COP28 concluded this month after two weeks of negotiations, deals, and announcements in Dubai.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber hailed the conference as a success. The closing agreement contained an unprecedented reference to “transitioning away from fossil fuels”, achieved after multiple days of deadlocked negotiations, and over 130 nations agreed a new specific target of tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency by 2030.

What did COP28 achieve?

Global Stocktake

One of the most anticipated announcements was the outcome of the first global stocktake (GST), measuring progress towards the Paris Agreement goals. Leaders acknowledged that, according to the GST findings, that warming will exceed 1.5°C if global mitigation efforts continue as they are.

The GST showed to keep the 1.5°C goal within reach, the following is needed:

  • The carbon reduction pledges made by nations, so called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) need to be more ambitious from 2035,
  • For net-zero to be achieved by 2050 or before, and for emissions to peak urgently,
  • A tripling of renewable energy capacity and a doubling of energy efficiency by 2030,
  • Urgent action to reduce methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions,
  • For developed countries to take the lead on the phase-out of ‘unabated’ fossil fuels,
  • To preserve and restore ecosystems that act as carbon sinks (forests, oceans, wetlands).

The GST indicated that adaptations to climate change impacts need to be scaled globally, to protect vulnerable communities. This includes adaptation finance, which is estimated to be underfinanced by USD $194-366 billion each year.

Fast track energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030

A flurry of commitments were made to drastically reduce emissions and fast-track the energy transition. 130 national governments, including the UK, signed the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge to triple the world's renewable energy generation capacity and double the rate of energy efficiency improvements. The UK, along with 66 others, also signed the Global Cooling Pledge, aiming to reduce cooling-related emissions by 68%. Representing over 40% of global oil production, over 50 companies of the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter committed to net-zero operations by 2050.

Over 200 countries approved the final draft agreement, with no objections. There is no explicit commitment to phase out or phase down fossil fuel use. Instead, the agreement sets an objective of “transitioning away from fossil fuels …in a just, orderly and equitable manner”. COP28 president Dr Sultan Al Jaber hailed the deal as "historic”, and it was praised by the USA and European Union. However, Anne Rasmussen, the lead negotiator of The Alliance of Small Island States, felt that COP28 had failed, and the agreement contained a “litany of loopholes”, a claim echoed by former US vice president Al Gore who said the “influence of petrostates” was evident in the final agreement, while acknowledging that “the decision at COP28 to finally recognise that the climate crisis is, at its heart, a fossil fuel crisis is an important milestone. But it is also the bare minimum we need and is long overdue”.

Finance for climate action

Countries committed a total of $85 billion of climate finance at COP28. The Loss and Damage Fund has had almost $800 million contributed, just two per cent of the $100 - $580 billion that is needed annually. The UAE Leaders’ Declaration on a Global Climate Finance Framework set out a goal of investing $5 - $7 trillion annually by 2030, in pursuit of the Paris Agreement. The framework is centred around making finance available, accessible, and affordable; collective action; opportunities for all; and delivering at scale. The UK and 12 other countries including the USA have signed this declaration.

People, nature, and climate change

December 3 marked the first “Health Day” at COP28, and the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health, seeking to ensure that health will be central in future climate policy, was signed by over 140 countries. The declaration recognises the negative impacts on health caused by climate change, and the contribution of healthy populations to climate resilience. Almost 160 countries signed the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, pledging $2.5 billion to address agriculture-climate-related issues and food systems.

Mobilise for the most inclusive COP

The COP28 Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership was endorsed by over 70 countries, including the UK. The partnership calls for gender and environmental data to be produced and used in decision-making, but also emphasises the intersectional inequalities that women and girls in minority groups face. 80 countries (including the UK) and 43 organisations supported the Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recover and Peace. This declaration focuses on countries and communities affected by conflict, fragility or humanitarian crisis by enabling financial support and strengthening coordination, collaboration, and partnership.

UK announcements

During the conference, the UK Government announced:

Key points for real estate and the built environment

  • The Race to Zero released its annual progress report during COP28, showcasing the tangible progress being made by businesses towards achieving net zero. The report reveals that over 13,500 organisations are actively taking steps to transition to net-zero emissions and cut global emissions in half by 2030.
  • A total of 27 countries, including the UK, have made a new commitment to the "Buildings Breakthrough" initiative at COP28. The initiative aims to strengthen international collaboration to decarbonise the building sector. By 2030, the goal is to make clean technologies and sustainable solutions the most affordable, accessible, and attractive option in all regions.
  • Canada and the UAE launched the Cement and Concrete Breakthrough where countries are enabled to share best practices and policies to decarbonise the cement and concrete sector.
  • The Cities’ Science-Based Targets for Nature programme was launched during Buildings Day at COP28. Its goal is to establish science-based criteria and frameworks that allow cities to establish targets for both nature and climate.

Image credits: Aleksey Smagin via Unsplash

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