Sultan Al Jaber sits front row at pre-COP meetings

COP28: Last year’s refresher, this year’s expectations

Before the event begins on 30 November, we’re taking a look at last year’s COP27 and key points to watch for at COP28.

Suspense is building as we lead up to COP28, with multiple areas of contention riddled throughout the UN conference. From the phasing ‘down’ of fossil fuels to the oil giants who are hosting the event, many may be asking: Just how seriously is this being taken?

First review of the Paris Agreement to conclude

The Paris Agreement came to fruition at France’s COP in 2015, outlining a universal ambition to keep global warming within the 1.5C limit. A “global stocktake” takes place every 5 years to assess collective progress towards achieving its long-term goals. This year marks the first stocktake, which requires each country to submit an updated national climate action plan, known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). It will also reveal the true ambition of global efforts behind the framework.

In the UK, recent decisions to weaken key climate policies have undermined our reputation as a global leader on the issue. In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak U-turned on a series of net zero policies, including the pushing back of electric vehicle (EV) transition date and the phase-out date for fossil fuel boilers. For many in the UK, this felt like a major setback. In the Climate Change Committee’s latest report, it stated they had “since heard commentary from other countries, relayed via the International Climate Councils Network, that the Prime Minister’s speech signals lower UK climate ambition.” Research conducted by GovGrant also found a detrimental drop in global confidence towards the UK EV market.

While there has been progress forward in the UK, such as the UK Emissions Trading Scheme clamping down on heavy industry emissions and funding to help public sector buildings decarbonise (Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme), the Climate Change Committee says it is not enough. On its current trajectory, the CCC stated that we are not on track to meet the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the UN process for a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030. In short: If we hope to reach our net zero goals, we cannot backpedal on key climate policies.

Logistics of Loss and Damage Funding to be decided

Loss and Damage refers to the impact of extreme weather events caused by the rise of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), which predominantly come from wealthier, industrialized countries.

At COP27, the Loss and Damage Fund finally made progress after years of stagnation: nearly 200 countries pledged to raise $1trn over the next five years for the fund. At the same time, the UK pledged to triple its contributions to international climate support, climbing to £11.6bn over the next five years.

COP28 will (hope to) see the practicalities and logistics of implementing this funding. Last year, Loss and Damage was not added to the agenda until the last minute. So, many eyes will be keeping watch to see how this year plays out. Plus, the planning and implementation of any new fund takes time: Even though the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, the details for its practical implications were not agreed upon until 2018 at COP24, and not finalized until 2021 at COP26.

Fossil fuel: Phased ‘down’ or ‘out’?

One word ruled COP27: down. Put in context, outcomes of COP27 saw a push for a “phasing down” of fossil fuels as opposed to “phasing out” – a big distinction for oil industry giants. And, a big distinction for net zero targets.

Shifting away from energy produced by fossil fuels and towards renewables is a key initiative in the race to net zero. Though, there are many questions regarding the integrity of COP28 as it’s being hosted in one of the oil capitals of the world, and led by Sultan Al Jaber, who runs the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The Washington Post has called it a “remarkable rebuke”, noting that “climate and human rights activists say the integrity of the climate gatherings are at stake”.

Alternatively, Al Jaber thinks he is, in fact, the right person for the job. He refers to his time at Masdar, an Abu Dhabi-based future energy company he helped establish, as evidence. “I wasn’t the obvious choice,” he says in a Guardian interview. “The reason [the president of UAE] selected me is simply because he wanted disruption. I was sent to transform Adnoc, to decarbonise Adnoc and to future-proof Adnoc. I was not sent to Adnoc to maintain business as usual.”

Announcement of the Global Cooling Pledge

China, India, and the United States and other countries are urged to commit to the Global Cooling Pledge, set to be announced at the upcoming United Nations climate summit. The pledge calls for a substantial 68% reduction in cooling-related emissions by 2050.

Currently accounting for 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, these emissions are projected to triple by 2050, with the installation of approximately 3 billion more air conditioners. The pledge, led by the COP28 Presidency and the UN Environment Programme’s Cool Coalition, emphasises the need for sustainable cooling technology, government incentives, and a shift to renewables in electric grids to achieve its ambitious targets.

Where to find hope…

In the UK’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pledged to free up energy grid connections so projects can connect sooner and announced an Action Plan to halve the time it takes to build new grid infrastructure, amongst other measures. While we don’t yet know if these actions will fill the net zero policy gap, it’s a step in the right direction.

Similarly, the UN conference still has the potential to be a beacon of hope in the climate change battle. After all, some of the world’s most powerful leaders will be present, and more eyes than ever will be watching the climate action stage, pushing for greater change. 

Keep up to date with COP28! Check out our blog page for our sector experts’ latest insights on all things COP.

Sophie Crossley
Sophie Crossley