COP28, the UN climate change conference, has kicked off in Dubai. But what happens at these annual climate change conferences? And why do they even matter in New Zealand?

I went to COP27 in Egypt last year to work alongside the global climate activist network. Together, we campaigned to phase out fossil fuels, establish a loss and damage fund, and put an end to polluting industries. Here’s my take on this year’s UN climate conference, and why it’s important.

What is COP28? And what does COP28 stand for?

COP28 stands for the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It’s a yearly international conference, taking place in a different country each year since 1995 (with a small break in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Delegates from over 197 countries are expected to attend COP28.

Who goes to COP28? And what do they want?

This COP will be critical for climate action – here in Aotearoa and around the world. Politicians, negotiators, activists, business leaders, fossil fuel executives, agri-industry representatives, and many more are gathering in Dubai in their droves, all hoping to influence the final outcome of this conference.

Some, like the agri-industry and the fossil fuel industry, will be looking to continue with business as usual. They will be desperate to avoid references to phasing out polluting industries – like oil and gas exploration and extraction or intensive livestock farming – in any decisions made at the COP.

These are the world’s most climate-polluting industries. And they have a history of deploying millions of dollars on PR and lobbying in an effort to try and prevent Governments from regulating in the public interest.

Civil society, including Greenpeace’s international delegation, will be there to demand the opposite. We’re calling for COP28 to be the COP to finally call for an end to fossil fuels – oil, gas, and coal. And we’re demanding that our leaders make polluters pay for the loss and damage they’ve caused by wrecking the climate.

COP28 provides an opportunity to say no to fossil fuels, forever

Never before have people from all over the world been so united to stand against fossil fuels – and never before have so many governments been willing to stand alongside them.

A bloc of Pacific Island nations – Tonga, Fiji, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu – is calling for a fossil fuel phase out, joined by the European Union and the High Ambition Coalition, which is made up of countries including New Zealand, Barbados, Chile, Colombia, Kenya, and more.

Last year, at COP27, more than 80 countries called for a phase down or phase out of all fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – during negotiations – a proposal that unfortunately did not make it into the final decision as a result of oil industry interference.

People around the world took to the streets in September, with tens of thousands of people marching in New York, to demand an end to new fossil fuel projects, and to the oil and gas industry as a whole.

More than fourteen thousand people have signed our open letter to the oil and gas industry, committing to resisting new oil and gas exploration if the industry attempts to return to Aotearoa.

Criticism is mounting of the UAE’s connections to the oil and gas industry, including recent leaked documents highlighting the presidency’s attempts to use COP28 to boost the oil and gas industry.

This COP, there is more momentum for change than ever before. It’s our chance to get an agreement to a phase out of fossil fuels, and our opportunity to show polluting industries like the oil and gas industry and the meat and dairy industry that their ability to influence these talks is fading.

Will you resist big polluters with us?

Sign the open letter to the oil industry

Sign the open letter to the oil industry – We will resist oil exploration

Sign on

COP28 is the NZ National Party’s first chance to pick a side on climate action.

Will they stand for climate action, or will they reignite their love affair with the fossil fuel industry?

Before the election, the Government committed to advocating for a phase out of fossil fuels at the UN climate conference. New Zealand has historically been a key mover and shaker when it comes to action to protect the environment – the nuclear free movement, the GE free movement, the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration. Our former government gave us a mandate for change that could continue under this new government – because after all, a desire for meaningful climate action should not be controversial.

Alternatively, the National Party could go back to their roots of climate denial, delaying climate action, and promoting the interests of polluting industries above all else. This includes promoting fossil fuel exploration, re-opening the block offer process, and allowing oil and gas exploration to return to New Zealand’s oceans.

This is our first chance to see National Party Climate Change Minister Simon Watts in action. His actions at COP28 will set the stage for the next three years of Government climate action – or lack thereof.

But even after all of this, you might still be asking yourself this question:

Why do we need a COP28?

Shouldn’t this all be solved by now?

You’re right! It should all be solved by now – but big polluters like the oil industry and the dairy industry have exerted all their power and influence to stop climate action progressing. They have denied and delayed, lying through their teeth, when in fact these polluting industries knew the whole time that they were wrecking the climate with their greed.

But their power over this process is fading.

We need a COP28 because COPs 1 through to 27 did not solve this problem. COP isn’t the solution on its own, but it provides an opportunity for everyday people to question, to criticise, and to hold leaders to account for the damage they’re allowing big polluters to do to the planet we all call home.

UN climate conferences will go on, regardless of whether or not we pay attention to them. And the industry will continue to capture these processes, to deny and delay, unless we make an active effort to stop them.

Greenpeace exists for many reasons, and one of them is to bear witness. Our delegation will be on the ground to demand justice, to fight for the environment and the climate that every person alive depends on for our very survival, and to ensure that the industry’s power over these negotiations continues to weaken.

This COP28, we could see a ground-breaking achievement to phase out fossil fuels for good. The global movement against oil is growing – will you resist oil with us?

Sign the open letter to the oil industry

Sign the open letter to the oil industry – We will resist oil exploration

Sign on