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APCO Voices at COP28: Our Key Takeaways

December 19, 2023

Lynn Davidson, Senior Director

Two years ago, at COP 26 in Glasgow, the debate in the final hours centered around ambitious language calling for coal power generation to be “phased out.” Certain countries, including China and India, objected and it was diluted to “phase down.” The headline “Historic coal deal signed at COP 26” ended up as “Watered down deal signed at COP 26.” But it is important to remember the Glasgow Climate Pact was the first time an explicit mention of fossil fuels had appeared in a UN climate agreement. And although small, progress was made.

Fast forward two years to Dubai, and finally we have “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just orderly and equitable manner.” Again, not what many would have liked to see, but another historic first. But is COP 28’s UAE Consensus outcome enough to deal with our existential climate crisis? Overall, no. Is it progress? Yes. Why? Because it sends that all-important signal to markets- to the world – of the direction of travel.

Thanks to the beauty of a multilateral negotiation, any text agreed by almost 200 parties will be, by its nature, somewhat bland. And as important as it is, the final text does not reflect the sum total of action at COPs. While countries try to decarbonize while getting to grips with climate change and its ever-worsening effects, the private sector is forging its own path.

Double the number of delegates who attended COP 27 registered for COP 28. The business interest and momentum in COPs is now huge. The action ecosystem now revolving around the planet of COP commands major attention and interest far outside the climate community.

No matter what is happening in this world – and there is a lot right now – the climate crisis is one issue are willing to come to the table to take action on. That should give us all much-needed hope.

Liliana Diaz, Senior Director

COP 28, which took place in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023, aimed to be the most inclusive and action-oriented UN Climate Change Conference yet. It was also seen as a pivotal event for climate action, as it followed a year of extreme weather events and rising emissions.

I was lucky to be one of the 97,000 people who attended. As the talks went on, different constituencies, including businesses, shared their opinions. I saw many reasons to be hopeful about the future. This COP was the first to:

  • Acknowledge the need to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems”.
  • Conduct a Global Stocktake of the progress made by countries towards the Paris Agreement goals.
  • Set global targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2030.

At the conference, there was a lot of attention on the oil and gas industry and its role in climate negotiations. But there was also a great opportunity — the chance to reduce carbon emissions in the hardest to abate sectors. I was amazed by the first Global Agreement that recognized the impact of fossil fuels on global warming. It also commits 120 countries to triple their renewable energy by 2030. This is a huge step forward for climate technology, which was another key theme at COP 28. There were many interesting talks on AI, renewable energy, and other innovations which focused on practical solutions rather than politics.

COP 28 also had a big win for nature. It addressed the link between climate change and biodiversity loss. Many banks agreed to follow some principles for nature-friendly finance. And many countries made more commitments to protect nature. But not everything was perfect. The carbon markets did not make much progress. There was no agreement on how to improve the rules and details. This means we must keep working on this issue at COP 29 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Judit Arenas, Executive Director

COP 28 in Dubai was all about the f-words: fossil fuels, financing, the future, fairness, and more.

While all the attention was on whether to phase out or phase down fossil fuels, and yes, it is historic that there is agreement to phase down, the sad consensus is that it really does not go far enough to keep 1.5 alive. And we need that to keep the planet alive. Because we don’t have a Planet B.

Yes. It was huge that there was a signal that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end. It has indeed taken more than 30 years since Rio to focus on how to build a fossil fuel-free world (though let’s not get caught up in what many, the author included, believe is the trap of “transition fuels”).

The big missing ‘f’ was finance, not just financing but also access to finance. The operationalization of the loss and damage fund was noteworthy, the pledges to it underscoring that where there is a will, there is a way.

And the often overlooked other “fs,” yet critical when talking about climate action: fair and fast. Despite robust participation of youth and indigenous groups, the judiciary and the legal community, climate justice still requires strong action. And as someone that comes from the justice field, a lot of work remains to be done to close the climate justice gap

In essence, the “fs” must converge. The transition away from fossil fuels must not only be fast but also fair and well-financed to keep the 1.5-degree promise alive.

Controversial for some, the private sector was in Dubai in full force. The reality is that climate action requires an all-of-society approach, and businesses can contribute not just investment but expertise, technology, and solutions.

And as we head on the road to Baku and then onwards to Belem, the focus must be on how we achieve balance within our planetary boundaries. President Lula’s call for Mission 1.5, emphasizing bolder Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and a steadfast focus on implementation, provides hope for realizing the 1.5-degree goal.

Nicole Monge, Director

COP 28 has concluded with mixed outcomes that set the stage for future decisions and commitments. Many nations showcased ambitious commitments to combat climate change, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the global climate crisis. In addition to national level engagement, corporate leadership played a key role, with forward-thinking companies spotlighting their strategic imperative for environmental responsibility.

The conference was a hub for innovation, highlighting cutting-edge technologies and creative solutions for a more sustainable future. The commitment to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund provided hope and financial assistance to communities grappling with the harsh realities of climate change.

The conclusion of the first Global Stocktake presented a roadmap to accelerate climate action. Nearly every country in the world agreed to transition away from fossil fuels, which is the first time such an agreement has been reached in 28 years of international climate negotiations. While there is still significant frustration around potential loop holes and the language not being concrete enough, it gives hope for future negotiations.

One of the more interesting angles at this COP conference was that leaders addressed the intersection of climate, peace, and security and the role climate plays in that space. Significant importance was placed on fostering global cooperation and collaboration to ensure this is kept top of mind.

There will be a global impact and ripple effect from COP 28, which is more than just a conference; it marks a pivotal moment for collective action. The outcomes signal a commitment to turning ambition into reality. While the next COP is set to take place in Azerbaijan, much of the focus is on Brazil for COP 30.

Diego de Leon Segovia, Senior Associate Director

As a first-time observer at COP 28, having been a negotiator many COPs in the past, I had the opportunity to witness the deep commitment of thousands of people pouring their hearts and souls into making COP a success. The will and power of “non-state actors” should never be underestimated.

COP 28 marked a pivotal moment with the adoption of the Global Goal on Adaptation, criticized for lacking ambition but that will undoubtedly unleash a wave of preventive and resilient actions. Particularly, the private sector must pioneer innovative financial models and products, responding to the escalating demand. This is equally valid for loss and damage fund, where the final text opens a very interesting window for business participation.

It is critical to recognize the diversity within the private sector. While a few still resist change, the reality is that the majority want a positive change that will be, in part, achieved by entrepreneurship, innovation, and partnerships.

I remain cautiously optimistic, knowing that progress cannot be stopped. Therefore, we should not get distracted and focus on the goal at hand: keep temperature increase below 1.5°C.

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