COP28: Oil deals or climate action?

On day one of COP28 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), what can we expect from this year’s programme? Aura’s Sustainability consultant, Gillian Orr, shares her views

Successful COP or massive flop?

This time last year, I wrote about COP27 being the ‘last chance for change’ to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level. Results were mixed, with many feeling that COP27 didn’t show enough progress.

Unfortunately, COP28 may not be off to the best start already, with news leaking just this week that the UAE has used COP28 to host controversial talks on private oil and gas deals rather than the anticipated climate change focus that is desperately needed if the Paris Agreement goals are to be achieved.

The President-Designate of COP28, Dr. Sultan al-Jaber also happens to be head of the UAE’s state oil company Adnoc, some might argue this represents a conflict of interests. However, a statement sent to the BBC in an attempt to smooth things over states that it would be a ‘distraction’ to imply that his work has been anything but ‘focused on meaningful climate action’ and that the proof will be in the results.

COP28’s website also contains the slogan and a recording of the song “waiting on the world to change”, but we can’t just sit and wait, change simply cannot come without action and leadership. Personally, I much prefer the follow-up slogan, Action Starts Here, and remain hopeful that this will be the case…

G20 in the spotlight

Ahead of the Conference, the Joint Statement issued by Simon Steill, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Dr. Sultan al-Jaber, COP28 President-Designate highlights the need for G20 leaders to step up and drive real change.

With G20 countries resulting in 80% of global emissions, the statement calls on them to lead the way on both science and investment, to deliver the scale ups needed for transforming global energy systems, renewable and clean energy sources and responsibly phasing down fossil fuels. Given the criticism from COP27 at the ‘watering down’ of language around fossil fuels, this may be a big ask, but we must remain hopeful that world leaders will be responsible and do the right thing.

What is promising is that the statement doesn’t shy away from facing up to the magnitude of the challenge, recognising that climate science demands a strong mitigation outcome from COP28, and a clear action plan is crucial, as progress to date hasn’t gone far enough.

In fact in a separate interview, Simon Steill, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework stated that world leaders must “stop dawdling and start doing” on carbon emission cuts, as rapidly rising temperatures this year have put everyone on the front-line of disaster. It has been estimated that without urgent and drastic action, we are heading towards a catastrophic 3⁰C rise in temperature.

world leaders must “stop dawdling and start doing” on carbon emission cuts

Simon Steill, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework

Time to take stock

Importantly, COP28 brings the first Global Stocktake (GST) assessing progress since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015. This is a huge milestone, aiming to align efforts on climate action and “bridge the gaps in progress” across all pillars of the Paris Agreement between now and 2030, to get back on track and keep 1.5⁰C within reach.

For the first time in the GST, countries will be able to see where they’re making progress on meeting their goals, and, more importantly, where they are not. Recognition of the existence of any gaps is one thing, but the output of this first GST will be crucial. As pointed out by the UNFCCC:

“it’s not the stocktake itself that is the gamechanger – it’s the global response


The world is watching: this year’s output must result in higher ambition and accelerated action, as well as identifying solutions for 2030 and beyond.  

What might this all mean for packaging?

When it comes to packaging, deforestation and preservation of biodiversity are still high on the agenda in the UAE following the agreement in COP26 in Glasgow to end deforestation by 2030. With this global deforestation pledge and the billions invested towards it, we’d expect a continued shift in focus on packaging from fossil-fuel derived plastics to a much broader and more holistic view taking all materials into account.

Technology for Climate is another one of the main focal points in week 1 of COP28’s schedule. One example is novel technologies and responsible implementation, with a session on leveraging blockchain technology to drive climate action using ‘secure, transparent, and verifiable data’.

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship theme also has many forums bringing people together to look at solutions in diverse sectors to use innovation and investment as a driver for sustainable growth.

Finally, throughout all official themes of COP28 is the need for cross-sector and cross-stakeholder collaboration, with many events designed to facilitate partnerships for climate action and the just transition.

For us in the packaging world, it’s clear there are lots of parallels that can be drawn with the high-level climate action goals discussed in COP28. My top 5 key areas that resonate with our thinking here at Aura are as follows:

  • Leverage technology to drive results
  • Make decisions informed by accurate data
  • Measure progress, take stock, and realign action plans accordingly
  • Investment and innovation accelerate action
  • Unity and collaboration is critical

For more news on COP28 or for the official schedule, check out the website:

We will certainly be keeping a close eye on how COP28 unfolds and hoping that this kickstarts real change and accelerates ambition, so keep your eyes peeled for further articles from the team.

If you’d like to speak to a member of the Aura team about how we can support you in your journey towards packaging sustainability, please get in touch at

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About the Author

Gill is a lead consultant, dedicated to providing clients with sustainable packaging strategy, process mapping / improvement and decoding the complex arena of global packaging regulation. She has experience across fmcg, food service and branded clients globally, implementing teams, processes and strategies to drive efficiency while ensuring transparency and integrity of packaging data through technology. Her solution-led, detail-oriented and collaborative approach ensures our clients receive the best possible advice to meet their sustainability targets and reduce waste - in all senses of the word.