COP28 Progress and COP29 Priorities: towards securing a sustainable future

COP28 stood out, notably hosted by a country rich in oil, sparking a mix of hope and skepticism about achieving a significant climate change breakthrough. Negotiations were extended, it seemed a consensus might elude the participants, but ultimately an agreement was achieved. Sultan Al-Jaber, the COP28 President, played a pivotal role in securing this agreement.

COP28 differed from previous COPs, resembling more a trade show than a traditional environmental summit. With over 100,000 attendees, including diverse industrial and civil society representatives, the event’s sideline agreements are becoming increasingly influential in climate change efforts. COP28 focused on four key pillars:

1. Fast-tracking the energy transition: COP28 highlighted the urgency to accelerate the transition to clean energy sources, emphasizing the need for increased investment in renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures.

2. Fixing climate finance: Addressing the funding gap for climate action remained a central theme, with discussions aimed at ensuring equitable access to climate finance for developing nations.

3. Ensuring full inclusivity: COP28 underscored the importance of ensuring that all voices are heard in global climate governance, with a particular focus on engaging vulnerable communities and marginalized groups.

4. Addressing lives and livelihoods: The conference recognized the need to protect communities and livelihoods from the impacts of climate change, emphasizing the importance of adaptation measures and disaster risk reduction.

Critics pointed out the lack of specific, enforceable actions in the UAE agreement. Yet, it made unprecedented strides, notably in its key statement – a first in COP history, highlighting a direct move away from fossil fuels.

“Transitioning away from fossil fuel in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

This is highly significant, perhaps more so than COP1’s recognition that humans are responsible for climate change, and COP21’s agreement to limit global warming.

The agreement also acknowledged the role of transition fuels like natural gas and carbon capture and storage technologies. It also set a deadline for stronger carbon reduction plans by COP30 in Brazil in 2025. Furthermore, agreement on the operationalisation of a fund to pay vulnerable countries for Loss and Damage from climate change was an important output.

As the diagram below illustrates, more actions are needed. Ultimately, individual countries will be judged on demonstrable progress. As John Kerry, the US Climate Envoy, stressed, “Try coming to the next COP and having not done anything. Try putting out a revision of your long-term strategy and not actually facing up to your challenges.” The ‘moments of truth’ will come when countries file their new pledges in 2025 as their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

In the middle of December, 2023, the European Commission has released an evaluation of the draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) from EU Member States, providing guidance to help them enhance their strategies to align with EU 2030 objectives. These final plans are due by June 30, 2024. The revised draft NECPs mark progress towards the EU’s 2030 goals and the enactment of new legislation. Nonetheless, in response to the outcomes of COP28 and the worldwide urgency to intensify efforts this decade, there’s a pronounced need for increased action. 

Looking forward, COP29 in Azerbaijan will shift its focus to additional climate financing, continuing the global dialogue on climate action.  There needs to be a continuation of global efforts to address the climate crisis and transition to a more sustainable and resilient future. 

COP29 priorities will include: 

  1. Establishing a new climate finance goal 
  1. Mitigating further greenhouse gas emissions  
  1. Prioritising adaptation and resilience 
  1. Fast-tracking the energy transition 
  1. Driving full inclusivity in discussions and actions. 

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