Expectations for #COP28

A group of youth ambassadors holding protest signs calling for climate action. A file photo from International youth day.
ECO-UNESCO and Community Foundation Ireland mark International Youth Day 2023 with a call to #InvestInOurPlanet.

Sustainable Futures

Photo of author, Jason Coulter.

Jason Coulter of our Social Impact Team sets out his expectations for COP as he joins youth ambassadors at the global gathering.

‘Sustainable Futures’ is a core pillar of everything Community Foundation Ireland stands for. It guides our grant-making, ensuring we keep a climate-focused lens on the work we support. With this in mind, we approach COP28 with two simple demands: A phasing out of fossil fuels, and a tangible agreement on reversing biodiversity collapse. We are delighted to be attending with our partners ECO-UNESCO, ensuring that young people are represented even more in the Irish delegation this year.

We must see a commitment to phasing out fossil fuels at COP28. It is no longer enough to discuss a ‘phasing down’ of fossil fuel extraction. Time is no longer running out – we are already in extra time. The science is clear in stating we can only achieve net-zero by immediately weaning ourselves off our reliance on fossil fuels. We are proud to support the climate movement in Ireland which promotes a positive, green vision of what Ireland can become. There is a clear roadmap to how Ireland can shape our future as a sustainable, green nation, with equality for all at its heart.

The ‘Just Transition’ can breathe life into each corner of the country with jobs in the renewable energy sector and a focus on ensuring the voices of people most affected by climate change are written into policymaking from the start.  This is not a vague, aimless statement – this is a call to action. The rights of all need to be heard at every stage. Sustainable public transport can only be achieved when disabled people are listened to. The gender pay gap directly affects how women can react to government policy. Travellers are central to discussions on housing and accommodation, particularly retrofitting. There are plenty of other examples too.

COP28 must commit to tangible, global biodiversity restoration. Community Foundation Ireland has been a grant-making leader in this space through our partnership with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Together we have accomplished much and are excited to develop this collaboration further. To date we have funded approximately 180 biodiversity action plans across the country, engaging communities in protecting our native species and enhancing local biodiversity with the aid of ecologists. Community awareness and education has become a central pillar to this work, with workshops around the importance of habitat conservation and restoration driving this.

It is vital that Ireland’s shift to renewable energy and sustainable land use is accomplished justly and fairly. There can be no conversations about biodiversity and nature restoration without those who use the land involved. Farmers need to be at the table when policies are made. A refocusing of our relationship to land can provide fantastic opportunities. Moving from harmful pesticides can result in healthy rivers; the air we breathe can be pure and clean; and the food we eat can be grown in healthy partnership with the earth – not through domination.

At the Foundation Ireland we have seen our environmental work continue to grow over the years. We are seeing donors refocus their priorities, keenly aware of the need for a strong environmental NGO sector. This sector remains under-resourced, and we are committed to giving environmental organisations the tools they need to promote an inclusive, sustainable future. Irish philanthropy is shifting toward climate justice and this can bring about real, affective change.

Ireland can achieve net-zero and we can achieve it by creating a society where communities thrive. This is where philanthropy can have a huge impact. By collaborating with organisations putting a climate-focus on their work we can help ensure a diverse approach to tackling social issues. Our donors can help organisations pivot toward sustainable practices, promoting the circular economy, and resourcing them properly to do so.

The first day success of commitments to the Loss and Damage fund are a positive sign that nations with historically high emissions are accepting their role in climate breakdown. We are happy to see Ireland contributing €25 million over 2024 and 2025 to the fund. However, we also recognise that the total amount remains low. For true compensation to be given, all nations contributing must see it as a stepping stone, not an end.

Climate breakdown is the issue of our time. It encompasses everything and involves everyone. Successive COP summits have built themselves up only to be hamstrung by climate delayers in the final moments. The phasing out of fossil fuels and a commitment to nature restoration are essential, and these can provide untold benefits to our society. Ireland can be a leader in the global movement toward sustainability – if we have the drive to do so.