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COP28 Roundup

December 2023 by Saaniya Sharma

In a groundbreaking turn of events, the recently concluded COP28 has etched its name in history as the first climate summit where world leaders reached a consensus to transition away from fossil fuels. This momentous agreement, although met with both satisfaction and scepticism, signals a crucial step towards addressing the climate crisis.

Unpacking COP28

COP28, hosted by the UAE, faced criticism from the beginning due to concerns about the UAE’s oil interests, particularly with Dr Sultan Al-Jaber, head of the UAE’s National Oil Company, as COP28 president. Despite these concerns, the conference marked the first time in 28 years that world leaders explicitly committed to transitioning away from fossil fuels. The agreement, buried in a detailed 21-page document, calls for a robust move towards renewable energy while avoiding the term ‘phaseout’ in favour of a ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels.

The commitment is a part of the first ‘global stocktake’, the conference’s main action item, aimed at assessing countries’ progress toward Paris Agreement goals. The agreement sets ambitious goals, including tripling global renewable energy deployment, doubling energy efficiency and substantially reducing methane emissions by 2030. However, the rapid adoption of the agreement left members of the Alliance of Small Island States, particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise, notably absent from the final plenary meeting.

The wins were accompanied by other notable shortcomings. For instance, a lack of financial commitments to support the ambitious energy transition goal and loopholes allowing unproven solutions like carbon capture raised concerns among observers and negotiators. Moreover, the language on finance was criticised as weak and not action-oriented, emphasising the need for urgent measures in response to the climate emergency. The agreement also lacks any new financial commitments to help countries adapt to climate-driven disasters such as droughts and wildfires.

Other highlights from the conference

Loss & Damage Fund

On the first day of the conference, wealthier states pledged $700 million for a loss and damage fund, addressing climate impacts in vulnerable nations. However, experts argue that financial commitments fall short of what the Global South needs, leaving room for improvement.

First ‘Health Day’ at COP

In many firsts, COP28 introduced the first ‘Health Day’, resulting in an $800 million annual pledge to combat neglected tropical diseases, exemplifying a holistic approach to climate action. This initiative is expected to benefit 31 African countries, with the aim of eradicating river blindness.

Renewable energy surge

Over 100 countries pledged to triple the world’s renewable energy by 2030, drawing inspiration from success stories like Uruguay, where 98% of energy is now derived from renewables.

The Oil & Gas dilemma

There were also speculations that the conference was being used to strike oil and gas deals. Close to 2500 fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to COP28, signalling an unprecedented presence from fossil fuel delegates at crucial climate talks. Moreover, fossil fuel lobbyists also outnumbered official Indigenous representatives (316) by almost seven times, indicating that oil and gas industry profits are being prioritised over a sustainable planet and frontline communities.

The journey ahead

While COP28 brings promising commitments, a closer examination reveals both positives and negatives. The transition away from fossil fuels and the surge in renewable energy commitments demonstrates a global intent for change. However, the disappointment of vulnerable nations and the shortfall in financial aid underscore some of the many challenges ahead.

It took nearly three decades of annual climate summits to explicitly address the elephant in the room – fossil fuels. The journey to Dubai has seen progress, with the COP28 agreement standing as a significant milestone. As we celebrate this pivotal moment, the call for urgent, tangible actions to end the fossil fuel era echoes louder than ever.

A Carbon Literate future

In the aftermath of COP28, the imperative to equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills to navigate this transition becomes more apparent than ever, prioritising the need for Carbon Literacy.

As Chris Hilson, director of the Centre for Climate and Justice at the University of Reading, said, “Action speaks louder than words. What is really important now is that governments around the world take immediate policy action and practical steps to implement a transition away from coal, oil and gas.”

Understanding the intricacies of carbon emissions, transitioning energy sources, and sustainable practices is crucial. Informed citizens and leaders can champion initiatives, drive policy changes and hold companies and industries accountable for their carbon footprint. Governments, businesses and individuals must collaborate to build a Carbon Literate society, fostering a shared responsibility for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the planet.

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