The oil-rich hosts of the UN climate conference, the United Arab Emirates, are under great pressure to step up action on global warming and wean the world off fossil fuels as the summit gets underway in Dubai on Thursday.
With emissions continuing to rise and this year predicted to be the hottest in human history, the two weeks of climate negotiations being conducted this year in the glamorous Gulf city arrive at a critical juncture.
Claimed to be the largest climate gathering of its type, around 97,000 people are anticipated to attend, including world leaders, lobbyists, campaigners, and Britain’s King Charles III.
The UN and hosts the United Arab Emirates say these talks, known as COP28, will be the most important since Paris in 2015, when nations agreed to limit global warming to well below 2C since the preindustrial era, and preferably to a safer limit of 1.5C.
Scientists say the world is not on track to achieve these targets, and nations must make faster and deeper cuts to emissions to avert the most disastrous impacts of climate change.
“Right now, we’re taking baby steps where we should be taking great leaps and great strides to get us to where we need to be,” said UN climate chief Simon Stiell on Wednesday.
A major focus of the discussions will be an assessment of the world’s meager progress in reducing global warming, which calls for a formal response.
Following a year marked by catastrophic floods, wildfires, and storms around the world, over 140 heads of state and government are set to speak on Friday and Saturday. Pope Francis was forced to postpone due to the flu.