Now that the dust has settled in Dubai, we asked members of our Network for their thoughts on the outcome of COP28.
Dame Professor Henrietta Moore
CGLN Fellow and Director of the UCL Global Prosperity Institute
Following the conclusion of COP28, we have seen some more progress towards sustainable prosperity with food and agriculture finally being addressed in COP’s remit this year.
While it has been a long time coming at COP, this has been central to our work at the Institute for Global Prosperity on natural prosperity and regenerative agriculture for some time, as many of the most vulnerable communities to climate change are heavily dependent on this sector to sustain their livelihoods. In light of our attempts to centre worldviews from parts of Africa and the Global South to reformulate our relationships to land, food, soil, water and sustainable living I noticed an absence of the word ‘soil’ in the final COP28 text, which is key to implementing a whole-systems approach to decarbonisation – something I highlighted ahead of COP. Therefore, there is more that can be done, building on the Action Agenda on Regenerative Landscapes, to improve the discourse around regenerative agriculture and food practices as a solution for, rather than a burden upon our planet’s health.
The biggest talking point was the COP28 President’s dismissal of the harmful role of oil and gas, amidst a few contentious days of uncertainty between a “phase-down” and “phase-out” of fossil fuels. This is hardly surprising given his CEO role in ADNOC, the UAE’s largest oil and gas company. Nevertheless the final text did include “phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” and “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems” but whether this will bring about systemic equity and justice remains to be seen.
Moreover, it is vital to remember that the areas that contribute the least to global carbon emissions often remain the most susceptible to their devastating impacts. The pledge of $792 million towards the Loss and Damage Fund on day one of the conference was an acknowledgement of this, however we must ensure that this is equally met with robust preventative adaptation measures that support localised approaches to decarbonisation, future flourishing as well as the diverse livelihoods and knowledge systems of these communities. The current extractive models of economic growth supplemented with financial compensation will not break the vicious cycle of instability that disadvantaged communities find themselves in.
In my view, it also remains to be seen whether indigenous and disadvantaged communities will be genuinely represented at COP. In light of the recent Carbon Brief analysis, it is clear that more accountability is needed from the Global North to address the legacy of colonialism upon both historical emissions in former occupied territories, and the subsequent carbon-dependent infrastructures and investments established around the world since.
CGLN Member and Intern at the White House Council on Environmental Quality
Despite having attended a couple of COPs before, I had no idea what to expect from this one given the controversial coverage it generated going into the event.
I think that final statements were a bit below the "fossil fuel phaseout" language that me and many of my colleagues were hoping to hear, but I think we are somewhat accustomed to being devastated at the end of the conference. The very clear dates were a great start, but we are still far behind Paris Agreement goals.
CGLN Youth Advisory Councilmember for Climate Finance
While I left COP with mixed feelings, it’s important to keep in mind that COP is a consensus-driven process which significantly adds to its complexity. This may explain why COP28 represented a much-needed step forward but not the giant leap we all hoped for.
The highlight of COP28 is undoubtedly the agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. While my hope was a clear statement on a fossil fuels “phase-out”, this was the first time that parties at COP referred fossil fuels in the final text and importantly defended a “transition” towards their end. This makes it possible to keep alive the most ambitious objective of the Paris Agreement, adopted eight years ago: limiting the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C. However, no binding objectives are defined for this, and no commitments or concrete actions were presented for nations to reach peak emissions by 2025.
In addition, with no surprise, the Global Stocktake (the first assessment of the Paris Agreement) made this COP a critical one, noting that Parties are off track when it comes to emissions reductions to meet the Paris Agreement goals. A positive thing is that science was reflected in the text and for the first-time sectoral agreements were reached, particularly the need to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency by 2030.
The formalization of Loss and Damage was another win for COP28. For the first time, a decision was adopted on the first day - operationalization of the new loss and damage fund - with several Parties immediately presenting financial commitments to support it. Over 700 million US dollars were pledged, an important step to get the funding start but clearly not enough regarding the full funding needs. And doing the analogy to the health sector (also a first in this COP), while I believe it is important that we focus on guaranteeing palliative care, we must not neglect the preventive intervention that would save the patient in the first place.
The Global Goal on Adaptation was another important agenda item, but progress on climate adaptation has been slow, with COP28 agreeing on seven thematic targets on the Global Goal on Adaptation and process targets on risk assessment, planning, implementation, and M&E, but with specific metric and indicators still being developed. Also lagging behind is the closure of the mitigation-adaptation gap and the doubling of adaptation finance.
Still on climate finance, I’m disappointed that COP28 ended with no deal on article 6 and carbon markets at a time that we know we must accelerate finance flows for meeting the Paris Agreement. The global stocktake also acknowledged that we are still far away from supporting developing countries in their clean energy transitions, and the implementation of their national climate plans and adaptation efforts. For this reason, my expectation is that climate finance goals and the new collective quantified goal that reinforces the 100$ billion per year goal will now become big items to be discussed in COP29.
Finally, the final text also includes important references about the ocean, recognizing (again) for the first time the importance of restoring marine ecosystems and identifying ocean-based solutions as mitigation and adaptation actions, underlining the ocean-climate nexus.