IEMA members give their thoughts on COP28

5th December 2023

Negotiations are well underway at COP28 in the UAE as countries look to agree the best ways to tackle climate change and environmental breakdown over the coming decades.

IEMA CEO Sarah Mukherjee MBE, and deputy CEO, Martin Baxter are currently at the summit speaking with stakeholders to gain support for the institute’s campaign to get green skills and jobs in the final cover text agreement.

Several other IEMA members are also at the conference, including Ashley Oates, head of environment and sustainability at Balfour Beatty, Ven Tauringana, professor of accounting and sustainability at the University of Southampton, and Richard Smith, a recent graduate with an Msc in sustainability.

Here, they outline why they are attending COP28 and what they hope to see at the climate summit.

What brings you to COP28?

Richard: I live in UAE and have just graduated, so the location plus the topic make it an important event to attend. I wish I could attend the blue zone to see the negotiations dynamics and observe panels , however the green zone will have to do!

Ven: I am going to push for greater sustainability accountability by SMEs. I hope to meet influential people who can help me make SMEs more accountable, which is good for sustainable development.

Ashley: I’m attending to meet with energy sector clients and supply chain to discuss circularity and ethical supply of scarce/rare metals and minerals that are required by our sector. I’m hoping that we can agree/develop a way of procuring the items we need to decarbonise energy infrastructure without causing a negative impact on people or the environment. It will also be great to be surrounded by like-minded individuals and learn all I can by attending conference seminars and training sessions. This looks like it will be the most well-attended COP to date, which just shows the ever increasing groundswell of support and concern for our planet and climate.

What broad objectives do you hope will be achieved at COP28 by the negotiating parties?

Richard: I would like to see some concrete actions being taken that take into consideration the challenge of handling multinational organisations and their impact on climate change. I also hope for some clear long term plans from countries including how the more developed nations plan to support the developing world. It would also be good for the UAE to release its own long-term climate goals (LT-LEDs) and some stricter regulations around sustainability reporting and emissions of local businesses.

Ven: I hope they can agree on the GHG accountability issue. Making large companies accountable for their GHGs has not yielded the desired results. Every organisation has to be accountable, and I believe accountability is the first step to managing the impacts.

Ashley: All parties providing an honest and robust stock take on their current position and all agreeing to take action to fast track energy transition and slash emissions before 2030 by showing clear investment plans.

How do you feel about COP28 being held in the UAE?

Richard: As I live here, there has been a lot of buzz around sustainability, with the nation calling it the 'year of sustainability' and some announcements being called such as a banning single-use plastics. Ultimately whatever people think of the Gulf, it is an important strategic partner to the west and an influence around the world, thus it is vital to have these countries on board with such important initiatives. These events can hopefully encourage a structured and methodical path towards a greener future.

Ven: I do not have any strong feelings. The UAE government has its own faults and so do all other countries in the world.

Ashley: I’ve never been to the UAE before because I’ve been unsure about its sustainability credentials. It will be interesting to see for myself how seriously they take environmental protection. I do think that the best way to bring people along on this journey and get them to understand its importance is to include them. So this could be the best way to really get the UAE involved.

How optimistic are you that justice will be delivered for people at the forefront of climate impacts?

Richard: I think humans tend to be more reactive than proactive. As more evidence comes into place of the impact of climate change I really hope we will see an impact and a drive from the general public. Unfortunately I am expecting to see lots of greenwashing from businesses at these events, particularly in the general public friendly 'green zone' using 'sustainability' as a buzz-word rather than anything involving meaningful change. Fingers crossed it will be different!

Ven: I am not optimistic because all countries are self-interested, and with the US elections next year, it is unrealistic to think that the country would agree on something that could hurt the economy such as drastically reducing GHGs the country is responsible for.

Ashley: I think all parties left COP27 understanding that this issue needed to be addressed at COP28. I’m optimistic that will attend having seriously considered their position and ready to properly address it.


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