COP28: End of Conference Briefing
Please read below for our round-up briefing on what was discussed at COP28.
The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) concluded on Wednesday 13 December in Dubai after two weeks of negotiations, deals, and announcements. The conference sought agreement on four “paradigm shifts” – fast-tracking the energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030; finance for climate action; people, nature, and climate change; and mobilising for the most inclusive COP.
Some have hailed the conference as a success, largely due to the unprecedented reference in the closing agreement to “transitioning away from fossil fuels”, agreed after multiple days of deadlocked negotiations. Despite this, many attendees argued that stronger language calling for an explicit “phase-out” was needed.
There was also a significant step forward in expectations for the next round of national commitments, expected to be announced at COP30 in two years, which are now expected to be more ambitious in light of the results of the Global Stocktake (GST). Finally, there was a new specific target of tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency by 2030, agreed by over 130 nations.
What did COP28 achieve?
One of the most anticipated announcements was the outcome of the first global stocktake (GST), measuring progress towards the Paris Agreement goals. Leaders acknowledged that, according to the GST findings, that warming will exceed 1.5°C if global mitigation efforts continue as they are.
The GST showed to keep the 1.5°C goal within reach, the following is needed:
- 2035 NDCs need to be more ambitious, economy wide and all greenhouse gases,
- For net-zero to be achieved by 2050 or before, and for emissions to peak urgently,
- A tripling of renewable energy capacity and a doubling of energy efficiency by 2030,
- Urgent action to reduce methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions,
- For developed countries to take the lead on the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels,
- To preserve and restore ecosystems that act as carbon sinks (forests, oceans, wetlands).
The GST indicated that adaptations to climate change impacts need to be scaled globally, to protect vulnerable communities. This includes adaptation finance, which is estimated to be underfinanced by USD $194-366 billion each year. COP leaders recognised the positive impact ecosystems play in adaptation, and how ramping up the Loss and Damage Fund can safeguard vulnerable communities and ecosystems.
Fast track energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030
A flurry of commitments were made to drastically reduce emissions and fast-track the energy transition. As of the 11 December, 130 national governments, including the UK, signed the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge to triple the world's renewable energy generation capacity and double the rate of energy efficiency improvements. The UK along with 66 others signed the Global Cooling Pledge, aiming to reduce cooling-related emissions by 68%. Representing over 40% of global oil production, over 50 companies of the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter committed to net-zero operations by 2050.
Negotiations ran overtime as countries debated whether and to what extent the conference’s final agreement would call for the phase-out of fossil fuels. Initial drafts were considered weak by some countries including Australia, the US, UK, Canada and Japan. Saudi Arabia and Russia had pushed for a focus on emissions rather than fossil fuel production or use, leaving room for carbon capture. India and China objected to a “phase-out” of fossil fuels and asked for a “phase-down” instead.
On 13 December, over 200 countries approved the final draft agreement, with no objections. The agreement sets an objective of “transitioning away from fossil fuels …in a just, orderly and equitable manner”. COP28 president Dr Sultan Al Jaber hailed the deal as "historic”, and it was praised by the USA and European Union. However, Anne Rasmussen, the lead negotiator of The Alliance of Small Island States, felt that COP28 had failed, and that the agreement contained a “litany of loopholes”. Former US vice president Al Gore said that “the decision at COP28 to finally recognise that the climate crisis is, at its heart, a fossil fuel crisis is an important milestone. But it is also the bare minimum we need and is long overdue”.
Finance for climate action
Countries committed a total of $85 billion of climate finance at COP28. The Green Climate Fund now totals $12.8 billion, with $3.5 billion added by new pledges from Australia, Estonia, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, and the USA. The Loss and Damage Fund has had almost $800 million contributed, but this falls short of the $100 - $580 billion that is needed annually. The UAE Leaders’ Declaration on a Global Climate Finance Framework set out a goal of investing $5 - $7 trillion annually by 2030, in pursuit of the Paris Agreement. The framework is centred around making finance available, accessible, and affordable; collective action; opportunities for all; and delivering at scale. The UK and 12 other countries including the USA have signed this declaration.
People, nature, and climate change
3 December marked the first “Health Day” at COP28, and the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health, seeking to ensure that health will be central in future climate policy, was signed by over 140 countries. The declaration recognises the negative impacts on health caused by climate change, and the contribution of healthy populations to climate resilience. Almost 160 countries signed the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, pledging $2.5 billion to address agriculture-climate-related issues and food systems.
Mobilise for the most inclusive COP
The COP28 Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership was endorsed by over 70 countries, including the UK. The partnership calls for gender and environmental data to be produced and used in decision-making, but also emphasises the intersectional inequalities that women and girls in minority groups face. 80 countries (including the UK) and 43 organisations supported the Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recover and Peace. This declaration focuses on countries and communities affected by conflict, fragility or humanitarian crisis by enabling financial support and strengthening coordination, collaboration, and partnership.
COP 28 highlighted efforts to promote the involvement, representation, and leadership of Indigenous Peoples. The High-Level Champion of COP 28, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity collaborated to launch the Podong Indigenous Peoples Initiative. This initiative aims to provide direct funding to Indigenous Peoples, with at least 85% of the funds going to Indigenous communities.
During the conference, the UK Government announced:
- A £20 million disaster risk financing package,
- £100m of funding for vulnerable countries facing climate change,
- Over £85 million to combat deforestation and reduce methane emissions,
- £1.6 billion of UK funding to be allocated to Just Rural Transition Support Programme, Just Transitions for Water Security Programme, Forest and Farm Facility, £500 million for the ‘Investment in Forests and Sustainable Land Use’ programme, £316 million to global energy innovation projects,
- £60 million of funding for loss and damage,
- New legislation from Defra to ensure that products containing palm oil, soy, leather, beef, and cocoa will no longer linked to illegal deforestation. The legislation is expected to apply to large businesses and will ban sourcing of these products from land used illegally, as well as requiring business to undertake due diligence on their supply chains.
Key points for real estate and the built environment
The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) launched a new paper, 'Social Impact across the Built Environment', which presents a new way to consider the social impacts across the built environment using scopes (in a similar way that the GHG Protocol uses scopes to report on GHG emissions). The aim of this paper is to draw attention to the various social impact issues present in the built environment and introduce a centralised approach to action across the building and construction industry.
- The Race to Zero released its annual progress report during COP28, showcasing the tangible progress being made by businesses towards achieving net zero. The report reveals that over 13,500 organisations are actively taking steps to transition to net-zero emissions and cut global emissions in half by 2030.
- A total of 27 countries, including the UK, have made a new commitment to the "Buildings Breakthrough" initiative at COP28. The initiative aims to strengthen international collaboration to decarbonise the building sector. By 2030, the goal is to make clean technologies and sustainable solutions the most affordable, accessible, and attractive option in all regions.
- Canada and the UAE launched the Cement and Concrete Breakthrough where countries are enabled to share best practices and policies to decarbonise the cement and concrete sector.
- The Cities’ Science-Based Targets for Nature programme was launched during Buildings Day at COP28 on 6 December. Its goal is to establish science-based criteria and frameworks that allow cities to establish targets for both nature and climate.