COP28 Day 5 – Oil and Gas in the Spotlight
By Sophie Morello
For the host country, the UAE, the week got off to a rocky start with widespread outcry at the emergence of comments from the COP President, Sultan al-Jaber, appearing to question the science behind ending fossil fuels to limit global warming. The COP Presidency responded to the reports, saying “We very much believe and respect the science.”
There was also anger that figures revealed the number of COP delegates linked to fossil fuel interests has quadrupled this year. The data comes from a campaign group, Kick Big Polluters Out, and shows that around 2,400 people connected to the coal, oil and gas industries all registered for the climate talks. The increase can partly be attributed to changes in registration details including industry type, but these stories add weight to the intense scepticism of the COP Presidency’s effectiveness and distract from some of the achievements being made.
So far, the Summit has shown encouraging developments on cutting out fossil fuels, for example. Over 100 countries have promised to treble world renewable energy use by 2030 with a phase out of fossil fuels by 2050. In addition to this, 50 oil and gas companies, including Saudi giant Aramco, have pledged to stop adding to carbon emissions by 2050, but some viewed this as greenwash.
It is still hoped the pledge to phase out fossil fuels will be included in the final deal made at COP, meaning all countries that are represented sign. This would be a big win if it happens, but Saudi Arabia has made it clear it won’t agree to this, and China and India have so far only shown support for the ramping up of renewables, not a phase out of fossil fuels. The scene is set for difficult talks in the days ahead.
The impetus for a ‘phase out’ pledge was reinforced today, when research showed that this year, emissions are estimated to be 1.1% higher than in 2022, despite some countries cutting emissions and the growth of renewable energy. And the UNEP says the world is currently on course for 2.9C of warming by 2100 and that global emissions need to peak in 2025. Worryingly, 2023 is on course to be the hottest year for 125,000 years.
The role of technology in helping track and reduce emissions has also been highlighted at COP. A global coalition co-founded by Al Gore, the former US vice president, has released a granular database tracking global greenhouse gas emissions, down to the individual polluter. Companies can use this data to decarbonise their supply chains. The database, Climate TRACE, uses machine learning, satellites and other technology to detect and track greenhouse gas emissions.
Also, Microsoft has agreed to purchase as many as 1.5 million carbon removal credits from Mombak in Brazil, covering 70,000 acres. Cloud technology and drones will choose reforestation sites and Brazil is now the world’s biggest exporter of carbon removal credits.
Aside from fossil fuel cuts, one of the biggest challenges at COP is to get finance to flow to developing countries. There is the long running problem that developing countries pay too high a cost for capital investment. There is also a gap between the money needed and the amount being spent. The UN says developing countries need up to $387 billion a year to adapt to climate change.
The UAE has launched a $30 billion climate investment fund, alongside the likes of BlackRock and Brookfield, with a focus on the developing world. A Loss and Damage fund, to be administered by the World Bank, to deal with the impact of extreme weather events in the developing world has attracted financial commitments from the developed world. But billions are needed, not millions.
Also, the US government, the Bezos Earth Fund and The Rockefeller Foundation announced the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA), an innovative carbon finance platform aimed at catalysing private capital to support ambitious just energy transition strategies in developing and emerging economies. Based on preliminary estimates, the ETA could mobilize from $72 billion to $207 billion in transition finance by 2035.
Climate finance is a big theme at COP and we are expecting to see big changes coming to the carbon offset market, which has been beset with controversy in recent months. There is the anticipated initiative from the global finance sector called the impact disclosure taskforce, which is designed to share available data which is relevant to the UN’s sustainable development goals.
A new global carbon offset mechanism known as “Article 6.4” has also been trailed, designed to establish a market mechanism which will be overseen by the UN that enables governments and companies to trade carbon credits. We hope to see news of this in the coming days.
Tomorrow will focus on Multilevel Action, Urbanization and Built Environment/Transport, and we’ll report back on Thursday the latest developments.
COP28 Day 6 – The devil will be in the detail
By Sophie Morello
Today was buildings and transport day at COP28 and the key announcement related to urbanisation. The COP28 Presidency, UN and Bloomberg Philanthropies collectively called on housing, urban development, environment, and finance ministers to back the ‘Joint Outcome Statement on Urbanization and Climate Change.’
It was supported by over 40 Ministers of Environment, Urban Development and Housing, and sets out a ten-point plan to boost the inclusion of cities in the decision-making process on climate change, drive multilevel climate action and accelerate the deployment of urban climate finance so that cities are prepared and supported to respond to the climate crisis.
The statement builds on the ‘Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships’ (CHAMP), which was launched at the Local Climate Action Summit (LCAS) on 1 December and aims to identify and strengthen levers to increase and accelerate the deployment of climate finance to enable cities and local governments to respond to the climate crisis.
These agreements are important because finance remains an ongoing issue, with only 21% of climate finance allocated to adaptation and resilience, and only 10% reaching the local level.
And ensuring cities can cope with climate change and lower their impact is vital because they are home to most of the world’s population and contribute over 70% of CO2 emissions. Also, the majority of cities (as many as 90%!) are threatened by rising sea levels and storms, and their residents are exposed to ten degrees higher temperatures than their counterparts in rural areas.
Meanwhile, delegate discussions around a phase-down or phase-out of fossil fuels continue. Everything is still to play for and there is some optimism that an agreement on ‘phase-out’ will be reached by the end of the conference. COPs before have failed in this mission, but we need to pay close attention to the language here.
A ‘phase-out’ is unlikely to mean a compete departure from fossil fuels in the near term. Any agreement is going to include reference to “unabated” and “abated.” “Unabated” means the burning of fossil fuels where the emissions add to global warming, and “abated” means the burning of fossil fuels combined with the capture and permanent storage a portion of the resulting emissions. There are questions about what “abated” really means in practice and hugely conflicting voices about how the net zero equation can solved. There are also questions about the order in which countries ‘phase-out’; developed nations have the means to invest in renewables and ‘phase-out’ fossil fuels quicker than developing economies.
As ever, these talks are highly complex and no doubt negotiations will be down to the wire. It will be nigh on miraculous if the likes of India, China and Saudi Arabia agree to any “phase-out” language unless it’s tied to just unabated fossil fuels. There are also challenges for the UK in how much we can cease unabated fossil fuels when we have licensed new oil & gas exploration and carbon capture technology is not up to speed.
Speculation on the final text and response to the Global Stocktake will continue over the coming days. Tomorrow is a day of rest at COP, a welcome pause for breath, where we’ll take stock of the announcements made so far.
COP28 Rest Day – The lull before the storm
By Andrew Adie
A week is a long time in geo-politics and COP28 has entered today’s ‘Rest Day’ on a tidal wave of intrigue, recrimination, and some progress.
In the last seven days of negotiation and announcements we have seen some significant developments.
What’s been achieved so far?
The UAE claims that more than $83.38 billion has been committed so far to climate adaption and mitigation projects aimed at helping the world get back on track and limit global warming to 1.5C by 2050 (a target that is currently miles off being delivered).
We’ve also seen new commitments on climate mitigation and adaption funding for countries most at risk of climate crisis and a landmark agreement with more than 100 countries promising to treble world renewable energy use by 2030 and phase out of fossil fuels by 2050. In addition to this, 50 oil and gas companies, including Saudi giant Aramco, have pledged to stop adding to carbon emissions by 2050, although that announcement has been met by some as being little more than greenwash as it requires extensive use of Carbon Capture and Storage which would need significant scaling to deliver the required outcome. The US and 150 other countries have also pledged to drive forward a commitment to cut methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.
We’ve also seen the launch of initiatives such Climate Trace, a granular database tracking global greenhouse gas emissions, down to the individual polluter. Companies can use this data to decarbonise their supply chains.
The UAE has launched a $30 billion climate investment fund, alongside the likes of BlackRock and Brookfield, with a focus on the developing world. COP also saw early progress with the launch of a Loss and Damage fund, to be administered by the World Bank,.
The US government, the Bezos Earth Fund and The Rockefeller Foundation announced the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA), which it is estimated could mobilise between $72 billion to $207 billion in transition finance by 2035.
For the more technically minded, a new global carbon offset mechanism known as “Article 6.4” has also been trailed, designed to establish a market mechanism which will be overseen by the UN that enables governments and companies to trade carbon credits.
We’ve also had a landmark agreement on cooling, ironically in the hottest year on record, with 64 countries pledging to slash cooling-related emissions across all sectors by at least 68% globally by 2050 from 2022 levels.
All of these developments are good news but the issue on everyone’s lips as we enter the final phase of COP28, and the diplomatic negotiations reach their crescendo, is what will the world agree to do about fossil fuels?
Several different versions of the final text are circulating, ranging from a phase out of fossils fuels to a phase-down of fossil fuel emissions to essentially no change.
Saudi Arabia has angered many by stating that it will not agree to any final text that calls for a phase-out of fossil fuels. Sultan Al Jabar (President of COP28) also stoked a furore by stating there is ‘no science’ behind calls to phase-out fossil fuels (although he later clarified his remarks to say he believed in a phase-down and phase-out of fossil fuels).
Agreeing the final wording on fossil fuels is drawing in huge amounts of diplomatic ire and posturing. Yet there are claims that a breakthrough could be on the cards. Over the coming days expect to see a lot of debate around the difference between abated and unabated fossil fuel emissions and the role of nascent technologies such as CCS.
The final negotiations begin on 11th December. Before then, tomorrow sees Youth, Children, Education & Skills Day; December 9th is Nature, Land Use and Oceans (expected to be a critical moment to fast track efforts to prioritise and preserve nature and boost efforts to use nature to offset carbon emissions) and then Food, Agriculture and Water Day on 10th December.
The other point of intrigue is the world leaders attending COP28 and the role they are playing.
Just two years after declaring (at COP26) that he wanted the UK to be a leader in the Net Zero transition, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spent just 11 hours in the UAE at COP28. The UK has been notably low-profile at the summit. On the other end of the spectrum, we have seen Vladimir Putin greeted in the UAE with aircraft fly-pasts, military honours and full state welcome.
Cutting through all the sound and fury, for many the only thing that will really matter from COP28 are the words agreed in that final text. Will this be the year that marks the end of the fossil fuel era? Next week will bring the answer.
COP28 Day 9 – Negotiations warm up; as does the world
By Tim Le Couilliard
Today began with the Met Office warning us that 2024 is set to be the hottest on record, and likely to be the first in which global warming exceeds 1.5C. This makes next year the 11th year in a row that annual temperatures have been more than a degree warmer than pre-industrial times.
Damning as the Met Office’s warning is, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Paris Agreement would be breached next year – as the agreement relates to a long-term average – but it certainly focuses minds. In the opening speech of COP28 today, delegates were told that this could be the world’s last chance of keeping global heating within safe limits.
COP28 won’t be able to solve this challenge overnight, but progress needs to be made, especially on fossil fuels, with emissions from them largely to blame for causing the temperature rise. Unsurprisingly given its location, and its attendees, COP28 has had a significant focus on fossil fuels, but arguably not much progress as yet. COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber announced this morning that it would be the Canadian delegation who would be leading on developing the language on the phasing down, or out, of fossil fuels, as the conference enters the business stage of the negotiations.
Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, said that the final words on fossil fuel reduction may not be “as ambitious as some would want but it would still be a historic moment”. A historic moment as much as global warming exceeding 1.5C? We shall see. So far at COP28, Canada, which has an extractive intensive economy, has been accused of dragging its heels and trying to block an unequivocal agreement on a phase-out by pushing for the global stocktake to refer to “abated” fossil fuels (where efforts have been made to reduce the emissions).
Ambition seems to be a golden word at this stage of proceedings. Simon Stiell, the UN climate chief, called on “governments to give their negotiators clear marching orders – we need highest ambition, not point-scoring or lowest common denominator politics. Good intentions won’t halve emissions this decade or save lives right now.”
Stiell’s comments come as countries and negotiations are locked into days of high-level ministerial dialogues on what might make it into the final declaration from the summit. Under UN, rules, any agreement from the climate talks requires unanimous approval; any single nation can object and scuttle the deal.
There is no weekend for delegates (although they did enjoy a “Rest Day” yesterday), with Nature, Land Use and Oceans Day on Saturday and Food, Agriculture and Water Day on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday next week are scheduled for the “Final Negotiations” but many think that this will overrun.
Meanwhile, attention is already turning towards COP29 before the ink has even been written, let alone dried, on this year’s COP. It has been reported today that Azerbaijan is tipped to host next year’s summit, with the Azeri bid looking set to win support from other nations, both in the region and globally. Convention states that the next host country to host the summit be decided during the previous COP – usually with an “obvious” frontrunner – but this year geopolitical issues have led to unprecedented deadlock and a delay in proceedings. Russia is the main culprit for this – stating that it would veto any EU country’s bid to host. Moldova has also made a bid, and Serbia are said to be mulling one over, whilst Australia who were weighing up a bid seeming to have gone quiet. Azerbaijan, however, would be another interesting choice for COP29 – a significant oil and gas producer, and a member of OPEC Plus. Looks like oil states are both the present and the future for COPs – and it’s there where progress must be made.