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Meeting the needs of people, nations & transcendent human rights
Midway through the COP28 cycle of Earth Diplomacy Leadership workshops, we see consistent evidence that high ambition cooperation is rooted in mutual gains and the primacy of rights over power.
After four of our six pre-COP28 Earth Diplomacy Leadership workshops, we can identify a growing list of core insights we hope COP28 participants will bring to the table in Dubai. These insights aren't about policy preferences or specific transition strategies; instead, they focus on ways to facilitate more ambitious, cooperative, inclusive, durable climate crisis response strategies.
We now live in the age of active and accelerating climate disruption. That means we must go beyond the work of mitigation. We must be smart about climate crisis response—mitigation to reduce and reverse the overall threat, harm, and cost; adaptation and resilience measures to further reduce destabilization and suffering; loss and damage funding to make communities whole and enhance preparedness.
We need to establish far more robust early warning systems in most countries, especially for marginal and frontline communities. We need to aim for, invest in, and operationalize integral human development—accounting not only for climate risk and resilience, but for overall reduction of vulnerability and sustainable, shared prosperity. We need to align major climate crisis response efforts with everyday local economies and the activities of sustainable SMEs that support everyone else’s success.
The four Earth Diplomacy Leadership sessions held so far during the pre-COP28 cycle have yielded dozens of high value guiding insights. We share here, for reference, ten of these insights that provide an overall sense of what is at stake in the coming round of global climate negotiations. The first five we share here focus on the process, and how to engage effectively:
Nationally Determined Contributions will need to be upgraded based on the first Global Stocktake, consideration of national capabilities, international cooperative arrangements, and emerging pathways to mutual, reciprocal, and sustainable value-creation.
Sharing insight that helps to expand opportunities for high-ambition consensus is the most valuable activity for all COP attendees (Party, Observer, UN Staff, or Media) while the negotiations are taking place.
Whatever is decided by the COP28, the operational tools, systems, standards, and incentives, that allow for accelerated activation of climate-resilient development strategies will determine our chances of success — locally and globally.
Interests and positions are not the same thing; two positions may be mutually exclusive, but the underlying interests may overlap in important ways. Reframing positions as interests can allow for creative cooperative discovery of the best way forward for all, with better overall outcomes through mutual gains.
70% of the time devoted to successful use of the Mutual Gains Approach is preparatory work—examining one’s own interests, to be better prepared to negotiate new positions, and considering the underlying interests of counterparts in the negotiation, which may not be fully expressed in their stated positions or declared aims.
For the next five, we want to note the increasing urgency of not only raising ambition and acting, but of achieving the comprehensive systems change needed to align everyday economies with climate resilience for all.
On October 24, the 2023 State of the Climate report was published. Its core message was that worsening climate disruption poses an existential threat to humanity and to much of life on Earth. We generally understand that existential means a threat to our existence, or to the existence of things we care about. An existential threat also creates conditions in which options for avoiding the worst are steadily taken away, until there is no way out of the emergency.
For a measure of the scale of the challenge we face, due to decades of slow-walking, inaction, and investment in destructive polluting practices, the report finds 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).”
In other words, we may live to see the time when as many as 6 billion people may be trapped in unlivable conditions or forced to migrate, possibly without ever finding an enduring home with safe climate conditions. Our institutions are simply not structured, resourced, or operationally oriented to managing destabilizing disruption—and pervasive, life-and-death human need—on that scale.
Costs of adaptation are already accelerating; climate finance goes disproportionately to mitigation, which is considered more investable. Given that both mitigation and adaptation finance need to expand, adaptation finance may need to be 100 times higher within a few years, to avoid serious destabilization of nations and regions.
Involuntary displacement due to climate change-driven impacts — including both sudden-onset shock events and slow-onset, enduring system-level disruptions — is accelerating across the world. Without some cooperative international action to change this, human rights will be at risk in nearly every country around the world.
The majority of the Least Developed Countries are facing debt distress; one of the biggest areas of unplanned cost driving them into debt distress is the cost of major climate impacts they did not cause. Vulnerability-sensitive debt relief is both a justice imperative and a practical need.
Finance is the Achilles heel of many Convention processes; really strong and ambitious agreements are reached, but the financial resources to establish strong momentum for comprehensive and ongoing implementation are either lacking or take too long to materialize.
Both the G20 Expert Group and the Stern-Songwe report found that international finance needs to evolve structurally, while a significant increase in overall resources is also needed to make successful climate-resilient development possible.
We will need detailed, interactive, multidimensional early warning systems, and better practical insights based on the constant flow of new Earth system science. We will need data systems that handle more information, combine that information more reliably, and deliver it to non-expert end users in a format that is readable, comprehensible, and actionable. And, we need the information that drives decisions about this existential crisis to be not only reliable and actionable, but just and respectful of human rights.
The responsibilities of public office, the direction of public resources, and the activated purpose of private enterprise, are all naturally connected to the task of getting the right outcome on planetary health. Reorienting our institutions to recognize and serve climate-related human rights can be the motivational golden thread that unlocks the collective mobilization we need.
Notes on what’s next
In our final two pre-COP28 workshops, we will cover non-market approaches to accelerated global climate action (November 9) and the challenge of navigating the complexities of the COP28 negotiations (November 21).
As we get closer to the opening of the COP28 negotiations themselves, we aim to provide a detailed preparatory note, drawing on these workshops, and aligning areas of need and opportunity with the formal COP28 agendas.
We will hold informal check-ins during the COP28, as well as one formal COP28 issues workshop. We will also hold one formal after-COP assessment workshop, to review outcomes and look ahead to 2024.
You can still register for the Earth Diplomacy Leadership workshops.