The United Nations (UN) annual climate conference, otherwise known as COP28, comes to a close today. Since November 30 representatives from 198 countries have convened in Dubai to discuss how to curb global warming.
The first half of COP28 was… bumpy. Many say the present climate charter doesn’t go far enough. Others say that climate activists are being hush-hushed. COP28’s president has been accused of climate denial. But COP28 hasn’t been all bad news. Here are some of the most notable takeaways from this year’s climate summit:
COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber questioned the science behind global warming
In a discussion with Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, COP28’s president Sultan al-Jaber compared phasing out coal, oil and gas to taking the world “back into caves.” He then said there was “no science” indicating that phasing out fossil fuels could restrict global heating to 1.5 °C (2.7°F). The embittered comments were in response to questions by Robinson about al-Jaber’s role as head of a major fossil fuel industry. “I read that your company is investing in a lot more fossil fuel in the future,” she said. Climate scientists said al-Jaber’s comments were “incredibly concerning” and “verging on climate denial.” COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber later walked back his position.
The draft climate summit charter makes phasing out fossil fuels optional, not mandatory
At COP28, the ultimate outcome representatives are working toward is a binding charter all countries must agree to about how to curb greenhouse gas emissions, or the deal collapses. According to some reps the draft climate charter is “completely insufficient” and has “weak language on fossil fuels.” The inflammatory concession at hand was whether or not the participant 198 countries should phase out fossil fuels by 2030. Thus far, 80 countries support the measure, while many have vied for making this optional. Diplomats from Pacific Island nations Samoa and the Marshall Islands called this shortcoming a “death sentence,” according to Reuters.
There are more fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28 than previous UN climate conferences
After the grand affair’s rocky start, Associated Press found that close to 1,400 fossil fuel lobbyists were in Dubai for the UN climate conference. Al Gore later blasted the fossil fuel industry for meddling in COP28; specifically OPEC, an oil giant with deep financial interests in the UAE. Gore described the sentiment, saying that the current charter “reads as if OPEC dictated it word for word.”
Countries are building an international fund to help the Global South combat global warming
The International Energy Agency reported recently that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will face the most dire effects of global warming, yielding a situation that the UN called “climate apartheid.” To combat this, $387 billion in funding is needed to help developing countries adapt to climate-driven changes, the UN estimates. To help meet that goal, a majority of nations voted at COP28 to create an international fund that pools money from industrialized countries for countries in the Global South asymmetrically affected by global warming. The new fund will be hosted by the World Bank until 2027; a developing country representative will have a seat on its board. The fund will launch sometime in 2024.
Morocco, France, and UNEP have a plan to decarbonize the global construction industry by 2030
The Buildings Breakthrough is a new initiative that was announced on December 6 by the governments of France and Morocco alongside United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The program’s goal is to transform the building industry sector which accounts for 21 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative is part of The Breakthrough Agenda which seeks to clean up every key-emitting sector world-wide. Toward that end, The Buildings Breakthrough’s benchmark is decarbonizing the global construction industry by 2030.
So far, 27 countries have signed on to the program. Cumulatively, these countries embody 34 percent of the global population, and 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
A majority of participating countries agreed to triple renewable energy capacity in the next decade
Despite OPEC throwing its weight around, 118 countries have pledged thus far to triple their renewable energy capacity by 2030. Under this new paradigm, renewable energy capacity would be increased to at least 11,000 gigawatts in the next six years. This means more solar power, more wind power, and make it snappy!
Some say this is easier said than done, however. Supply chain strains, labor shortages, isolationist foreign policy, permitting processes that move at a glacial pace, and local opposition to infrastructure projects are all factors that could prolong this mission.