COP28 concluded with what was heralded by some as a ground-breaking agreement, focusing on transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner. This marks the first time all fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – are clearly addressed in a COP text.
However, while this agreement is a step forwards, it is not the leap that many were hoping for with the text landing on “transition away” rather than complete “phase out” of fossil fuels.
In sum, scientists have praised parts of the agreement but been critical of the vague language around the principal cause of climate change: burning hydrocarbons.
One of the features of COP meetings is the energy outside of the main negotiations, and this time was no different. A number of noteworthy achievements emerged in Dubai.
- $30bn climate solutions fund: The president of the host nation, United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced a $30bn fund for global climate solutions, aiming to attract $250bn in investments by the end of the decade.
- Member state declaration on climate and health: An historic moment with the UAE declaration signed by 124 countries, recognising the impacts of climate change on health. A total of $1bn in financing to counter these was pledged by organisations including Green Climate Fund and Rockefeller Foundation.
- Non-state actor call to action on food systems: Over 200 non-state actors called for global targets by the time of the COP29 meetings in 2024 to make food and agriculture a solution to climate, nature and food crises.
- Action agenda on regenerative landscapes: Leading food and agriculture organisations committed to scaling regenerative agriculture, investing $2.2bn to transition over 160m hectares to regenerative landscapes.
- Smallholder farmers' voices: There was an historic acknowledgment of the specific challenges for smallholder farmers for the first time in COP history. Farmers highlighted their inclusion but stressed the need for increased financing, with only 0.3% of global climate finance reaching them.
Next steps for action
- Energy transition: Triple renewables and move away from fossil fuels.
- Agriculture and land use: Halt deforestation and build resilient food systems.
- Adaptation and resilience: Urgent step-up is required. $600 million pledged – but much more funding is needed.
- Finance overhaul: Redirect finance from fossil fuels to clean, accessible energy – $1.4tn was invested in supporting fossil fuels in 2023 that could be invested in clean energy!
- Price on carbon: Advocate for higher prices and push policymakers for a carbon pricing policy.
Undoubtedly the challenges are immense, and collaboration across all industries and nations will be needed to move these commitments into action for a more sustainable and resilient future. Perhaps COP28’s biggest achievement is keeping the process moving forwards, and the ever-greater acceptance that real change is necessary. What remains unanswered is exactly when.