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COP28: Navigating the climate crisis at a pivotal moment

COP28: Navigating the climate crisis at a pivotal moment

 

By Melanie Beyeler, Senior Portfolio Manager

The 28th meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) united around 85,000 participants to address the escalating climate crisis.1 Amid record-breaking global temperatures in 2023, the climate conference in Dubai underscored the urgency of maintaining the 1.5°C target, leading to significant pledges, the operationalisation of the Loss and Damages fund and a push to triple the energy production from renewable energies.1 And for the first time a COP agreement has specifically called out all fossil fuels.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) gathered leaders, negotiators, and observers worldwide to discuss and agree on ways to address the climate crisis. With 85,000 attendees, it was a hub for sharing ideas and forming coalitions.1 COP28, scheduled halfway between the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 2030 decarbonisation goals, provided an important opportunity to review progress and discover new methods to accelerate climate action.

The world is experiencing an alarming surge in shattered climate records. 2023 alone has seen record breaking temperatures set for six months of the year.2 With 2023 set to be the warmest year on record, the impacts of climate change are intensifying quickly.

Accordingly, COP28 started in Dubai with a focus on maintaining the critical 1.5°C target. The science from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C.1 To the relief of many, COP28 saw the world renew its commitment to 1.5°C.

Cop28Figure1.png
Van der Wijst, K.; Byers, E.; Riahi, K.; Schaeffer, R.; van Vuuren, D., 2023, Data for Figure SPM.5 of Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis report of Sixth Assessment Report, MetadataWorks, https://doi.org/10.48490/f97z-er77

Fossil fuels: The beginning of the end

Nearly 200 Parties reiterated their commitment to limiting the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C by 2100 and agreed “to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, to accelerate action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”3 This is the first time that a COP agreement has specifically called out all fossil fuels, which marks the “beginning of the end” as UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said in his closing speech.

In line with the resolution to transition away from fossil fuels, a notable development was the launch of the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter (OGDC). Fifty oil and gas majors representing 40% of global production have joined the OGDC. Signatories of the OGDC have committed to net-zero operations by 2050 at the latest, ending routine flaring by 2030, and near-zero upstream methane emissions.4

Beyond fossil fuels: Shifts in global energy strategies

COP28 unveiled the Global Decarbonisation Accelerator (GDA), a series of landmark initiatives designed to speed up the energy transition and drastically reduce global emissions. The GDA is focused on three key pillars: rapidly scaling the energy system of tomorrow; decarbonising the energy system of today; and targeting methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

130 governments, including the EU, US and UAE, pledged to triple renewable energy production by 2030 and to double the global average annual rate of energy efficiency to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.4 However, China and India have not formally backed the pledge, although they have been signalling support for tripling renewable energy production.

At COP28, nuclear energy received considerably more attention compared to previous climate conferences. Nuclear was highlighted as a technology with zero and low emissions, marking its first appearance in the text of UN climate decisions. Over 20 countries pledged to jointly work towards an ambitious goal of tripling global nuclear capacity by 2050 compared to 2020 levels.5 They also agreed to extend the lifespan of existing plants where appropriate, boost investments in nuclear power, and promote new technologies like small modular reactors.

While COP28 was supposed to bring further clarity on the implementation of global carbon markets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, countries failed to achieve an agreement and postponed decisions to COP29.

A pleasant surprise and the road ahead

The Loss and Damages (L&D) fund, long sought by developing nations on the frontlines of climate change, addresses costs from climate-induced disasters like droughts, floods, and rising sea levels. On day one of COP28, the Presidency initiated a vote to operationalize the L&D fund, contributing USD 100 million. This prompted other nations, including Germany, France, Italy, and the UK, to follow suit with more than USD 700 million to date.1 The swift agreement on the L&D fund was unexpected and boosted early COP28 momentum. However, discussions about contributor and beneficiary countries, including China's status, are still unresolved.

Azerbaijan was selected to host COP29 in November 2024, and Brazil to host COP30 in November 2025. These next two years are crucial. At COP29, nations need to set a new climate finance target that matches the urgency and magnitude of the climate crisis. By COP30, they must present comprehensive national contributions that cover all greenhouse gases and are aligned with the 1.5°C temperature limit.

Sources

1 United Nations https://unfccc.int/news/cop28-agreement-signals-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-fossil-fuel-era (13 December 2023)

2 Copernicus Climate Change Service, https://climate.copernicus.eu/record-warm-november-consolidates-2023-warmest-year (7 December 2023)

3 United Nations https://unfccc.int/news/cop28-agreement-signals-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-fossil-fuel-era (13 December 2023)

4 COP28 https://www.cop28.com/en/news/2023/12/COP28-Presidency-launches-landmark-initiatives-accelerating-the-energy-transition (2 December 2023)

5 Nuclear Energy Agency https://www.oecd-nea.org/jcms/pl_88702/countries-launch-joint-declaration-to-triple-nuclear-energy-capacity-by-2050-at-cop28 (2 December 2023)

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