COP28: The world has taken stock; now it’s time for urgent climate action at scale

15 December 2023

The first Global Stocktake on progress towards delivering the targets of the Paris Agreement was unequivocal – we are not on track to deliver these goals. That means that keeping the average global temperature increase to no more than 1.5oC is far more challenging than ever. In fact, global greenhouse gas emissions are still increasing.

So, what has COP28 done that could help bring us back on track?

Over 30 new initiatives were announced at COP28, including the formal start of a Loss and Damage fund for vulnerable countries and, of course, the hard-fought pledge to move away from fossil fuels. But there was also a sea-change in the prominence given to food. I have been watching COPs for, well, 28 years and for much of that time have been arguing that food systems transformation could help deliver our shared climate goals. This COP finally recognised that with the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action. Crucially, this has been supported by 158 countries so far – underlining action in this area has shot up the agenda. As a result of this Declaration, food system transformation can become firmly engrained in global environmental actions. In another positive step forward, the importance of driving sustainable consumption and production, and the role of food and agriculture, were also recognised in the Global Stocktake report. And it was encouraging to see that the circular economy is viewed as a key way of mitigating climate change. What is needed now is clear ambition and accountability for delivering these initiatives.

One of the themes of COP28 was promoting approaches that can rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly beyond energy generation and transport. Increasing the rate of investment in renewable energy, driving energy efficiency and, critically, reducing methane emissions were all highlighted as fundamental interventions. Reducing food waste, tackling agricultural emissions, and driving the circular economy in food were all highlighted as important ways of reducing methane emissions rapidly and now must be a key area for early action. Preventing food waste gained particular prominence with the launch of A Roadmap for Philanthropy on how to drive reductions in food waste – which WRAP was delighted to contribute to.

There are an increasing range of ways we can tackle greenhouse gas emissions, from – for example – reducing food waste to driving a circular economy in textiles. Our collective challenge between now and COP29 in Azerbaijan is to agree and implement these actions urgently and at scale. How well we do this will define the impact of COP28, and our own futures. Let’s hope that the future generations see this event as a turning point in our commitment to tackle climate change.