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COP28 Dubai

The UN Climate Change Conference 2023

  • In this article…

2023 has been confirmed as the hottest year on record, and human induced climate change is as least partly to blame. The climate crisis is no longer a niche idea, it’s now firmly in the public’s consciousness, and rightly so. Every year, leaders, politicians activists and NGOs like ours, come together to discuss the major issues and decide on a way forward at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, otherwise known as COP (where ‘Parties’ is a descriptor for countries).

2023 was the 28th time that countries came together to discuss every aspect of climate change, hence COP28.

COP29 is due to occur in November 2024 in Baku, Azerbaijan.


A group of people posing for a photo during the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference in a lobby.

What was COP28?

The UN climate summit is attended by countries that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed in 1994. In 2023 this was 197 plus the European Union. It takes place each year unless the Parties to the Convention agree otherwise.

The countries reviewed the implementation of the UNFCCC, which aims to limit our impact on the climate. One key task is to monitor each country’s progress towards their individual targets, known as Nationally Determined Contributions.

Why are Nationally Determined Contributions important?

Every country attending climate COPs determine, plan, and regularly report on their climate change adaptations through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

NDCs are non-binding plans made by countries, which outline their work towards targets for emission reductions and other measures that were set out in the Paris Agreement.

The goals laid out in each country’s NDC include a commitment to working towards being climate neutral by 2050, limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and increasing efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees, as well as reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.

Individual countries decide their own contributions to the aims of the Paris Agreement, though Article 3 requires NDCs to be ‘ambitious efforts’ towards ‘achieving the purpose of this Agreement’ and to ‘represent a progression over time’.

When and where was COP28?

COP28 took place in Dubai from 30th November – 12th December 2023.

Why Dubai?

Officially, the COP takes place in Bonn, Germany, unless a member country offers to host the event. In practice, this means that it tends to move around the worlds’ global regions to countries that are recognised by the UN.

There was much criticism about holding a climate change summit in a top oil producing nation. Especially as Sultan al-Jaber, head of the state-owned oil company was appointed as President of COP28. Previous COPs have also faced criticism for being too lenient on fossil fuels and being weighted towards more developed countries. So why do we go?

What is Practical Action’s role at COP?

For the 8th consecutive year, Practical Action was once again invited as an official observer.

Our Head of Climate and Resilience, Colin McQuistan, said:

“The annual climate negotiations need to reflect the whole of society, that is why organisations such as Practical Action need to be in the room. We have a role to play, it’s not just the responsibility of governments to act, all sectors of society need to act, to ensure that we are doing the maximum possible to reverse climate change. Where things are not possible, we need to address the impacts of the climate emergency in an inclusive and holistic way. Join us as we put hope into action.

Our role at the COP climate conferences is to amplify the voices of the people we work with, and to share what we have learned from those who are already adapting to extreme climate events. Some of our staff are often part of national delegations, directly influencing the negotiations. We also influence the outcomes by making sure the most vulnerable are heard and focusing on ensuring more support and finance is directed to meeting their needs.

We provide evidence and technical support to governmental delegations, participate in events, and speak to the media. We showcase bottom-up adaptive work by people on the front line of climate change, which works with nature, not against it. We call for a focus on the approaches and resources needed to scale change and enable communities to adapt and deal with the loss and damage that they are already experiencing.

Our experience in helping people on the front line of climate change to adapt sustainably to the new challenges they face has never been more relevant, nor more necessary. Developing nations are disproportionally impacted by climate change so our aim is to ensure that no one is left behind. We will bring a diversity of views and expertise from our work with communities across South Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The way in which the world responds to the climate emergency is crucial to all our futures and we know that those living on the front line are now facing an emergency of unprecedented proportions. We will continue to work with many others to support, demonstrate and scale the solutions required for positive futures for the people on the front line of climate change and get finance redirected to climate solutions that deliver for people and nature.

There’s a great deal of work to be done, but we know from experience that big change is possible, and we invite you to join us as we chose a better future. Now.

What were the outcomes?

We attended COP28 with a diverse delegation from our global offices. We worked directly with decision makers to influence the negotiations. We also built partnerships, and shared solutions with others who are also taking action to realise a more resilient future for those hardest hit by the climate crisis.

For the first time, the final text signalled an agreement to move away from fossil fuels, and investments in renewable energy were tripled. Clean cooking also received more funding. The final agreement also recognised that more action is needed to protect nature and ecosystems.

We saw the first five-yearly Global Stocktake. Its aim is to confirm whether the world is on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals. It also gives us a better sense of the gap between what we should be doing and what we are managing to achieve.

The Loss and Damage Fund was given $725 million to start supporting countries who are facing the worst effects of the climate crisis. Adaptation was also recognised by a new framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation.

Food and agriculture, and their impact on climate change was a hot topic. 134 countries recognised that we need global transformation in our food system by signing up to a Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action.

We also saw Early Warning Systems having a moment with the launch of the Global Status of Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems report. It analysed the progress on the Early Warning for All initiative and showed that we need to speed up if we’re to meet our targets.

In the news since COP28, we have seen that COP28 launched ‘The COP Presidencies Troika’, “in partnership with the COP29 and COP30 Presidencies – a groundbreaking initiative to support ‘Mission 1.5°C’ by maintaining momentum, locking in continuity, and anchoring implementation”.

You can also read an article by Mukhtar Babayev, COP29 President, about future plans: “As Cop29 president, I will build bridges between the diverging north and south to keep 1.5C in reach”. Read more about Practical Action at COP29 here.