Why the COP28 climate summit mattered, and what to look out for in 2024

By | December 20, 2023

Reading the long final agreement from the United Nations COP28 climate conference in December 2023 will take you a long way before you find a strong, active verb. The lengthy recitation of climate impacts notes “with concern” and sometimes “significant concern” about glaring gaps in countries’ current policies. But while countries voluntarily committed to action, they were less eager to see those commitments as binding agreements in the final text.

Reactions to the COP28 conclusion have been understandably mixed. At the start of the talks, the world was closer to preventing catastrophic warming than it would have been without the 2015 Paris Agreement, but still far from where it should be.

Even if all the promises made at COP28 are fulfilled, the world will still exceed the Paris goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels. temperatures.

De beoordeling door de Climate Action Tracker van de beloften van landen op de COP28 om de uitstoot te verminderen laat vooruitgang zien in de richting van het doel voor 2030, maar er is sprake van een grote kloof.  <a href=Copyright Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/WLNirr2WGBMgbr5NQ.5KnQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU4OA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/e6334a7f8bfc 4258f4a3d88ad815c8b0″ />

Politically, the agreement was perhaps the best that countries could achieve at a time of rising geopolitical tensions and led by the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is a country of contradictions – a petrostate with renewable energy ambitions, eager to emerge as a green champion on the world stage, but also accused of colonization tactics in Africa.

Most headlines focused on the first mention of fossil fuels in the COP28 agreement. The complicated language called on countries to “contribute” to the “transition away from fossil fuels,” not the phase-out supported by a majority of countries. With an unprecedented number of energy sector lobbyists at its disposal, the consensus was described by the most vulnerable countries as a litany of loopholes.

The final agreement was written in large part in a way to secure the future of the natural gas industry. It portrayed natural gas as a necessary bridge fuel as renewable energy expands, an argument refuted by the International Energy Agency before COP28. The agreement also promoted expectations of continued heavy subsidies for carbon capture and storage, which many energy analysts and economists have dismissed as unscalable at reasonable costs.

Nevertheless, the UAE has broken some of the old shibboleths of climate negotiations. It broke the polarity of climate finance – the Global South waited for the Global North to deliver on its public finance promises – by focusing on private investment and putting tens of billions of dollars of its state wealth into play. It has failed to convince others to match its generosity, but in 2024 the pressure will increase.

What should we pay attention to in the coming months?

1. Converting new energy promises into action

COP28 included major commitments towards an energy transition away from fossil fuels, including pledges to triple renewable energy capacity, increase energy efficiency and reduce methane emissions.

Now it is up to countries and companies to show progress. That will depend on investments and overcoming supply bottlenecks, but also on new policies and, in the case of methane, standards for imports and exports.

The new Global Cooling Pledge to reduce cooling emissions by 68% while increasing access to cooling technology is becoming increasingly important. The demand for cooling is driving up energy demand around the world, especially in densely populated countries hit hard by extreme heat, such as India. Developing technologies that help the billions of people most at risk and improve cold supply chains for food and medicine will require greater investment and greater priority from governments.

Look for more cities appointing heat czars to lead efforts to protect populations from extreme heat, the adoption of tree equity plans to increase shade and cooling, and more investments in cooling technologies.

2. Deploying innovations in the financial world

COP28 saw significant innovations in the financial field, including the UAE’s announcement of the Alterra Fund – a multi-billion dollar commitment to mobilize private investment in developing countries.

The International Organization of Securities Commissions has issued a strong statement in support of corporate sustainability disclosure standards and welcomed corporate integrity standards in voluntary carbon markets. Look for more countries to add rules around “net-zero emissions” pledges.

3. Putting trade to work for the climate

Linked to finance and investment is trade, which COP28 welcomed to the main stage for the first time.

There are two things we need to pay attention to in 2024. First, we must hope that the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank align their advice to governments on effective carbon pricing.

Second, trade and climate negotiators will traditionally be in different circles, but they will need to work together to ensure that the trading system supports climate action. For example, ensuring that green products and services are not made more expensive than their polluting alternatives.

4. Restoring carbon markets

2023 was a year of setbacks for voluntary carbon markets, as studies questioned their effectiveness. COP28’s failure to advance carbon market deals under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement means these will take center stage in 2024.

In this case, no deal was better than a bad deal, but the delay means countries planning to use carbon markets to meet their net zero targets are left with uncertainty.

5. Get more adaptation financing where it is needed

A Global Adaptation Goal, a collective commitment to build resilience and adaptability around the world, was ultimately agreed upon, but negotiators left the details to be finalized over the next two years.

Getting adaptation finance to where it is needed most will require top-down discussions, including locally led efforts. Ensure that adaptation becomes a much bigger part of countries’ second-generation climate plans, due to be submitted to the UN before COP30.

6. Translating new food and agriculture promises into action

A majority of the world’s countries, 159, signed the UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action. They agreed to include food systems, which account for a significant percentage of global emissions and are fundamental to adaptation and resilience, in the next generation of climate plans to be submitted to the UN.

However, the pledge contained few details, so how each country turns words into action will be crucial in 2024.

The next major climate milestones

At the end of 2024, COP29 will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, another oil-producing country. The emphasis will be on finances. But the next big milestone is in 2025, when governments must submit their future emissions reduction pledges and plans.

COP30 will be held in Belen in the Brazilian state of Para – the frontline of Amazon protection. This will emphasize nature-based solutions, but from the perspective of the Global South. President Lula da Silva, who is also hosting the G20 in 2024, wants to see changes in the international trade and financial system to reflect shifts in the global economy.

COP28 presented important initiatives but refused binding commitments. As countries work on their next generation plans to get the world on track to limit global warming, they will need to consider their entire economy and cover all greenhouse gases. The world cannot afford to hesitate twice.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit organization providing facts and trusted analysis to help you understand our complex world. If you found it interesting, please subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

It was written by: Rachel Kyte, University of Oxford.

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Rachel Kyte is affiliated with VCMI – Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative and Climate Resilience for All CRA

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