Wikimedia Commons/Mahmoud Khaled/COP28

What was discussed at COP28 ?

With the advent of the new year, COP28’s conclusion has set the tone for 2024.

For the first time in three decades of climate negotiations, representatives at the summit have made extensive mention of fossil fuels and the future actions that should be taken regarding them in discussions described by the United Nations (UN) as “the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel era.”

The summit was held in the UAE, a state that is extensively linked to the fossil fuel industry

More than 130 countries called for a commitment to phase out the use of fossil fuels. It is ironic, then, that the summit was held in the UAE, a state that is extensively linked to the fossil fuel industry with the President of the summit being Sultan al-Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. In addition, around 2,400 to 2,500 attendees were linked to the fossil fuel industry by climate groups. With the high engagement of fossil fuel stakeholders came controversy – over 130 legislators called for the removal of Mr al-Jaber following his comments in an event ahead of the talks in which he said there was “no science” saying that the end of fossil fuels is necessary to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. This goal is vital in the fight against the climate crisis, and Mr al-Jaber clarified that he and the UAE “very much respect [climate] science” following backlash.

COP28 also saw an agreement concerning the “loss and damage” fund – a pool of money designed to help vulnerable nations cope with the impact of the climate crisis and other climate disasters. This fund is intended to help them develop national response plans, address data collection insufficiencies, and allow them to better address the safety of their citizens amid climate-related displacement. With the fund now open and managed by the World Bank, Mr al-Jaber encouraged nations to help fill the fund, with some countries making pledges within the first two weeks of talks. Currently, £630 million has been raised for the fund.

A post 2025 finance target will be drafted ahead of COP29

Another fund-related topic that was brought up was the adaptation fund, aimed at ensuring developing countries had enough funding for an energy transition to renewable sources (and away from fossil fuel dependency). Bangladesh’s climate envoy, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, stated that “we cannot compromise on adaptation”, describing it as a “life and death issue.” Roughly £148 million was donated to this fund.

Progress was also made on another financial goal – the new collective quantified goal (NCQG) intends to support the $100 billion (roughly £78 billion) already pledged to climate initiatives in developing nations. As of yet, this $100 billion goal has not been reached but is on track this year. An agreement at the summit indicates that a post 2025 finance target will be drafted ahead of COP29, with the specific details of NCQG finalized at next year’s summit.

Moving away from finance, deals concerning renewable energy, climate adaptation, and carbon markets were further deliberated with COP28. This calls for nations to both triple their renewable energy capacity and double adaptation finance and assessment plans (with a 2030 date by which targets on water security, ecosystem restoration, and health should be met).

An issue, however, was that the carbon credits system, in which carbon credits can be bought or sold as a representation of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, is still unregulated. No agreement came to fruition on how credit markets could be more stringently supervised. As of current, these markets have experienced several corruption and credibility concerns.

Agreements made at COP28 should be a “floor, not a ceiling”

–Simon Stiel, Climate Chief of the UN

The headline feature of COP28 was the examination of the first Global Stocktake. This saw strengthened commitments in some areas but weakened ones in others. Following COP28, the Stocktake now strongly demands the acceleration and substantial reduction of “non-CO2 emissions globally, including, in particular, methane emissions, by 2030.” It also implies a reduced urgency in the phasing out of coal power, substituting “rapidly phasing down unabated coal” for “efforts towards” the phasing down of coal power.

Overall, the summit has made several incremental improvements on various climate agreements. However, there have been reports that the steps made are far too small. For example, a UN report has established that adaptation financing needs to be hitting roughly $194 billion to $366 billion per year. For context, this is roughly 1/4 of the UK government’s spending from 2021 to 2022. As mentioned earlier, the adaptation fund is currently sitting at $148 million. This is $193.8 billion dollars short at minimum. Simon Stiel, Climate Chief of the UN, believes the agreements made at COP28 should be a “floor, not a ceiling”, and that future targets should be stronger.

Following COP28, Azerbaijan will host COP29 in 2024, in the capital city of Baku.


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