Countdown to COP28: Media trends analysis

COP28 has garnered significant media attention in recent months, and while the narrative has differed between publications, we should acknowledge the pivotal role of the media in educating investors, corporations, and the general public about the impact of climate change.

Media attitudes towards COP can set the tone for the event and influence public opinion on the perceived success of the conference.

Utilising our media monitoring tools we have analysed the media coverage surrounding this year’s conference. COP28 has been covered extensively by a diverse range of UK & international media publications. Interestingly, there has been significantly more (>80%) media coverage around this year’s conference compared to COP27.

Overall, media sentiment around what COP28 stands for is mixed, which does not come as a surprise given the lack of meaningful action from previous COPs and the myriad of clashing political interests. This year specifically, one topic has dominated the narrative – the fossil fuel industry, amongst other themes like the future of renewables, the energy transition, Climate Finance, and The Global Stocktake.

The involvement of OPEC, the UAE, and Sultan al-Jaber

Oil executive Sultan al-Jaber was appointed president of COP28 earlier this year. This decision has been criticised and debated extensively due to perceived attempts at ‘greenwashing’ his image and involvement with the fossil fuel industry.  Al-Jaber’s stance on the role of oil and gas companies is well documented. Associated Press reports that he sees the industry as “central to the solution” and believes that, while phasing down fossil fuel use is “inevitable”, they are an important part of the energy transition plans.

Excluding oil, natural gas, and coal industries from participating in COP28 is viewed by some as a “step backwards”. According to The Guardian, the UN’s former climate chief, Christina Figueres for example, said that fossil fuel companies should not be included in the COP28 climate summit if they continue to block climate action. On the other hand, in his piece in The Telegraph, policy consultant and international contributor David Blackmon mentioned that the fossil fuel industry has a role to play in managing climate change, and “excluding them from COP28 is madness”.

This has sparked significant debate about whether fossil fuels should be “phased-down” or “phased-out”, with pressure mounting on developing nations to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels faster than the relatively more developed nations have. But according to Reuters, “the more vulnerable countries say developed nations largely responsible for warming the planet must finance their efforts both to transition away from fossil fuels and to adapt to increasingly severe climate impacts”.

This conflict will continue to form a large part of the media conversation at COP this year. Click here to read our analysis on the UAE’s evolving role in the energy transition.

The role of renewable energy in decarbonisation

Another Reuters article covered a new report from the UAE presidency, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Global Renewables Alliance, which revealed that renewable energy capacity needs to “reach more than 11,000GW” by the end of this decade. Consequentially, Sultan al-Jaber and two renewable energy organisations urged governments to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 as part of efforts to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Although some major economies are on board with this goal including China, the United States and India, coming to a common consensus among the nearly 200 countries that attend COP28 meetings seems challenging. This is because countries are divided in the argument that this strategy is not enough to increase the overall reliance on clean energy, if countries do not also agree to quit the use of polluting energy that is they very root cause of climate change.

Climate Finance

According to a report commissioned by the G20, an estimated $1.8 trillion a year is needed by 2030 for the world’s poorest countries to transition their economies and adapt to climate change., an international environmental trade title has reported that international development banks are continuing to struggle to obtain investment from the private sector. COP28 is therefore expected to heavily feature discussions around climate funding, considering the persistent challenge of the inequitable distribution of aid between richer and poorer countries.

The Loss and Damage fund

Within this month’s news agenda, multiple international publications including The Guardian and Independent reported that governments from both richer and poorer countries have drawn up the “blueprint” for a new “Loss and Damage” fund after a two-day meeting under UN guidance in Abu Dhabi ahead of COP28.

According to Euronews, campaigners have argued that the Loss and Damage fund must be accountable to the most vulnerable, drawing on the experience of community-based organisations, and they fear that negotiations could become extremely difficult in amongst the complexities that could arise from the busy agenda at COP28 itself.

This blueprint from Abu Dhabi must be formally adopted at COP28, but the cautiously positive news is that countries such as the EU have already started preparing to contribute to the fund, Reuters has reported.

Climate Adaptation and wellbeing

At Business Green’s Net-Zero Festival recently, experts highlighted that “the climate crisis is a health crisis”. Keeping this in mind, back in May, The Guardian reported that health issues will be considered for the very first time at COP28, with a meeting of global health ministers to highlight the consequences and tackling of the climate crisis for wellbeing.

A designated “Relief, Recovery, and Peace Day” will focus on accelerating adaptation, preventing, and addressing loss and damage, including in fragile and conflict affected contexts, which face severe barriers to accessing climate finance and strengthening climate .

Plastic pollution

One topic that has been neglected from the COP28 agenda is plastic pollution, a decision that an opinion piece in has described as “baffling and a shame”. Our media audit too did not capture any news articles that explicitly discuss the implications of plastic within the COP28 narrative. In her op-ed, CEO and co-founder of TIPA, Daphna Nissenbaum, called for policymakers to prioritise more incentives for businesses to look for alternative ways to package their products, and foster funding and investment for a compostable infrastructure. Other firms in this space must proactively communicate with stakeholders to raise awareness of the continued importance of plastic pollution in the context of Net Zero.

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