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Become an Expert on the Climate Summit: What to Watch For and Key Terms to Know

A global conference with over 100,000 attendees, including representatives from nearly 200 countries, has begun in Dubai and aims to address the urgent need to combat climate change.

As this year is on track to be one of the hottest on record and greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise, the summit will focus on actions to limit the worst impacts of global warming. Key issues at the conference include the fate of coal, oil, and natural gas, as well as the financial resources needed to respond to climate-related catastrophes.

Credit: DepositPhotos

In addition to climate negotiators and diplomats, the summit will attract a diverse range of participants, including royalty, chief climate officers, financiers, and climate activists.

So, what exactly will be discussed at the conference, and is there hope for effective action to save the planet? This guide will help you navigate through the main topics and understand the significance of the discussions.

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The central focus of the conference is to prevent the dire consequences of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Despite some progress since the inception of annual climate talks in 1995, global temperatures are still projected to rise by around 3 degrees Celsius, which is double the most ambitious goal set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

This year, there is a push from numerous countries, including major fossil fuel-dependent nations like China and the U.S., to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency. Additionally, a coalition led by the European Union and Pacific island nations aims to achieve a global agreement to eventually phase out the production and use of coal, oil, and gas.

However, the inclusion of stronger phase-out language faces resistance from major polluters like the United Arab Emirates.

The failure to transition away from fossil fuels has already resulted in irreversible damage, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and the spread of diseases. Consequently, discussions are increasingly focusing on helping countries build resilience to future disasters and cope with the existing ones.

At the previous summit, an agreement was reached to create a fund to support climate-ravaged countries, and this year’s summit has already secured hundreds of millions of dollars in donations for that fund.

One aspect to closely monitor during the conference is the initiative led by Sultan al-Jaber, the UAE oil chief, to address methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and efforts to eliminate its emissions from oil and gas companies could have a tangible impact. However, this initiative does not address the significant contribution of burning fossil fuels to climate pollution.

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Understanding key terms and phrases used at U.N. climate conferences is crucial to comprehending the discussions. Some noteworthy terms include “ambition,” which refers to the extent of countries’ commitment to reducing emissions.

“Paris goals” encompass the objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement, such as limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to achieve a 1.5-degree target. “Adaptation” refers to actions taken to prepare for the impacts of climate change, particularly in vulnerable communities.

“Loss and damage” pertains to the irreversible harm experienced by low-lying island nations and other vulnerable countries, necessitating financial support from high-emitting industrialized nations. The terms “phase out” and “phase down” are significant in discussions on the future of fossil fuels, whereby a debate arises on whether to end or reduce their use.

“Carbon removal” refers to techniques that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, potentially contributing to limiting global warming. Lastly, “NDCs” (nationally determined contributions) are nonbinding pledges made by countries in Paris to indicate their efforts in limiting global warming, with countries expected to strengthen these commitments every decade.

Credit: DepositPhotos

The tensions between the U.S. and China are a significant aspect of the conference. While climate-related negotiations may improve diplomatic relations between the two countries, China is unlikely to escalate its actions to reduce coal usage significantly due to economic and energy security concerns.

Other bilateral tensions, particularly regarding trade and industrial policy, may also influence the discussions.

The conference venue, Expo City, is divided into the “blue zone” and the “green zone.” The blue zone is reserved for formal negotiations and accessible only to individuals with U.N. accreditation.

The green zone, open to the public, includes exhibitions, thematic hubs, and sustainable food establishments. The presence of corporations at the conference has raised concerns about potential influence from the fossil fuel industry, prompting calls for rules to mitigate such influence.

The conference agenda was smoothly accepted at the beginning of the talks, marking a positive start. The next two days will feature speeches from various country leaders, with over 130 heads of state and government scheduled to speak.

Notable absentees include Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and U.S. President Joe Biden. Instead, Vice President Kamala Harris will represent the U.S., accompanied by senior officials, including climate envoy John Kerry. The presence and contributions of these leaders are critical to understanding the potential outcomes of the conference.

The talks will provide an opportunity for U.S. lawmakers to showcase the actions taken by the country to address energy and environmental issues. However, the congressional dynamics in securing funds to support climate action in developing countries have been challenging. Observing how U.S. lawmakers navigate the talks and what they aim to achieve will be significant.

One major question is how countries will respond to the global stocktake, which highlights the failure to meet emissions reduction targets. This response sets the stage for crafting new climate targets, which are expected to be even more ambitious. These new targets will come into effect from 2025, making this year’s conference a crucial stepping stone towards COP30.

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Malik is a skilled writer with a passion for news and current events. With their keen eye for detail, they provide insightful perspectives on the latest happenings. Stay informed and engaged!