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COP28 Key Takeaways

Updated: Jan 15

COP28 ‖ Overview and Key Takeaways

Heading for a fossil-free world

Every year, the UN Climate Change conferences, also known as COPs, serve as the primary global Forum for multilateral decision-making on climate change.

At the end of this year, the hottest year on record, the 28th Conference of the Member states to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Dubai, UAE from 30th November until 12th December 2023. There was a broad spectrum of participants - ranging from diplomats, negotiators, policymakers, business leaders, analysts and young individuals to climate scientists, Indigenous Peoples, journalists and various experts and stakeholders.

COP28 was of utmost importance, as it brought to light the Paris Agreement - the truly historic deal struck in 2015 - and pinpointed solutions for limiting the world’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, recognizing that this achievement will significantly limit further warming and the dangers it poses and finally tackle anthropogenic climate change - a goal which countries are currently falling far short of.

After two weeks of intense negotiations characterized by controversy over the future of fossil fuels - the main driver and principal source of the climate crisis - nearly 200 countries agreed to a new climate deal at the COP28 talks.

Countries have come to an agreement to provide financial support for those severely affected by the consequences of climate change (the most climate vulnerable ones) including loss and damage, as well as to move away from fossil fuels.

Notably, it was the first time that a U.N. climate summit concluded with a call to address the main cause of the climate crisis - and that is why it is a “historic breakthrough”. Yet, the UN climate Conference's draft deal, among others, has been criticized for ignoring calls to phase out fossil fuels. The initial goal of eliminating fossil fuels (phase out) was downgraded to the objective of gradually reducing their usage (phase down), which ultimately ended in the goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels (transitioning away).

The key takeaways can be found at the following statements:

  • Loss and Damage

Developing nations argue they bear the financial burden of climate impacts caused by historically significant emissions coming from wealthier countries like the U.S. and Europe. At climate talks a year ago, nations agreed to establish a new loss and damage fund. Now, according to the new loss and damage fund (housed at the World Bank for at least 4 years) more than $700 million has been announced for it, most coming from European countries and $100 million coming from the UAE.

  • Climate finance targets

In spite of positive intentions, the resources are not sufficient to support initiatives and actions, leading in strengthening the gap between North and South. Fortunately, progress was made on the NCQG [New Collective Quantified Goal], which builds on the $100 billion pledged by developed nations to finance climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives in developing nations over the medium and longer term from 2025 onwards.

  • The Global Goal on Adaptation

Special emphasis was given to the support of strategies for adapting to climate change impacts with final text retaining calls for a doubling in adaptation. It is encouraging that the text includes specific 2030 targets for water security, ecosystem restoration and health. Yet, the language as per the commitment to close the adaptation finance gap was not that firm in binding, so more information and target setting is required in COP29.

  • The Global Stocktake and Fossil fuels

The future of fossil fuels dominated the spotlight. Global Stocktake was the most scrutinized text of the Conference and sparked conversations and protests; at first the text was less ambitious, regarding emissions and the transition from fossil fuels, but in its final version, the goals of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and reaching net-zero by 2050 were finally acknowledged and made clear, followed by celebrations in the plenary room. The text of the agreement “calls on” countries to contribute to global efforts to reduce carbon pollution. Yet, the final text contained some worrying and not that ambitious language…that included weakening the coal statement from “rapidly phasing down unabated coal” and putting "limitations on permitting" to just speaking about "efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power”. Unfortunately it was evident from the very beginning that fossil fuels were supported by a strong lobby.

  • The critical importance of paragraph 28

This paragraph explicitly addresses the decrease in GHG emissions. More specifically, it recognizes the need for rapid and sustained reductions in GHG emissions in line with 1.5 degrees Celsius and calls on governments to contribute to a number of global efforts to accelerate the energy transition. This paragraph also refers to nuclear power and its potential to help countries meet their net zero emission targets by 2050, while putting the spotlight on the advancements and dynamics of nuclear energy technology.

  • Clean energy & Methane

The priority of tripling the energy production from renewable sources in 2030 was highlighted, with China, India and Russia - major polluters - to be among the opponents. Regarding methane, over 150 countries endorsed the Global Methane Pledge, emphasizing the importance of achieving a 30% reduction in methane emissions by 2030. As in the case of renewables, once again China, India and Russia did not support the commitment.

  • Carbon markets

Carbon markets serve as platforms where countries or entities can engage in the buying and selling of carbon credits, that represent a quantified reduction in GHG, providing a mechanism for participants to meet their climate targets. However, these markets have faced credibility concerns, with negotiators trying to set principles and guidelines supervising these markets, due to current risks and pitfalls associated with carbon offsets; no agreement was reached and as such the issue will be addressed at COP29 summit in Azerbaijan.

  • Just transition, Nature and Biodiversity

Just transition was an important focus in the Global Stocktake, Global Goal on Adaptation, climate finance and implementation agreements. However, further efforts are needed to quantify the implications of just transition from emissions trajectories to climate finance obligations (public and private financing to facilitate just transition). Nature was mentioned in the Global Goal on Adaptation, emphasizing the need to "accelerate the use of ecosystem-based adaptation and nature-based solutions". It has been acknowledged that achieving climate goals is related to nature-positivity.

  • Cities and Climate action

Despite their crucial role, cities and regions often find themselves without the necessary financial resources to implement effective climate action. In this context, cities and regions are on the front lines of translating global climate goals to localized actions. COP28 was an opportunity to give them the recognition they deserve, given their pivotal role in the fight against climate change, due to their constantly increasing consumption of energy and carbon dioxide emissions they account for.

Overall, COP28 was a crucial global stocktake and a critical turning point in addressing climate action, reaching landmark agreements. Additionally, it managed to highlight top issues of the global agenda and through this global dialogue, to consider outputs, components of success and further steps. Yet, success will be judged through the implementation of these commitments and agreements in the next summit. COP28 managed to name fossil fuels as the major climate problem, yet there has to be strong will to act in this direction.

The path ahead may be challenging...but with collaborative initiatives like these, there is hope for a brighter and more sustainable future.


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