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COP28 Rest Day: The lull before the storm

By Andrew Adie
07 December 2023
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)

A week is a long time in geo-politics and COP28 has entered today’s ‘Rest Day’ on a tidal wave of intrigue, recrimination, and some progress.

In the last seven days of negotiation and announcements we have seen some significant developments.

What’s been achieved so far?

The UAE claims that more than $83.38 billion has been committed so far to climate adaption and mitigation projects aimed at helping the world get back on track and limit global warming to 1.5C by 2050 (a target that is currently miles off being delivered).

We’ve also seen new commitments on climate mitigation and adaption funding for countries most at risk of climate crisis and a landmark agreement with more than 100 countries promising to treble world renewable energy use by 2030 and phase out of fossil fuels by 2050. In addition to this, 50 oil and gas companies, including Saudi giant Aramco, have pledged to stop adding to carbon emissions by 2050, although that announcement has been met by some as being little more than greenwash as it requires extensive use of Carbon Capture and Storage which would need significant scaling to deliver the required outcome.  The US and 150 other countries have also pledged to drive forward a commitment to cut methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.

We’ve also seen the launch of initiatives such Climate Trace, a granular database tracking global greenhouse gas emissions, down to the individual polluter. Companies can use this data to decarbonise their supply chains.

The UAE has launched a $30 billion climate investment fund, alongside the likes of BlackRock and Brookfield, with a focus on the developing world. COP also saw early progress with the launch of a Loss and Damage fund, to be administered by the World Bank,.

The US government, the Bezos Earth Fund and The Rockefeller Foundation announced the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA), which it is estimated could mobilise between $72 billion to $207 billion in transition finance by 2035. 

For the more technically minded, a new global carbon offset mechanism known as “Article 6.4” has also been trailed, designed to establish a market mechanism which will be overseen by the UN that enables governments and companies to trade carbon credits.

We’ve also had a landmark agreement on cooling, ironically in the hottest year on record, with 64 countries pledging to slash cooling-related emissions across all sectors by at least 68% globally by 2050 from 2022 levels. 

What’s next?

All of these developments are good news but the issue on everyone’s lips as we enter the final phase of COP28, and the diplomatic negotiations reach their crescendo, is what will the world agree to do about fossil fuels?

Several different versions of the final text are circulating, ranging from a phase out of fossils fuels to a phase-down of fossil fuel emissions to essentially no change.

Saudi Arabia has angered many by stating that it will not agree to any final text that calls for a phase-out of fossil fuels. Sultan Al Jabar (President of COP28) also stoked a furore by stating there is ‘no science’ behind calls to phase-out fossil fuels (although he later clarified his remarks to say he believed in a phase-down and phase-out of fossil fuels).

Agreeing the final wording on fossil fuels is drawing in huge amounts of diplomatic ire and posturing. Yet there are claims that a breakthrough could be on the cards. Over the coming days expect to see a lot of debate around the difference between abated and unabated fossil fuel emissions and the role of nascent technologies such as CCS.

The final negotiations begin on 11th December. Before then, tomorrow sees Youth, Children, Education & Skills Day; December 9th is Nature, Land Use and Oceans (expected to be a critical moment to fast track efforts to prioritise and preserve nature and boost efforts to use nature to offset carbon emissions) and then Food, Agriculture and Water Day on 10th December.

The other point of intrigue is the world leaders attending COP28 and the role they are playing.

Just two years after declaring (at COP26) that he wanted the UK to be a leader in the Net Zero transition, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spent just 11 hours in the UAE at COP28. The UK has been notably low-profile at the summit. On the other end of the spectrum, we have seen Vladimir Putin greeted in the UAE with aircraft fly-pasts, military honours and full state welcome.  

Cutting through all the sound and fury, for many the only thing that will really matter from COP28 are the words agreed in that final text. Will this be the year that marks the end of the fossil fuel era? Next week will bring the answer.