The 28th Global Climate Summit COP28 to Unite, Act, Deliver

Institute for Climate and Peace
14 min readFeb 7, 2024


The annual Conference of Parties (COP) gathers global leaders, representatives, and delegates from 190 nations to co-create and codify international climate solutions. This year, COP28 was hosted in Dubai, UAE from 30 November 2023 until 13 December 2023.

Institute for Climate and Peace

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s 28th Conference of Parties in Dubai, UAE, marked many firsts for climate action while also sparking calls for greater ambition. COP28 concluded the first ‘global stocktake’ of the world’s efforts to address climate change under the Paris Agreement. The stocktake indicated incomplete implementation of targeted climate action, reiterating that the world is not on track to limit global warming to 1.5℃.

Fossil fuels became a major theme of COP28, as the term “fossil fuel” was used for the first time in a final COP decision text. For some, the final COP28 agreement was seen as a historic step, signaling the beginning of the end of fossil fuels. However, many believe it’s not nearly enough. The debate around language and ambition– whether to transition away, phase-down, or phase-out fossil fuels– will remain critical in the ongoing effort to hold governments, businesses, and society accountable to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Also, for the first time in COP history, Peace was on the agenda. COP28 hosted the first-ever thematic day dedicated to Health, Relief, Recovery, and Peace. This marked an important milestone, underscoring the urgent and necessary component of peacebuilding within climate solutions. As experts and practitioners at this important nexus, ICP championed climate justice at COP28 and forged partnerships to bridge the gap between climate action and peacebuilding, ensuring a harmonious, equitable world for all.

The Institute for Climate and Peace held space for Pacific and Indigenous voices in climate action, uniting our key messages of mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration, as the building blocks for a peaceful and sustainable future.

ICP Key Messaging at COP28:

  1. Mitigation — The call to mitigate global emissions has never been more pressing. Our focus is on a swift and equitable transition that safeguards communities from becoming sacrifice zones, forced to bear the brunt of environmental degradation and pollution.
  2. Adaptation — At the heart of our mission is the belief that adaptation investments should not only fortify infrastructure but also foster social cohesion and promote information exchange. Localized adaptation strategies should empower communities to address climate challenges effectively, while also promoting nature-based solutions, taking into account the unique needs and vulnerabilities of marginalized groups.
  3. Finance — We advocate for an immediate increase in climate finance commitments from affluent nations, ensuring that these resources reach local and Indigenous communities, particularly those bearing the brunt of climate impacts. Equitable Partnerships between local and Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations are needed to ensure fair distribution of resources and benefits from climate finance investments.
  4. Collaboration — ICP underscores the significance of cross-sectoral collaboration as a catalyst for creating systemic change, breaking free from the legacy of failed colonial patterns of the past. Climate action should span across various sectors, including health, education, and agriculture, to create synergistic solutions.
  5. Peace/Peacebuilding — In the fight against the climate crisis, we emphasize the vital role of peacebuilders — those who champion justice and hold firm to visions of a brighter tomorrow, a future worth fighting for. Climate action and peacebuilding should be inclusive and just, respecting the rights and needs of all individuals and communities.

Climate Justice and Peace Dialogue: Bridging from COP28 to COP30

In the final days of COP28, the Institute for Climate and Peace hosted the “Climate Justice and Peace Dialogue: Bridging from COP28 to COP29” at the Arizona State University (ASU) Pavilion. An intimate group of around twenty people representing perspectives from at least eight different nations discussed their experiences at COP28 and their hopes for the future concerning climate justice and peace. Encounters with stories of climate injustice at the COP were easy to identify for many participants in the dialogue. These included the weaponization of water in occupied Palestine, cycles of exploitative disaster debt with unjust colonial origins in Haiti, pipelines built over ancestral graves in Uganda, sidelining the needs of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at COP year after year, and more.

Clear achievements in the categories of peace and justice were harder to brainstorm quickly, but a few important examples emerged in conversation. One participant shared that Colombia is working to integrate their country’s peace agreement directly into their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which outlines their specific commitments to fulfill the Paris Agreement. The government has acknowledged that food insecurity, deforestation, and poverty present challenges for peace and are also linked with climate change. They are using the UNFCCC process as an opportunity to solidify commitments that will jointly promote local peace and global sustainability.

Others in the group expanded their understanding of climate adaptation throughout the two weeks at COP28, learning that not all solutions are technical. For example, one project they encountered seeks to help women and girls return to school and connect to community and resources immediately post-conflict or climate disaster, which is a moment of very high risk for violence against women. While this doesn’t solve the conflict or climate disaster, it helps to limit the scope of its impacts. Even amongst the challenges of climate injustice, stories of justice and peace circulated amongst the perspectives and experiences shared at COP28.

Looking ahead to future COPs, participants had mixed perspectives. Some pointed to the unique opportunity that COP allows for all countries to have a voice in determining the climate future and for civil society from around the world to connect and collaborate. Others lamented the slowness that accompanies a consensus-based process and the replication of systemic injustice that happens as high-emitting and fossil fuel-producing nations seek to avert responsibility for harm done. As climate impacts accelerate around the world, the success of the COP process is yet to be determined. However, both the optimists and the pessimists in the conversation agreed that civil society has much more work to do– at COP29, 30, and beyond– to integrate justice and peace into climate action.

In addition to hosting the Climate Justice and Peace Dialogue, on day 3 of COP28, ICP Analyst, Danyelle Kawamura was a featured panelist at the ASU Pavilion for a session focused on Skills of the Future. Danyelle spoke alongside Adele Trombetta of EMEA Cisco, Michael Swords of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Alex Dehgan of Conservation X Labs, and Garry Jacobs of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences. As climate change redefines innovation, creativity, and action, this session explored the technical and soft skills necessary for the creation of sustainable futures. Perspectives from academia, conservation, clean technology, and youth provided a well-rounded discussion that dove into systems thinking, education, monitoring and evaluation, transparency, and cooperation.

The Debate to Phase-Out, Phase-Down, and Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

COP28 in the UAE ended with nations from nearly 200 countries committing to “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly, and equitable manner” to maintain the urgent goal of keeping global temperatures under the 1.5°C threshold. Although the deal has been described as historic and landmark, with the term “fossil fuel” embedded in the final agreement for the first time, it has also been dismissed as weak– still short of the call for a total phase-out of coal, oil, and gas.

The final text did not include specific language on whether future climate action should phase-out or phase-down fossil fuels, and this key debate leading up to and throughout COP28 reflects the global struggle between economic interests and the urgency of climate action. Criticism from member nations who called for the phase-out term to be used was rejected by major oil-producing nations including Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iraq. Small island developing states (SIDS), who are faced with the immediate impacts of climate change like sea level rise and extreme weather events, said the text was an improvement but contains a “litany of loopholes” which could “take us backward rather than forward.” Further, Anne Rasmussen, from The Alliance of Small Island States, expressed concerns that the final decisions were made and “the small island developing states were not in the room.”

More than 130 countries, scientists, and civil society groups have urged for a phase-out of oil, coal, and gas to ensure that the 1.5°C goal remains viable. A phase-out of fossil fuels argues that immediate and complete abandonment of fossil fuels is necessary. Swift action is needed to limit global temperature rise and mitigate the environmental crisis. On the other hand, a phase-down approach argues for a more gradual transition. One of the main arguments for slowly phasing down, as opposed to completely phasing out fossil fuels, is that energy source stability is critical during the transition to renewable energy sources. COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber said that while a phase-down is inevitable, it can only happen when the world has added a sufficient amount of renewable energy capacity. “You can’t unplug the world from the current energy system before you build the new energy system. It’s a transition: transitions don’t happen overnight, transition takes time.”

With mixed reactions to the outcomes of COP28, ranging from feelings of devastation and tragedy for the future of our planet to interpreting the conference conclusion as a historic outcome signaling the end of fossil fuels, the decisions made atCOP28 carry significant weight, especially for SIDS with countries disproportionately affected by climate change despite contributing minimally to global emissions. The debate between the phase-out, phase-down, and transition away from fossil fuels should be centered on ensuring that any transition plan considers the vulnerabilities of island nations and addresses the urgent need for mitigation and adaptation in the face of the imminent climate crisis. United Nations Climate Chief Simon Stiell stated that “COP28 has delivered serious strides forward,” but the initiatives announced in Dubai are “a climate action lifeline, not a finish line.”

ICP Joins Millions through Declarations for Peace, Nature, Oceans, Youth, and Justice

Leading up to COP28 and throughout the convening, ICP made strides through our global advocacy approach to ensure our voices and experiences joined forces with aligned leaders, organizations, and coalitions. In many of these spaces, ICP represents Indigenous, Frontline, and Women-led Communities not otherwise accounted for. We see COP28 as a significant opportunity for policy transformation with global changemakers. As mentioned, ICP was actively engaged in the creation of the Peace@COP Community Policy Recommendations as well as the COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery, and Peace.

In total, ICP is a signatory as a CSO supporter of twenty efforts related to COP28 for a range of initiatives that include peacebuilding, oceans, food, health, justice, and energy, among other topics related to community well-being. In total these efforts contributed to significant reach including:

  • 880 direct touchpoints
  • 200 organizational, business, and governmental institutions
  • 3,336 indirect touchpoints

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. The largest movement we have joined this year is the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to end the expansion of new coal, oil, and gas projects and manage a just transition away from fossil fuels. Together, millions have joined the call for a swift, equitable, and just transition.

Transforming Food Systems for People, Nature, and Climate. This call mobilizes over 200 organizations to collective action to build resilient, equitable, and sustainable food systems that safeguard food and nutrition security while unlocking the potential for food systems to be a part of climate solutions for people, nature, and climate by 2030.

The Transformation is Unstoppable. Signatories call on the COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber and all parties at COP to negotiate a plan to keep 1.5°C within reach and secure a safe and healthy future for all.

Protect Human Rights. Letter urging world leaders to prioritize human rights in the context of the impending climate crisis.

Dubai Ocean Declaration. ICP is an official signatory to support and foster efforts to strengthen ocean protection and observation to improve climate mitigation, adaptation, and conservation.

The Pacific Power Up Declaration. Joining Pacific Climate Warriors calling for global renewables targets and accessible finance for the energy transition to build a safer world for Pacific people and frontline communities.

WHO Uniting for Health and Climate Action. ICP joins 42 million health professionals, groups, and individuals to unite in a call for world leaders to meet the commitments they have already made and to raise their ambition for a healthier, fairer, and greener future.

Open Letter on Fossil Fuels from the Global Medical and Health Community. We joined Health Care Without Harm and the Global Climate and Health Alliance to call on the COP28 Presidency and the leaders of all countries to commit to an accelerated, just, and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels as the decisive path to health for all.

Climate and Peace Storytelling Through Art at COP28

Even with nearly 100,000 attendees at COP28 in Dubai this year, there were many communities whose stories remained underrepresented or untold throughout the process of international negotiations. This is especially true of communities facing the joint challenges of climate change and conflict or actively implementing grassroots climate and peace solutions. While confronted with overlapping risks and navigating the difficult task of peacebuilding, highly impacted communities often lack the resources and institutional support to send representatives to high-level decision-making spaces like this one. With that in mind, the Nature Footprints project, with support from ten organizations and many additional champions, came together to showcase community stories of climate, conflict, and peace worldwide and bring new perspectives to light at COP28.

The collection was showcased in one of the main negotiation hubs of the conference, reaching decision-makers passing from room to room with messages signaling both hope and urgency. Beyond the halls of COP28, the collection is available online in an interactive gallery format, with key information translated into four languages. To highlight just one of many powerful messages from the collection, artist Miriam Lott shares that “We know our role is to listen and try to weave the thread of the story into the fabric of our lives.” Her short story, “The Weavers,” follows two parallel communities in Chad as they seek to save themselves from unraveling. This story ties in closely with ICP’s new branding, which showcases the significance of weaving in culture, community, and peacebuilding. Hearing these themes resonate across continents and oceans from Chad to Hawai’i is a powerful reminder of how deeply connected we are.

Photo Credit: Natalia Mroz

A Retrospective on COP28 Dubai

Our delegation completed 69 projects and events as part of our efforts for COP28, including leading a workshop, co-producing a publication, facilitating a convening, leading courageous conversations across pavilions, conducting interviews, joining new networks and coalitions, and being educated by leading global experts covering a wide range of critical climate issues. Through this experience, our organization had 880 direct touchpoints and 3,336 indirect touchpoints, totaling 4,216 touchpoints as part of our UNFCCC observer status.

Through these touchpoints, our team brought underrepresented perspectives to the Conference of the Parties while simultaneously making the conference accessible to those without access to attend. Each touchpoint– ranging from in-person conversations to social media engagements– demonstrates that our audience is eager to understand how the world is responding to the crisis of climate change and learn more about how locally-led action can drive climate solutions that feature justice and peace at their core.

Unite. Act. Deliver: Looking Ahead to COP29 in Azerbaijan, COP30 in Brazil, and COP31 in Australia

The annual Conference of the Parties will return later this year. COP29 will be hosted in Azerbaijan, followed by COP30 in Brazil and COP31 in Australia. Early this year, the President of Azerbaijan announced the organizing committee of the COP29 global summit to be held in November, which consisted of 28 men and 0 women. This initial committee was composed primarily of officials and ministers within sectors of the government, including state security and gas distribution. After criticism of this composition and the lack of representation within such an important committee of decision-makers for the conference, the President added 12 women to the committee, as well as an additional man, bringing the final balance to 29 men and 12 women.

As a non-profit organization founded and operated by a diverse team of women, ICP understands the importance of unique identities, experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds at the table for effective work and decision-making. Within the climate crisis, women are positioned at the forefront of the negative impacts of a changing climate. Women make up 80% of those affected by climate-induced displacement. They also represent the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on less than $1 a day, with the economically poorest populations facing more severe impacts and having fewer resources with which to respond. Furthermore, women face higher rates of sexual assault and negative health outcomes after natural disasters than men. At the same time, studies have shown that countries with greater gender equity have on average 12% lower CO2 emissions, conservation efforts under women’s leadership are more successful, ethical, and peaceful, and when women are involved in peace negotiations, the efficacy of these negotiations rises by 24%. These statistics underscore the importance of feminist approaches to the climate crisis, which cannot be achieved without adequate and fair representation of women at the highest levels.

COP29 will feature critical discussions that will build on the COP28 discourse. With the host country itself being an oil and natural gas-exporting nation, and with leaders within these sectors holding important seats on the organizing committee, the success of preparations and global climate talks amid these factors remains to be seen. The conference president himself illustrates these potential challenges. While he currently serves as the Minister of Ecology for Azerbaijan, he worked for over twenty years within the oil and gas sector. Although Azerbaijan is working toward achieving 30% renewable energy by 2030 and decreasing carbon emissions by 40% by 2050, these targets fall short of the recommendations of scientists to avoid a catastrophic state of our climate. Most certainly, COP29 discussions will build on the discourse around fossil fuels at COP28, including the first-ever inclusion of fossil fuel language in a COP agreement and calls from communities and organizations around the world for a stronger commitment to justly transition away from fossil fuels.

Looking further ahead, COP30 in Brazil will be hosted in the city of Belém in the Amazon rainforest. This proximity to biodiversity and vast ecosystems that are under threat due to climate change will spotlight issues related to the agricultural and forestry sectors and conservation and ecosystem management, especially management by Indigenous communities. We expect similar themes to feature heavily at COP31, hosted in Australia. ICP looks forward to bringing our values, knowledge, and research to these upcoming global convenings, which serve as opportunities for ICP to amplify solutions that promote climate resilience and peace for frontline communities and underrepresented populations.

The Institute for Climate and Peace (ICP) is a climate justice organization that understands the science and advances positive peace to build equity and climate resiliency for the communities most affected by climate change. Our mission is to advance effective and inclusive processes to build peaceful and climate-resilient futures for the wellbeing of all. We are re-envisioning how we relate to ourselves, each other, and our environment by investing deeply in positive peace strategies that are transformative and support the vision of communities at the frontlines of climate change. Find out more about us and our latest activities by staying connected.