COP28 will focus on four key priorities: fast-tracking a just energy transition; fixing climate finance; placing nature at the heart of climate action; and making COP28 the most inclusive summit to date. To understand these priorities and the pathway to achieving them, it’s important to understand the language of the summit. 

Understanding the terminology defining climate action and driving policy at COP28

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP28, will be held from 30 November to 12 December 2023, in Dubai with politicians, scientists and corporate leaders coming together to discuss the global climate crisis. As the summits have grown in size and profile, dozens of acronyms and buzzwords have developed, making each COP less accessible to those not immersed in climate science.

The president of this year’s COP, Sultan Al Jaber of the United Arab Emirates, has identified four priorities to be tackled at this year’s summit: fast-tracking a just, orderly, and equitable energy transition; fixing climate finance; placing nature, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action; and making the summit the most inclusive COP to date.

To understand how these priorities can be achieved, it’s important to understand the language of the summit – limiting warming to 1.5C requires ambitious NDCs, to build resilience to climate impacts we must meet the GGA, and to fix climate finance, we will require guidance from the SCF, but what do these acronyms mean?

In order to develop credible and inclusive climate transition plans, all political and corporate stakeholders must have a robust grasp of the principles that underpin climate action. Understanding the terminology used is key for collaboration and progress.

Eva Cairns, Head of Sustainability Insights and Climate Strategy

Below, we explain some of the key terms and acronyms that will be discussed at the summit:
  • The Conference of Parties (COP): Relates to the United Nations parties or countries that have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty agreed in 1994. Nearly 200 countries will come together at COP28 to discuss climate action and progress made on the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • The UN Global Stocktake (GST): The Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change adopted by governments in 2015, established various goals to tackle climate change. These included cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius. The GST is designed to assess the collective progress that has been made in reaching these goals. Each stocktake – or inventory, as the UN describes it – is a two-year process that happens every five years. The first stocktake completes at COP28 where the findings of the recently published synthesis report will be discussed.
  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs): The Paris Agreement requires individual countries to outline the efforts and actions they intend to take to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. NDCs are submitted to the UNFCCC every five years. The UN encourages countries to become more ambitious in tackling climate change and in mitigating its effects with every new round of NDCs.
  • New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG): In 2009, the advanced economies committed to provide US$100 billion per year in financing to developing countries to help decarbonise and adapt to the impacts of climate change. That commitment recognised the fact that the developing world is the most severely impacted by climate change and contributed less to the problem than many developed nations. However, the commitment was never delivered and there is a consensus that significantly more than US$100 billion per year is needed to support developing countries. The NCQG is expected to come into operation in 2025.
  • Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA): Adaptation relates to the need to build resilience to the physical impacts of climate change and not only focus on decarbonisation to mitigate global warming. The GGA was established at the Paris Agreement, and seeks to ‘enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change’. The GGA will be discussed at COP28 to make sure that there are clear targets for adaptation in the same way that we have targets for limiting temperature increases to 1.5C. 
  • Standing Committee on Finance (SCF): This is a forum that aims to facilitate the communication and continued exchange of information among bodies and entities dealing with climate-change finance. Climate finance has been established as a cross-cutting theme at COP28 given it underpins all progress on climate action.
The technical nature of some of the language surrounding COP28 should not mask the critical importance of the summit in developing inclusive plans to meet global climate goals. Collective Quantified Goals, Just Transition and Global Stocktakes are not just buzzwords, they are guiding principles in climate science and form essential foundations on the pathway to net zero.