Latest on climate policy: COP28 so far

11 December 2023 

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As COP28 negotiations get underway, we have been keeping a close eye on developments and considering what they mean for the future of global climate action. This edition of the yearly climate talks has already caused controversy, with a record number of delegates having links to the fossil fuel industry. Furthermore, COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber has ruffled feathers in scientific and political circles with his claims that plans to phase out oil, coal and gas have no scientific basis (although he later claimed his comments were misinterpreted). Despite this, the series of negotiations so far as we come out of the first week have resulted in some promising agreements and developments. This is an opportunity to look at some of the most significant announcements of the first week, in key areas of climate adaptation and mitigation. 

Energy Transition 

  • Recognising the urgent need to transition to clean energy sources, 118 countries have signed a pledge to triple global renewable capacity generation by 2030. According to COP28 leadership, this would generate at least 11,000 GW of energy by the same year. 

“With this Global Pledge, we have built a broad and strong coalition of countries committed to the clean energy transition – big and small, north and south, heavy emitters, developing nations, and small island states. We are united by our common belief that to respect the 1.5°C goal in the Paris Agreement, we need to phase out fossil fuels. We do that by fast-tracking the clean energy transition, by tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency. […]”

Ursula Von Leyen, President of the EU Commission

20 countries have pledged to launch the ‘Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy’ by 2050.

Vast amounts of funding has been allocated to the energy transition, raising hopes that this presents an opportunity for implementation rather than empty commitments. For example, the Arab Coordination Group has allocated $10 billion until 2030 to support the energy transition. 

Food

  • 134 countries have signed the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action. Signatories have agreed to incorporate emissions from food and agriculture into national climate plans, to meet long-term goals such as food security, achieving health and nutrition, and better management of food and water systems.
  • Over 25 food and agriculture-based organisations have collaborated on plans for regenerative agriculture, partnering with millions of farmers to improve soil health and decrease emissions the sector is responsible for. 

Climate Finance

  • The long-anticipated loss and damage fund has been established. The fund has been a historical demand from developing countries to support them in their efforts to adapt to deal with floods, fires and other climate-related events, and to mitigate further climate change. $700m has been pledged to the fund at COP28. However, the Guardian has reported that this figure represents less than 0.2% of the finances needed to prevent a wide-scale climate emergency. 
  • The UAE has pledged $30 billion towards climate projects in a fund known as ALTÉRRA, with $5 billion for climate strategies in the Global South.
  • The World Bank aims to work towards climate funding constituting 45% of its total lending.
  • The Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAF) have agreed to invest over $2 billion a year until 2030.

Methane

  • 50 oil and gas companies, 30 of them national oil companies, have pledged to reach near zero methane emissions by 2030. They have committed to publishing a plan outlining how they will do so by 2025.
  • Germany, Canada, the Federated States of Micronesia, Japan, and Nigeria have joined the European Union and the United States as Global Methane Pledge Champions. 

Progress on the Global Stocktake

The results of the first Global Stocktake are perhaps the most anticipated takeaway from COP28. The Stocktake can be thought of as taking inventory, identifying gaps in climate adaptation and mitigation strategies, and looking at what we have done so far and how we can improve going forward. It represents a monumental opportunity to show global collaboration and leadership on climate. We will know more about the outcomes of the Global Stocktake as negotiations proceed. 

What Now?

Much like past iterations of COP, COP28 talks have presented many promising developments, and many missed opportunities. There are countless examples of innovation and science that have the potential to transform our economic systems to adapt and mitigate climate change, and COP28 has served as a showcase of many of these. The key issue is how to integrate this innovation and research into real systems change. This will take not only ideas, but also political will, private sector action, and more generally the incentive and ability to finance climate projects. Plenty of the above-discussed pledges sound extremely promising; however, developed countries must contribute adequate finances to make the pledges a reality. 

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