First Agreement on transition away from fossil fuels reached
The UN COP28 summit concluded later than scheduled with the first global agreement to move away from fossil fuels.
The deal was struck in host nation Dubai after two weeks of negotiations was meant to send a powerful signal to investors and policymakers that the world is now united in its desire to break with fossil fuels.
The Global Stocktake Agreement is Born
The new agreement, dubbed the ‘Global Stocktake Agreement’, is the first to address the use of fossil fuels directly. However, the agreement does not expand beyond this commitment. There were no indications of phasing out or down of oil, gas or coal fuels, as hinted at in previous years, and there are currently no timetables to achieve the transition.
Officials from the EU, Canada, Denmark and Ireland praised the deal as historic, while the Alliance of Small Island States said there were “a litany of loopholes in this text that are a major concern to us”.
Optimism for a substantial deal was low heading into the summit as there were reports sent to media organisations that Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the UN COP28 climate summit, abused his position to try to sign oil deals with other governments, as the United Arab Emirates prepared to host.
Commenting on the summit, our Official sustainability partners at Ecologi said on social media, “Whilst lots of people are disappointed that this year’s COP didn’t live up to its potential, there’s also plenty of things it has achieved, especially outside of the final text. The agreement at the start of the conference to launch a loss and damage fund is a particularly historic example.”
DAYS 1 & 2 – Leaders Speeches
The scheduled two-week conference kicked off in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital on 30th November with the World Leaders Summit.
King Charles about his decades of support of environmental causes, reminding everyone that “the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.”
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced over £1.5bn ($2bn US) of support for climate projects in the UK, which is additional to the $2bn (US) he also announced at the G20 meeting in September. In his speech, he called out China for increasing its emissions since 1990.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, also spoke at the opening day. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was invited to the stage and introduced as ‘the President of the COP 30 host nation’. Although unconfirmed at the time of writing, Brazil is expected to host the 2025 conference.
Day 3 – Climate Announcements Begin
US Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, announced that the US will join six other countries this year in joining the Powering Past Coal Alliance – an international group committed to closing all coal-fired power plants. The UK joined the Alliance in 2017. The US also pledged to reduce methane emissions by 80% by 2038.
118 countries committed to treble the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030, in an initiative led by the EU, USA and UAE in preparation for the transition away from fossil fuels.
Over 20 countries, including Canada, Czechia, Finland, the UK, and the US committed to trebling global nuclear energy capacity by 2050.
50 oil and gas companies signed a new ‘Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter’, pledging to reach net-zero emissions from oil and gas production by 2050. The Charter is non-binding and does not cover the emissions from burning said fuels once they have been produced.
DAY 4 – Health & Relief
In the first of the themed days at the conference, 120 countries announced a joint Declaration on Climate and Health. This acknowledges the role of climate change on public health and came with the announcement of $1bn (US) funding for health-related climate action.
The day also featured a controversial moment when Sultan Al Jaber, spoke at the SHE Changes Climate event, saying there is, “no science out there, no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuels is what’s going to achieve 1.5ºC”
The statement is disputed by the UN, climate scientists and the IPCC as they all say the transition from fossil fuels must happen to achieve the 1.5ºC warming target.
In response, Steve Malkin, CEO of our Consultancy Partner Planet Mark said, “At a time where we are witness to the devastating effects of the climate crisis unfolding both in our communities and across the globe, it's concerning to read the president of the UN climate talks questioning the science of ending fossil fuels..
“If the world continues to rely on fossil fuels, global temperatures will rise to unprecedented levels, resulting in record-breaking heat and extreme weather events. The urgency cannot be overstated.”
Day 5 – Finance & Accountability
Finance Day saw two major breakthroughs in the voluntary carbon market – which would allow organisations like our Includability Official Partners, Planet Mark and Ecologi to voluntarily fund carbon credits from projects which avoid or remove greenhouse gas emissions.
Also, six independent carbon standards companies have committed to a cooperation agreement to share their knowledge and best practices, establish common principles and frameworks, and provide greater transparency on the use of their carbon credits.
Day 6 - Energy, Industry & Indigenous Peoples
The day was predominantly focussed on drafting the agreement text, but there were some individual announcements of note.
International dairy producers formed the ‘Dairy Methane Alliance’ to commit to report and reduce methane emissions from dairy produce.
The European Investment Bank pledged to embed the principles of a ‘just transition’ into its operations by 2024 and committed to both mitigation and adaptation funding in some of the most vulnerable places to climate breakdown around the world.
Day 7 - Built Environment & Transport
The first week of negotiations concluded with positive steps taken toward a larger deal; however, the lack of regulation and accountability plans for both governments and companies raised concerns about the sincerity of the commitments made thus far.
Day 9 – Youth Education & Skills
Following a day off, the summit continued with a day of Youth Activism making an impact for stronger resolve for the planet. The energy and persistence from youth activists are driving leaders to prioritise climate action for future generations.
Day 10 - Nature, Land Use & Oceans
Several countries agreed ocean protection initiatives to protect our oceans, with commitments to reduce plastic pollution and preserve marine ecosystems. Prospects for a Green Climate Fund, as well as providing support to developing countries in greenhouse gas reporting also got closer to an agreement compared to previous years but is still to achieve a wider subscription base.
Day 11 Food, Water & Agriculture
The final day of specialised events focussed on ways to improve food and water production and how to deal with waste.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation launched the revised Global Roadmap for Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) without breaching the 1.5ºC threshold. The roadmap documents 120 actions to transform food production and end world hunger.
The roadmap still lacks corporate accountability when it comes to food production and practices to measure food and water waste.
The summit overran with frantic negotiations over the new draft agreement. Two years ago in Glasgow, 191 countries agreed to a ‘phasing down’ plan for coal with a loose understanding of a timetable to be determined later. Although the new agreement now covers a transition away from oil, gas and coal, the prospect of phasing down or phasing out these fuels by the large world economies seems further away.
Instead of the intention of gradually decommissioning fossil fuel infrastructure as replacement renewable energy sources come online, the agreement now intends for renewables to coexist alongside fossil fuel infrastructures until the latter becomes economically unviable. An outcome that the UN and IPCC agree would make the 1.5ºC threshold target unachievable.
Graham Stuart, Minister for Climate Change, left Dubai one day early to return to The House of Commons for votes on domestic policy, but returned for the deal's announcement.
Our brilliant Partner at X+Why commented on the summit, "This moment demands courage. The fight for our planet continues, and our collective voices must keep echoing for change."
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