This year’s climate summit in Dubai was fraught with frustration and controversy, with tensions running high for the entire two-week duration. But as COP28 reached its close this week — a day over schedule — unprecedented agreements were reached. Here’s what COP28 achieved, which no other COP has managed to do…

From the UAE’s Sultan Al Jaber’s “there is no science” speech, to abrupt exits of key ministers, to the watering down of language in the draft agreement — there were plenty of moments at COP28 where doom and gloom seemed to preside. However, after days of negotiations, a deal was finally struck on Wednesday, which, for the first time, saw countries agree to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems”.

The specific language states that countries must transition away from fossil fuels “in a just, orderly and equitable manner”, acknowledging the need for richer countries to hasten their transition as priority, with poorer nations requiring greater funding and support.

After much deliberation and debate, more than 190 countries accepted the words “transitioning away”, over “phase out” or “phase down” — which critics have argued is ‘weak’ and doesn’t determine an end point. However, this is considered to be catering for countries still heavily reliant on fossil fuels and unable to adapt as quickly as others.

Even with its heavy criticisms, the deal represents a milestone moment: The first time in the history of COP that the world has formalised an agreement that includes clear direction on the future of fossil fuels.

Triple renewable energy 

The historic agreement includes global targets to triple the capacity of renewable energy. This emerged as one of the key successes of COP28, where 118 countries agreed to triple renewable energy capacity through the likes of wind and solar power by 2030 — and to double the rate of energy efficiency improvements.

The deal also includes promises to:

  • Accelerate low-carbon and zero-emission technologies like carbon capture and storage
  • Reduce non-CO2 emissions — in particular, methane emissions — globally by 2030
  • Accelerate the reduction of emissions from road transport through rapid development of infrastructure and deployment of zero emission vehicles.

The challenges

While renewables are already expanding fast, this latest goal will require a huge speeding up of solar and wind power deployments, along with a major boost in investments in renewables.

Across the renewables industry, strains are being felt around supplies of everything from wind turbines, to transformers, to labour.

Global investments in renewable energy are desperately needed in developing parts of the world. For example, Africa has received just 2% of global investments in renewable energy over the last two decades, the International Renewable Energy Agency has said.

There are also clear issues around the lack of equity in the deal, with many climate justice advocates pointing out the absence of differentiated responsibility. Missing from the Global Stocktake, which revealed the shortfalls in progress from developed countries, is any obligation of developed countries to commit to finance.

The loss and damage fund 

The loss and damage fund, launched on the first day of the conference, was a welcome early surprise, but relies purely on voluntary contributions. It has so far only accrued around $700 billion in donations from developed nations. The fund, set up to support the most vulnerable countries hit by climate change, and aid their recovery from economic losses, requires a significant boost.

 

Following the agreement of the deal, UN secretary general António Guterres tweeted: ‘Whether you like it or not, fossil fuel phase-out is inevitable. Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late.’

Head to our programme Sustainable Solutions Towards Net Zero to learn more about efforts and innovations of UK businesses to transition away from fossil fuels.