Charting the future at COP28: global commitments, urgent action, and Kazakhstan's climate agenda

November 30, 2023

COP 28: a global convergence for climate action 

The Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, or COP, is a mega-event of global significance and can be compared in scale to the Olympic Games. In addition to serving as the gathering for the Parties to the Convention that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) and Conference of the Parties to the Convention that are also Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA), it plays a pivotal role as the highest authority responsible for making decisions regarding the world's climate change treaties.

The UNFCCC and its COP are primarily recognized as a platform for climate treaty negotiations, which includes the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement. As most of the treaty negotiations have already been concluded, the current emphasis has shifted towards the implementation of these agreements.

With a series of meetings and events, COP28 which is held in Dubai, UAE this year, brings together government representatives, scientists, international organizations, businesses, Indigenous Peoples, local communities, youth, media, civil society, and influential figures.

The typical COP agenda covers a wide range of critical implementation topics, such as mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, measurement and reporting, transparency, support for least developed countries, climate finance, technology transfer, capacity building, impacts of climate change response measures, and gender considerations.

Gauging climate reality 

This year COP28 is marked by the first Global Stocktake which is conducted once every five years. It aims to take stock of the collective progress and outlines a path toward higher climate ambition. 

Early indications suggest that the GST will underscore the global deviation from the intended path. The Earth's surface temperature has already surged by 1.1°C (2.2°F) since the late 1800s, edging close to the 1.5°C threshold. Alarming records of soaring temperatures worldwide in 2023, coupled with projections for new highs over the next five years by the World Meteorological Organization, signal an urgent need for corrective action.

Temperature records were also recorded in Kazakhstan in 2023. In general, the country has experienced a widespread increase in surface air temperature over the past 75 years. An increase in average annual air temperatures up to 2 ºС is observed for the period from 1941 to 2015.

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan

The climate change is taking its toll on the agricultural sector, water resources, grazing lands and forests in the country. More than 50 percent of the current glacier mass is expected to be lost by 2100, and climate-related disasters such as mudflows, floods and droughts have increased in frequency and scale, a trend expected to continue in the next decade. Climate change is projected to cause a steep decrease of water resources (up to 22 percent) by 2100, leading to water stress in all of the country’s eight basins. Kazakhstan is a major supplier of wheat, but yields are expected to decrease by between 13 and 49 percent by 2050.

Climate finance: meeting the urgent need for action

To effectively address and mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change we need to get the finance right. According to the latest report by the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), the average annual climate finance flows reached almost USD 1.3 trillion in 2021/2022. The annual climate finance needs are projected to rise gradually from USD 8.1 trillion to USD 9 trillion by 2030 in the CPI’s average scenario. Subsequently, these estimates show a significant increase to over USD 10 trillion per year from 2031 to 2050, indicating that climate finance must increase by at least five times annually as soon as possible 

In 2023, Kazakhstan adopted a Carbon Neutrality Strategy with a commitment to combatting climate change and taking targeted actions under the Paris Agreement. Achieving carbon neutrality is expected to save 9.335 billion tons of CO2, with a cost reduction of $65.4 per tonne of CO2. This transition toward sustainable energy sources will require a total investment of $610 billion, primarily from redirecting existing investments from traditional to green industries. 

Supporting Kazakhstan’s climate pledge 

UNDP has been a key partner in supporting Kazakhstan's climate pledge and efforts to address climate change by working closely with the government to develop and implement strategies that align with the country's climate goals. Through the PAGE project, UNDP supported the development of the Carbon Neutrality Strategy until 2060 by drafting its six chapters with placing special focus on the principles of the just transition. 

Large-scale transformation requires a substantial amount of private capital for "green" growth. Engaging the private sector in low-carbon development is central to UNDP's efforts in Kazakhstan which includes creating of an enabling environment and the development of a "green" finance system. UNDP has experimented with various financial instruments aimed at enhancing the accessibility and affordability of "green" finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors as part of the GEF-funded portfolio of projects.

UNDP is actively fostering local communities and youth involvement in the pursuit of a resilient and equitable society in Kazakhstan, with a specific focus on advancing environmental sustainability. This initiative involves the implementation of an eco-education curriculum across five regions of Kazakhstan, coupled with training and advocacy activities for local population.

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan

UNDP has been actively assisting Kazakhstan's national delegation in building capacity for the negotiation process at COP28. This support extends to other Central Asian countries as well, providing them with valuable training opportunities. Through these training sessions, delegates are better equipped for COP, gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the substantive, procedural, and organizational aspects of the conference.