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Why we can't rely (solely) on COP

Climate change





Lucy O'Connor

Climate change
Why we can't rely (solely) on COP





Lucy O'Connor

Each year, the world pins its hope on the fact that the next Conference Of the Parties (COP) will deliver the action urgently needed to address climate change. The United Nations (UN) has held these conferences over the past three decades, yet the world is still headed for catastrophic warming. So as world leaders gather in Dubai for COP28, we examine whether COP is, and can be successful at driving meaningful change.

What is COP?

COP is an annual summit that brings together world leaders to address the biggest challenge facing humanity: climate change.

COP is attended by the countries that signed the UN climate change treaty in 1994, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or ‘UNFCCC’.

From the 30th of November to the 12th of December, the 28th COP summit is taking place in Dubai, with world leaders and representatives from more than 195 countries expected to attend the summit.

Why is COP important?

The world is currently not on track to keep global warming below 1.5℃. The WRI State of Climate Action report shows that of all the indicators of progress they monitor, not one is on track, and only a handful are close to the right direction and speed. In fact, with current pledges from national governments, the UNFCCC has calculated we will see emissions increase by over 10% by 2030 from 2010. 

The good news is that scientists are predicting emissions will no longer rise after 2030, and the IEA’s recent analysis suggests that emissions from energy will peak by 2025—a historic turning point. 

However, looking longer term, the UNFCCC's analysis of the combined climate pledges (nationally determined contributions or NDCs, something you will hear about a lot during COP) of 193 countries still sees the world hitting 2.5℃ by the end of the century. That's after all countries agreed to update and improve their targets after COP26 at Glasgow.

We don’t need to spell out just how dangerous a 2.5℃ rise would be, not least after another year of record-breaking climate and extreme weather impacts. As it stands, there is almost a 50-50 chance of 1.5℃ being reached in the next 5 years, and we stand on the brink of a number of tipping points. As such, the UNEP has warned global leaders that ‘only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster’. 

COP is therefore critical because it provides an opportunity for world leaders to gather under a global spotlight and discuss how to take appropriate action and for countries to commit to more ambitious targets. It is also fundamental for generating climate action funding and, at this COP particularly, funding for adaptation and reparations for damage and losses in developing countries.  

We cannot solve the climate crisis without strong, widespread policies, regulations and laws that only governments can provide.


COP is often criticised for being too slow to deliver action and for the gap between rhetoric and action.

Looking back over the past year, when countries were encouraged to increase ambition, there has been almost no progress.

Developed countries have fallen short of meeting their promise to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries finance climate mitigation and adaptation. We've seen countries approving the development of new oil and gas fields, and despite parties signing a pledge to halt deforestation by 2030, global deforestation rates are at an all-time high. 

So, can we afford to rely on COP for all our climate hopes?

To avoid irreversible climate impacts, we need to accelerate action. 

According to the recent State of Climate Action report, we need to reduce the annual rate of deforestation 2.5 times faster, increase efforts to phase out coal generation sixfold, encourage people to shift to more sustainable diets five times faster and increase global climate finance by roughly $460 billion every year this decade. 

COP alone is unlikely to achieve this, and we cannot delay action for another year. While we need COP to help establish more ambitious climate commitments and encourage policies that incentivise the transition to a 1.5℃ pathway, we also need individuals and businesses to help drive action. In the words of the IPCC, every bit of warming matters, every year matters, and every choice matters.

So, regardless of how successful COP is or isn’t, there is a role for everyone and every organisation in urgent climate action. We all take cues from each other. Whilst those with the greatest resource and responsibility should lead, we can only be successful when we all visibly act as one and create systemic change. Across the globe, there are multiple climate change movements as well as campaigns and consistent levels of support for action on climate change. This has helped create a supportive political environment for bolder national action. We are also seeing prominent businesses and enterprise coalitions asking for more from the government and each other. 

We also shouldn't underestimate the collective impact of making small changes, particularly when these impacts are multiplied across millions of people and businesses. 

The power of collective action 

Consumption is one of the biggest drivers of climate change. So, we can all play our part in limiting the damaging effects of climate change by making more sustainable choices and signalling our intent to do so. 

How? Well, it all starts with measuring and understanding your carbon footprint. 

Carbon tracking solutions, like Cogo, can help people and businesses measure, understand and reduce their environmental impact. We partner with banks to scale this action as they possess the transactional data needed to provide customers with information about the impact of their spending in real-time.

Insights from our pilot with NatWest showed the average user saved approximately 11 kg of CO2 emissions per month by committing to behavioural changes that used less carbon—such as reducing meat consumption or switching utility providers to green suppliers. If this behaviour is replicated across all customers who use the mobile app, it could save more than 1 million tonnes of CO2e emissions per year, like the footprint of a small city. And that’s only one partnership!

All action can be a catalyst for more action. So we can all play a role in accelerating and magnifying this change. 

Discover how Cogo’s Personal Carbon Manager can help scale climate action. 


We can’t rely solely on COP to drive the urgent action we need to save our planet. It needs to be joined up with the involvement and action of people and businesses in a manner that is supportive, just and cohesive. 

So while we are still hoping for renewed commitment and acknowledgement of public/business opinion at COP, we will be working every day on what we can do. And we won’t stop. 

We can solve the climate crisis if we all act together!

Let’s Cogo!

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