COP28 – Incremental but not transformative


◼ Unsurprisingly, the COP28 international climate conference did not end with a dramatic shift in the world’s response to climate change. However, it did mark the beginning of the end for fossil fuels as the main energy source in the global economy. There were some small wins such as the operationalising of the loss and damage fund and the unanimous agreement on increasing the role of renewables by 2030.

◼ The loss and damage fund was an early success for the conference, and its pot has pledges of around $800mn so far. Large donations have come from Europe and the UAE, while large emitters like the US were criticised for their small contributions. Still, more is needed to ensure the fund is accessible by those in need.

◼ Fossil fuels’ future role dominated talks around the Global Stocktake, with debates over phrases such as ‘phasing down’ or ‘phasing out’ of these energy sources. Sadly, the final draft included neither, with language broad enough for wider interpretation. Yet, the overall message is clear: The energy sector must transition away from fossil fuels and make room for cleaner energy. In this vein, most countries have agreed to triple renewables and double energy efficiency.

◼ Compared to earlier COPs, adaptation and finance did not advance much. The global goal on adaptation still lacks firm targets and the new goal for finance was pushed to 2024.
COP28 began with high stakes, but tempered expectations. Everything feels more urgent as the science gets more dire – the WMO confirmed 2023 was the hottest on record. However, expectations for COP28 were more cautious as the hosts’ proximity to the oil and gas sector left many concerned ambitions would not be enough. The outcomes of the conference proved to be bookended by a strong start and a weaker ending on the Global Stocktake (GST) response. We summarise some of the key outcomes (Table 1).

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