planet are actually responsible for over 60 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

When looking at some positive examples from the region, Bulgaria comes to mind for the first time, this country will participate at COP28 with its own stand, putting the country on the map of climate diplomacy and providing it with an opportunity to be recognised for its achievements, as emphasised by Bulgarian Environment and Water Minister Julian Popov.

“In the world of climate policy, there is fierce competition, in which China is currently winning, followed by the US and only then Europe,” added Minister Popov.

The highlight of COP28: the first-ever Global Stocktake

So, what is the EU proposing to lead the climate negotiations this year? The general negotiation position was approved by the European Council earlier in October.

“In Dubai, we will be at the forefront of the negotiations to show the EU’s strongest commitment to the green transition and encourage our partners to follow our lead,” said Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, acting Spanish third vice-president and minister for the ecological transition and the demographic challenge. “The EU is a driving force for change and we have to speak with a single voice in the world. We can simply not use difficulties as an excuse to turn back to a pre-Paris agreement situation.”

In particular, the EU will focus on increasing global ambition towards climate neutrality; a global phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, calling for global action towards the tripling of installed renewable energy capacity to 11 terawatts (TW) and the doubling of the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030; greater efforts towards climate mitigation and adaptation; and a call on all countries to scale up their efforts to mobilise financing from all sources to support climate action.

For Barbara Botos, the first-ever Global Stocktake (GST) will be the highlight of COP28.

“GST is a test of the Paris Agreement’s ambition cycle,” she adds. “It will provide an assessment of the state of implementation of the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, the gaps in ambition and implementation and recommendations on actions to address them. A decision on the global stocktake will be taken at COP28, which can be leveraged to accelerate ambition in the next round of nationally determined contributions in 2025 as the world is not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

According to her, the COP28 conclusions should reflect key milestones for action to keep the goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C within reach.

“It should conclude the task of crafting a global goal on adaptation by adopting an ambitious framework,” she adds. “And, as a follow-up of COP27, reach a decision on the operationalisation of new funding arrangements, including a fund, to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage.”

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