The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), concluded in December 2023, leaving behind a mixed bag of outcomes. What actually came out of the conference?
Despite facing controversies, including the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the UAE’s state-owned oil company, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as the summit’s president, and a claim that pre-COP meetings were being used to set up future oil deals, the summit also achieved several notable advancements in addressing climate change.
Loss and damage
After lengthy negotiations, countries agreed to set up a new international fund to help developing nations cope with the mounting costs of climate change. Initially proposed at COP27, the fund faced hurdles due to discussions on contributions and eligibility, but these were resolved just before COP28.
The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund directly addresses the longstanding demands of developing nations for dedicated financing to address the irreversible losses and damages caused by climate change, such as droughts and floods.
Several countries, including Germany, have pledged considerable contributions to the fund, with at least $51 million from Britain, $17.5 million from the United States, and $10 million from Japan. The UAE hosts have also announced a $100 million contribution.
The newly established fund, to be administered by the World Bank, will initially provide an annual pool of “at least” $100 billion by 2030, with the potential to increase in the coming years.
While the draft text provides little detail on implementation, it does mandate the secretariat to prepare a comprehensive report on loss and damage information submitted by Parties in their biennial transparency reports, for the consideration of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.
In what is being called a ‘landmark move’ by some, governments reached an agreement at COP28 to “transition away” from fossil fuels, marking the first time in almost 30 years of conferences the topic has been raised.
After facing criticism for the initial draft’s weak language, the final text, known as the “UAE Consensus,” strongly urges all nations to collectively embark on a just, equitable, and orderly transition away from fossil fuels in their energy systems. This commitment still falls short of the more assertive call to “phase out” all fossil fuels advocated by small island nations.
This decision, though not legally binding, has been met with mixed reactions. Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, Espen Barth Eide, expressed optimism, stating, “This is the first time that the world has come together around such clear language on the need to transition away from fossil fuels. This has been a long-standing issue, and we have finally tackled it head-on.”
On the other hand, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members were absent during the final negotiations, voiced concerns about the presence of “loopholes” in the text, which could hinder a more robust transition away from fossil fuels.
While there is still uncertainty about the implementation of this text, it represents a shift in the conversation around climate change.
At COP28’s Nature, Land Use and Ocean Day, leaders endorsed commitments and pledges of over $186 million to support climate action and nature protection efforts. This funding complements the $2.5 billion mobilised during COP28’s World Climate Action Summit in December.
Reversing nature loss is considered a crucial element in mitigating climate change, potentially contributing up to 30% of the necessary action to limit global warming to 1.5 °C by 2030. Additionally, nature plays a vital role in reducing climate-related hazards, such as floods and fires.
Moreover, preserving nature has the potential to unlock a significant economic opportunity, generating up to USD $10 trillion worth of new business opportunities and providing nearly 400 million new jobs.
Since COP27, 30 countries have joined the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC), bringing the total membership to 37 countries, covering over 60% of the world’s mangrove forests. This initiative, led by the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia, is fostering global momentum for mangrove conservation.
In addition, over 150 businesses and financial institutions have announced plans to adopt climate and nature targets aligned with the Science-Based Target Network and Science-Based Target International’s Forest Land and Agriculture frameworks. These frameworks encourage businesses to invest in nature-based solutions, assess and manage their nature-related impacts, dependencies, risks, and opportunities, and disclose this information through the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework.
The COP28 text emphasis on adaptation, stating that it recognises the “significant challenges developing country Parties face in accessing finance towards implementing their national adaptation plans.”
To address this, 78 national governments, including the EU, and 40 organisations endorsed the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate Relief, Recovery and Peace, which focuses on providing climate finance for highly vulnerable and fragile settings.
While many national governments and organisations announced pledges to climate finance in areas such as the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund, and Special Climate Change Fund, there was still a strong desire to see a more comprehensive and evidence-backed roadmap for climate adaptation finance.
Instead, the Green Climate Fund and the newer Adaptation Fund were called upon to provide more frequent and detailed information on planning gaps.
The UNEP has previously stressed the need for a significant increase in adaptation finance, arguing that it must soar at least tenfold to meet the mounting climate challenges. Developing countries are projected to require between $215 billion and $387 billion of international public finance for climate adaptation each year this decade.
Methane is recognised as one of the most potent greenhouse gases, roughly 80 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Therefore, in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, methane must be tackled.
COP28 reinforced the Global Methane Pledge, with over 150 countries, responsible for more than half of the world’s methane emissions, recommitting to reducing their methane output by 30% by 2030. This pledge, initiated at COP26 and widely endorsed by governments, businesses, and civil society groups, emphasises the global commitment to tackling this crucial issue. However, the lack of support from major methane emitters like China, India, Russia, Iran, and South Africa underscores the need for ongoing engagement and diplomatic initiatives.
Additionally, major oil and gas companies, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP, agreed to set ambitious targets to reduce methane emissions from their operations. These targets range from a 50% reduction by 2030 to achieving near-zero methane emissions by 2050.
The agriculture sector, which contributes to almost 40% of human-generated methane emissions, also experienced progress, with six renowned dairy companies, including Danone, Kraft Heinz, and Nestlé, coming together to form the Dairy Methane Action Alliance (DMAA). This coalition aspires to minimise methane emissions from dairy farming using cutting-edge technologies and practices.
Lastly, to help countries reduce methane emissions, the World Bank has launched a new strategy called the “Methane Blueprint.” It will focus on three key areas: agriculture, waste management, and oil and gas. This initiative will give countries the tools they need to take action against methane and help reduce climate change.
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