This year’s UN climate summit takes place in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and started last Thursday (28 November). Here’s a brief overview of what has been pledged by leaders of 154 heads of states and top executives from over 650 companies and NGOs.
Countries and oil companies at COP28 promised to make further progress in tackling global warming in a series of new pledges. At the time of writing, 121 countries have signed up to the Global Pledge on Renewables and Energy Efficiency. This sets global targets to triple the global installed capacity of renewable energy and double the global rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. And 50 oil and gas companies have pledged to stop adding to planet-warming gases by 2050 – although this only covers emissions from production, not from the burning of fossil fuels. The 50 companies have also pledged to almost entirely stop releasing the potently planet-heating gas methane during oil and gas production by 2030. Climate activists, however, were disappointed that the companies didn’t pledge to cap cap oil and gas productions.
Earlier, 18 countries made commitments worth $725m towards the funding arrangements related to loss and damage, agreed at COP27, which sees rich-world countries most responsible for climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions supporting those low-emitting countries of the global south as they are hit by extreme weather events.
Equally significant for the global south was the recognition that the climate-finance architecture needs to move from billions to trillions to address the climate finance gap. In response, the COP28 Declaration of Leaders on a Global Climate Finance Framework – endorsed so far by 12 leading countries – set out the principles of a new financial architecture to make financing available, accessible and affordable. And a new Green Industrialisation Initiative was announced with 12 African heads of state to rapidly scale up clean energy in Africa.
Polish President Andrzej Duda pledged that Poland would invest in nuclear power plants, “the number of which would be tripled by 2050” – although this is not a tough target, given that Poland has none at this moment.
Climate groups have welcomed the promise to rapidly scale up renewables, but were critical of the oil and gas sector for not pledging to scale down production of oil and gas. The mere production of fossil fuels accounts for around 15% of global emissions – that’s before you count the gases given off when oil and gas are used to power vehicles and heat buildings.
World leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5C above average pre-industrial levels, but humanity continues to extract and burning oil, gas and coal on a climate-threatening scale. Although it’s this which drives climate change, governments and businesses cannot agree on how fast the world should stop using fossil fuels, while consumers – particularly across the rich world – are not changing their behaviour quickly enough. The net zero target means that we stop adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, something that can only be done by moving away from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels completely and permanently.
On Saturday, UN Secretary-General General António Guterres said that the world must “phase out fossil fuels” in time to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
The UAE’s presidency of the COP28 talks has attracted criticism because the country is one the top 10 oil and gas producers in the world and the summit’s president Sultan al-Jaber also heads the giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).
More world leaders are addressing COP28 which is in its fifth day.
In a speech read on behalf of Pope Francis on Satuday, he said that a transition to renewable energy was crucial to saving the world. “The destruction of the environment is an offence against God, a sin that is not only personal but also structural, one that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations,” he said. [Full text of His Holiness’s speech, translated into English, here.]