The United Nations Climate Conference (COP28), currently underway in the United Emirates is the first time that the Australian Museum (AM) has been invited to participate in this global event. Madison Kuras, Project Officer at the AM’s Climate Solutions Centre, discusses the Conference and what it means for the future of climate action.

This year, at the Australian Pavilion, the AM will be presenting two digital exhibitions; Spark which explores the inventions and innovative approaches Australians are using to offer positive solutions to the climate crisis and Mt. Resilience, a collaboration between our national broadcaster ABC and our national environment body, CSIRO, focusing on how communities can plan for and respond to the impacts of climate change. This webAR experience is twenty minutes of interactive content designed to show participants how to weather the impacts of climate change in real time.

COP28 is particularly important as it is part of the new phase of moving from agreements and negotiations to a focus on concrete action and accountability.

At this year’s conference, we have already seen some positive advances, including agreements on financial commitments from industrialised nations to support non-industrialised nations on the frontline of climate change (the Loss and Damage Fund). Australia, represented by Climate Minister Chris Bowen, announced a contribution of $150 million to Pacific and global climate funds, a positive indication of increased international cooperation on climate change. However, observers are keeping a wary eye on the overall outcomes of COP28, as the fossil fuel industry has an especially powerful position in the proceedings this year. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the 28 petrostates (with a financial interest in maintaining revenue) and COP28’s president, Sultan Al Jaber, also stands at the head of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). There has been concern about his ability to remain impartial during the climate summit.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the primary decision-making body of the convention and is also the world’s only multilateral decision-making forum on climate change, boasting membership of almost every country in the world. The annual meeting brings together tens of thousands of delegates, leaders, scientists, First Nations peoples, and other experts, to assess progress and negotiate next steps. The COP acts as the theatre for the world to come together to agree on ways to address the climate crisis.

Since the early 1990s, the United Nations overseen global decision-making and planning on steps to safeguard our future, officially formalised in 1994 through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In the decades following, the Kyoto Protocol and The Paris Agreement were also established, enacting the UNFCCC in efforts to reduce emissions (Kyoto Protocol) and limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times (Paris Agreement).

DECEMBER 1st World Heads of States pose for a group photo at Al Wasl during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on December 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
World Heads of States pose for a group photo at Al Wasl during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on December 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Image: Supplied
© COP28 / Mahmoud Khaled, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has stated that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by almost 50% by 2030 to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, thereby avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Parties involved in COP28 are called upon to identify and urgently implement climate solutions, by presenting ambitious climate action plans, accelerating the green transition.

The first global stocktake will conclude at COP28. Taking place every five years, the global stocktake means countries and stakeholders will see where they stand in their progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, the global stocktake’s results from the past five years have shown we are not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The time to act is now.

Most importantly, COP28 is the first of these summits to consider committing to a “phase out” of fossil fuels and a tripling of renewable energy and doubled energy efficiency by 2030. Previous COPs have seen only a “phase down” of “unabated” coal and a “phase out” of inefficient subsidies; however, the IPCC report’s dire warnings have added new urgency to the summit.

A failure to agree to a phase out would push the globe past the 1.5 degree limit and cause irreversible damage to planetary systems, warns Alok Sharma, the UK’s former climate chief and president of COP26. Importantly, Chris Bowen suggested Australia, the world’s third largest fossil fuel producer, may support a global commitment to phase out fossil fuels.

COP has showcased a huge array of tools and solutions, including the Australian Museum’s digital exhibitions on show at the Australian Pavilion, where delegates can find some of the innovative solutions tackling climate change in Australia and learn more about best-practice approaches for communities to build resilience to climate impacts.

Mt. Resilience virtual content at the Australian Pavilion, with VR goggles
Mt. Resilience virtual content at the Australian Pavilion. Image: Richie Merzian
© Richie Merzian

The AM’s Manager of Climate Change Projects and curator of Spark, Dr Jenny Newell, says experts across Australia are working collaboratively to advance climate solutions. “Fom the wisdom and work of our First Nations peoples to the extraordinary potential of the next generation, the AM continues to present the latest information and developments on clean transport and energy, algae technologies, regenerative agriculture, seaweed farms and biodiversity protection.”

Through these digital exhibitions at the Australian Pavilion throughout COP28, the AM hopes to inspire visitors to think about climate action from a systemic and individual lens, through these positive, innovative stories.

Still of Spark replaying on a monitor at the Australian Pavilion, while meetings with delegates take place on the right
Still of Spark replaying on a monitor at the Australian Pavilion, while meetings with delegates take place on the right. Image: Trent Clews-de Castella
© Trent Clews-de Castella

The United Nations Framework on the Convention for Climate Change says: “COP28 must be a ‘can-do COP’ where countries show how these tools will be put to work in the crucial next two years, to urgently pick up the pace.” Unlike previous COPs, this summit will hopefully prove to be a site of action and accountability, as well as negotiation and agreement.

Director of Destination Zero, Catherine Abreu, states that “the task [of keeping 1.5 alive] is enormous and will require courage and conviction”.

Not simply on behalf of governments, this call to action applies to cultural institutions and civic spaces as well. The Paris Agreement includes a commitment to advancing ‘Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)’ - ensuring civil society has access to learning about and participating in effective responses to the climate crisis. As public-facing institutions whose information is widely trusted, museums are increasingly called upon to take stances on climate action and advance ACE. The AM is proud to be a leader in the Australian climate sector, and to use our programming to spread awareness about positive climate solutions.

  • Madison Kuras, Project Officer, Climate Solutions Centre.


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