The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) closed on Wednesday with an agreement that signals the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era.
The delegates from over 190 countries have been meeting for the last two weeks finally agreed on a text that lays the ground for a swift, just, and equitable transition, underpinned by deep emissions cuts and scaled-up finance.
The agreed world’s first ‘global stocktake’ to ratchet up climate action before the end of the decade – with the overarching aim to keep the global temperature limit of 1.5°C within reach.
COP28 President, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber described the outcome of the process that he has been steering for almost one year as a “Historic Game-changing result”
“This is a true victory of multilateralism. This is a victory of Unity. This is a victory for solidarity. This is a victory for true collaboration” said Sultan Al Jaber as he closed the conference that dragged on for an extra day.
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell in his closing speech said whilst the conference did not agree on total phase-out of the fossil fuel era, its outcome marked the beginning of the end to fossil fuels.
“Now all governments and businesses need to turn these pledges into real-economy outcomes, without delay,” he said. Some anti-fossil campaigners however came out of the conference saying that it had failed to deliver an end to fossil fuels like oil gas and coal among others.
This position was amplified by children and youth delegates when given the floor as the conference was about to close. One of the young people from Latin America said the conference had yielded to lobbyists campaigning to retain fossil fuels in the energy systems.
While the youth and women were not happy with the outcome, some of the delegates said it was not too bad as earlier estimated. Countries like Uganda through the Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa had indicated that
“To tell us to stop fossil fuels is an insult. It’s like you are telling Uganda to stay in poverty. We could accept a long-term phase-out, if it made clear that developing nations can exploit their resources in the near term, while wealthy long-time producers quit first”
Uganda and other African countries that recently discovered oil and gas have been pushing for a position to allow them to exploit those resources so as they transit to clean energy options.
From the conference, it means the governments have to exploit those resources as the clock ticks to a phase-out of oi and gas among others.
A delegate from Kenya who was given a chance to speak in the dying hours of the conference said some of the positives include the adoption of the UAE consensus, the operationalization of the loss and damage fund, and the many pledges and declaration on climate finance.
Parties reached a historic agreement on the operationalization of the loss and damage fund and funding arrangements – the first time a substantive decision was adopted on the first day of the conference. Commitments to the fund started coming in moments after the decision was gaveled, totaling more than USD 700 million to date.
The global stocktake is considered the central outcome of COP28 – as it contains every element that was under negotiation and can now be used by countries to develop stronger climate action plans due by 2025.
The stocktake recognizes the science that indicates global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut 43% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, to limit global warming to 1.5°C. But it notes Parties are off track when it comes to meeting their Paris Agreement goals.
The stocktake calls on Parties to take action towards achieving, at a global scale, a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements by 2030.
Parties agreed on targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and its framework, which identify where the world needs to get to in order to be resilient to the impacts of a changing climate and to assess countries’ efforts.
The GGA framework reflects a global consensus on adaptation targets and the need for finance, technology and capacity-building support to achieve them.
Increasing climate finance
Climate finance took center stage at the conference, with Stiell repeatedly calling it the “great enabler of climate action.”
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) received a boost to its second replenishment with six countries pledging new funding at COP28 with total pledges now standing at a record USD 12.8 billion from 31 countries, with further contributions expected.
Eight donor governments announced new commitments to the Least Developed Countries Fund and Special Climate Change Fund totaling more than USD 174 million to date, while new pledges, totaling nearly USD 188 million so far, were made to the Adaptation Fund at COP28.
The negotiations on the ‘enhanced transparency framework’ at COP28 laid the ground for a new era of implementing the Paris Agreement. UN Climate Change is developing the transparency reporting and review tools for use by Parties, which were showcased and tested at COP28. The final versions of the reporting tools should be made available to Parties by June 2024.
COP28 also saw Parties agree to Azerbaijan as host of COP29 from 11-22 November 2024, and Brazil as COP30 host from 10-21 November 2025.
The next two years will be critical. At COP29, governments must establish a new climate finance goal, reflecting the scale and urgency of the climate challenge. And at COP30, they must come prepared with new nationally determined contributions that are economy-wide, cover all greenhouse gases and are fully aligned with the 1.5°C temperature limit.
“We must get on with the job of putting the Paris Agreement fully to work,” said Stiell. “In early 2025, countries must deliver new nationally determined contributions. Every single commitment – on finance, adaptation, and mitigation – must bring us in line with a 1.5-degree world.”
“My final message is to ordinary people everywhere raising their voices for change,” Stiell added. “Every one of you is making a real difference. In the crucial coming years your voices and determination will be more important than ever. I urge you never to relent. We are still in this race. We will be with you every single step of the way.”
“The world needed to find a new way. By following our North Star, we have found that path,” said COP28 President, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber during his closing speech. “We have worked very hard to secure a better future for our people and our planet. We should be proud of our historic achievemen