From November 30 to December 12, 2023 the United Arab Emirates will host the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dubai. COP 28 is convening at a time of increased geopolitical tension, trade disputes and division amongst parties on issues such as cross border taxes between developed and developing countries.
On October 1, 2023 the EU’s Cross Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) regulations came into force. These regulations, which are meant to prevent ‘carbon leakage’ and ‘encourage cleaner industrial production in non EU countries’, will have a significant impact on South Africa.
While the regulations aim to ensure the EU’s ambitious climate objectives are not undermined by the relocation of carbon intensive production outside the EU, they are fundamentally in contradiction with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, undermining the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
According to a policy brief, in the short term, approximately $2.8 billion (R48bn) of South Africa’s exports are at risk, primarily in the iron and steel (including iron ore) and aluminium industries.
A central feature of COP28 is the first ever Global Stocktake (GST), where countries will collectively evaluate their progress since the inception of the Paris Agreement.
The GST is important as it informs the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC’s) which are intended to be more progressive. It is intended that the GST will identify opportunities for enhanced action and support, including international cooperation for climate change.
As stated by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, Minister Creecy ‘COP 28 will need to contribute towards unlocking support for developing countries and developing key mandates – establishing trust is critical , developed countries will need to honour their historical pledges such as the $100bn, which has never been done’.
One of the key mandates for South Africa include parties agreeing on the framework on the Global Goal on Adaptation (formerly the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work programme) where negotiations will centre around adopting a set of high level targets and importantly, finance for adaptation.
Studies indicate that adaptation costs for Africa are estimated to be in the range of $259bn to $407bn between 2020 and 2030. Limited progress on adaptation was made at COP27 with no guidance or concrete targets on the implementation of the Global Goal on Adaptation. This is a core issue for the African continent.
While the establishment of a fund for loss and damage was a key outcome for COP27, parties will also need to agree on the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Finance and funding arrangements. Funding needs to be separate from adaptation and should be ‘new, additional, predictable, accountable and adequate to support all developing countries’.
Finally it is anticipated that the Just Energy Implementation Plan for the JET Investment Plan (JET IP) will be published during COP28. The JET IP sets out the scale of need and investments required to support the decarbonisation commitments made for the five year period, 2023-2027 in line with South Africa’s nationally determined contribution (NDC).
It is submitted that the JET Implementation Plan will be a long term, multi sectoral initiative aimed at driving economic, social and environmental change, with the first five year implementation plan focusing on strong governance, robust management, monitoring, evaluation and risk management, all grounded in existing South African institutions, while adapting local and global best practices.
In terms of finance, South Africa’s message is clear – “South Africa needs a specific and massively scaled-up new quantified long term goal for finance that is based on needs of developing countries backed up with a collectively negotiated implementation roadmap”. South Africa needs commitments that the financial obligations by developed counties will be met and that any new support will be additional and not ‘repacking of existing support’.
South Africa's perspective on COP28 reflects a mix of urgency, accountability, and a unique African dimension, all geared toward accelerating climate action in the 2020-2030 critical decade.
In addition to taking stock of where the country is in achieving its NDC, COP28 is an opportunity for advancing South Africa’s Just Energy Transition which it is hoped will be facilitated by the fulfilment of promises for international climate financing. There will be a strong focus on implementation, upholding the principles of equity, common but differentiated responsibilities, and respective capabilities in climate change.
Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa’s Costas Tina - Director, Environmental law, and Senior Associate James Ross.