COP28: The key weekend announcements

Debate around the fossil fuel phaseout, science insights and a just transition declaration, ESG Clarity rounds up what readers may have missed at the weekend

Activity at COP28 in Dubai has not let up over the weekend with the launch of a just transition declaration and net-zero taskforce among the developments.

Click here for ESG Clarity‘s COP28 coverage.

Here are the weekend’s top points to catch up on:

COP28 president says fossil fuel phaseout ‘will not achieve 1.5C’

There is “no science” proving phasing out fossil fuels would limit warming from climate change to 1.5C, the Cop28 president, Sultan Al Jaber said on Sunday. Speaking on a panel at a She Changes Climate event, Al Jaber made the comment after fellow panellist Mary Robinson, also chair of the Elders group and former UN special envoy for climate change, said the climate crisis was hurting women and children most and stated the need to phase out fossil fuels.

“That is the one decision that COP28 can take and in many ways, because you’re head of [United Arab Emirates’ state oil company] Adnoc, you could actually take it with more credibility,” she said to Al Jaber.  

Al Jaber stated: “I accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and mature conversation. I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist. There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”

He went on to suggest phasing out fossil fuels could “take the world back into caves.”

10 new science insights proving phaseout is needed

Al Jaber’s comments have, unsurprisingly, been much contested and are out of sync with the 10 New Insights in Climate Science 2023 report launched yesterday by UNFCCC executive secretary Simon Stiell.

The report stated a fossil fuel phaseout is non-negotiable: “We call attention to the fast-shrinking carbon budget and emphasise the inescapable need for a managed and equitable fossil fuel phase-out,” the report authors, including global experts in social and natural sciences, wrote.

The study by Future Earth, Earth League and World Climate Research Programme emphasises the urgency with which such a phaseout must take place.

Stiell said: “The 10 New Insights in Climate Science report provides an essential tool for decision makers at a critical time in the climate calendar each year. Scientific findings from reports like these.”

70 governments back just transition declaration

Sunday was Health Day at COP28 and saw the launch of the Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace, including commitments from 70 governments and 39 organisations to focus on climate finance for highly vulnerable and fragile settings.

Signatories agreed an initial package of financial, programming and partnerships solution, including immediate support to the most vulnerable countries and communities and those operating in fragile and conflict affected settings to address climate shocks and stressors.

Commenting on the declaration and the need for a just transition, ambassador Al Suwaidi, COP28 director-general, said: “Climate change impacts everybody but we are not all being affected equally. In fragile and conflict-affected settings, extreme weather events affect three times as many people annually compared to other countries. Despite this, people living in extremely fragile states receive a fraction – up to 80 times less – of climate finance compared to those in non-fragile states.”

Net zero financial policy taskforce launches

Yesterday also saw the launch of the Taskforce on Net Zero Financial Policy which will engage policymakers on recommendation 10 from last year’s High-Level Expert Group report “to accelerate the road towards legislation.”

A statement said the initiative marks the first time global players have been brought together on net zero to engage specifically on climate and whole-of-economy transition issues.

The focus of the taskforce will be to ensure the credibility and accountability of 1.5C-aligned net zero emissions commitments by non-state actors is underpinned with coherent policies and regulatory certainty.

Ken Ofori-Atta, chair of the V20 and minister for finance of Ghana, commented: “Pushing international financial reform can be enabled by ambitious domestic action, which is why we are advancing together Climate Prosperity Plans among our members. Our goal is not merely to survive this climate crisis. What we want is to thrive, what we desire is prosperity. We expect the Net Zero Task Force to play a critical role in ensuring and enabling industry and trade with investment and supply chain opportunities for our domestic and regional private sector players.”

Oil and gas decarbonisation accelerator takes off

The COP28 Presidency and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today made another key announcement on the launch of the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter, an initiative of the newly launched Global Decarbonisation Accelerator (GDA).

The charter was joined by 50 oil and gas companies and it is intended to promote high-scale impact and speed up climate action within the oil and gas industry.

The three pillars of the GDA are:

  • rapidly scaling the energy system of tomorrow
  • decarbonising the energy system of today
  • targeting methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases

COP28 president Al Jaber said: “The launch of the OGDC is a great first step – and whilst many national oil companies have adopted net-zero 2050 targets for the first time, I know that they and others, can and need to do more. We need the entire industry to keep 1.5C within reach and set even stronger ambitions for decarbonisation.”

Food and agriculture declaration backed by $2.5bn

Over 130 countries signed up to the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action on Friday, the first COP resolution to address food emissions and call for a food system transformation. It is intended to address global emissions while protecting the lives and livelihoods of farmers on the frontlines of climate change.

Initiatives that fall under the declaration include a $200m partnership between the UAE and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – it covers food systems innovation and technical assistance to implement the declaration. 

During the launch of the declaration, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE minister of climate change and environment and COP28 food systems lead, stated more than $2.5bn has been mobilised by the global community to support the food-climate agenda.

The signatories represent over 5.7 billion people, 70% of the food consumed globally, nearly 500 million farmers and 76% of total emissions from the global food system.

Anita Krajnc, global campaign coordinator at The Plant Based Treaty, said the declaration could put dietary change at the centre of climate talks: “Global per capita meat, dairy and egg consumption has been accelerating since the 1950s contributing to the breach of five planetary boundaries, specifically climate change, land-use change, biodiversity, phosphorus and nitrogen, and water use. We now want to see bold and urgent national and city action plans for shifting towards plant-based food before COP30.”