Key Contacts: Lev Gantly – Partner | Anna Hickey – Partner | Philip Lee – Partner
COP28 – What you need to know
As extreme weather events hit headlines each month, the annual global climate conference (“COP”) is in focus once more. Here is what you need to know about the particulars of COP28, including the much-discussed relationship between the fossil fuel industry and the climate conference, and Philip Lee predictions as to conference outcomes regarding topics including Global Stocktake, Climate Finance, Climate Adaptation and Just Transition.
What is it?
The United Nations annual conference on climate change, also referred to as ‘Conference of the Parties’, or ‘COP’, will unite the 198 signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to address issues pertaining to climate change. The conference is also open to the media, NGOs, and the public and private sector.
COP has met almost every year for nearly three decades. The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995, which initiated joint climate action measures. The most monumental meeting was COP21 in 2015 when over 190 countries adopted the Paris Climate Accord, committing to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Adopting this target was a major milestone, and the details of how this will be achieved have formed the basis of subsequent COPs.
Who, When and Where?
COP28 is being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from November 30th until December 12th. Numerous head of states and over 160 Member States are attending, including Britain’s King Charles III who delivered the summit’s opening ceremony speech. US and China climate envoys, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua are also in attendance. The Irish delegation is being led by Minister Eamon Ryan, who served a key role in COP27 as EU lead negotiator for the Loss and Damage Fund.
What happened at the last COP?
At COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, significant progress was marked by the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund. This fund, to be formulated within two years, mandates developed nations to support developng countries in coping with irreversible losses induced by climate change. This will remain a key topic at COP28 as decisions remain about how to operationalise and finance the fund, as well as who should contribute and benefit.
Why is COP28 Controversial?
However, COP28 is not without controversy in light of the appointment as COP28 President of Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Al Jaber’s affiliation with a major oil company has sparked concerns among some, with environmental groups and lawmakers calling for his removal. Al Jaber has responded to criticism of his appointment by saying that energy experts should be included in discussions on energy transition.
Al Jaber considers himself capable of bringing fossil fuel companies to the table on the gradual “phase down” of oil and gas. This contrasts with the efforts of numerous campaigners advocating for a complete “phase-out” of fossil fuels. In response, Al Jaber’s position is that a phasedown of fossil fuels is inevitable and essential but that in his words “the world is not ready to entirely kick oil and gas”.
Key Announcements So Far
During the December 2nd session, approximately 120 Member States collectively committed to tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030. This involves doubling the worldwide annual energy efficiency growth rate to over 4% every year until 2030, marking a significant step towards phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to sustainable energy sources.
Fifty oil and gas companies, accounting for 40% of global oil production, have pledged to achieve near-zero methane emissions and eliminate routine flaring by 2030.
The United States announced the Energy Transition Accelerator on Saturday December 2nd, which is planned to launch in April 2024. The Accelerator aims to boost carbon finance and play a critical role in the global shift away from fossil fuels.
The Loss and Damage Fund secured more than $420 million on the first day of COP28. However, the total of these pledges is barely enough to fully establish the fund.
What to expect – Philip Lee predictions
The agenda spans topics such as the Global Stocktake, Climate Finance, Loss and Damage Fund, and Just Transition.
At the core of COP28 lies the Global Stocktake (GST), a comprehensive assessment of Member State’s collective efforts to curb emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change since the Paris Agreement. The GST occurs every five years and the current phase will conclude at this year’s COP. It tracks collective progress based on three goals, cutting down greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the rise of global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius, building resilience to adapt to climate impacts, and provide the financial and technological supports in order to facilitate these goals. It is very clear that the world is well off track – we are currently on course for approximately 2.5C of warming by the end of the 21st century based on current national targets.
Developed nations must discuss how they will fulfil their commitments to mobilize $100 billion annually to support developing nations in their climate efforts. The scaling up of financial support will be a critical issue on the COP agenda. For this, Article 6 of the Paris Agreement will be of high importance – this is the rulebook governing carbon markets. Such markets are seen as a key tool to mobilise resources towards emissions reductions and low-carbon transition. Initiatives such as the VCMI, ICVCM, SBTi, and GHG Protocol are partnering to establish an End-to-End Integrity Framework, offering cohesive guidance on decarbonisation, including the utilisation of offsets for residual emissions. In addition, the six CORSIA approved standards announced their joint effort to establish unified criteria for quantification, verification, and permanence, which will be submitted to the ICVCM.
As the intensity and frequency of climate related events increase at pace, discussions around how to build resilience and strengthen adaptive capacity will be of high importance. The conference will allow for parties to share their expertise on best practice and address how this goal can be met across a range of sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, and health.
High on the agenda for the COP Presidency and the members of the conference will be discussions revolving around just transition, acknowledging that the transition to low carbon alternatives must be equitable and inclusive.