COP28 will be the third Conference of Parties I have reported on the ground from for ESG Clarity, and it is the one I am most concerned about.
Apart from the loss and damage fund, little was agreed last year, as we predicted. But this year has the potential to do worse than nothing – it could move us backwards.
Sultan Al Jaber’s appointment as COP president has been widely criticised for bringing the position of the UAE – a big oil and gas producer – into the fold. Earlier this week, UN former climate chief Christiana Figueres, who was involved in delivering the Paris Agreement, said the UAE’s approach to the conference was “very dangerous” and “very worrisome”.
The appointment of former fossil fuel executives to the COP28 advisory board and the reported invitation of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of crimes against humanity, have also drawn criticism.
What does this mean for the investment industry? Many asset management firms that manage sustainable, responsible or ESG funds are concerned with the idea of excluding high emitters from their portfolios altogether. As Canaccord analyst Tom Hibbert told ESG Clarity: “Outright exclusion is counterproductive. It passes on the ownership of those companies to investors who have no interest in ESG integration and achieves very little. We need to engage with these companies to facilitate a switch to a cleaner economy.”
The International Energy Agency has said new fossil fuel projects begun after 2021 are not compatible with reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, but investors face the conundrum of how best to transition existing high-emitting sectors. Will this COP’s focus on a “phase down” provide any clarity?
This year we’re launching our Countdown to COP28 series with six months to go until the summit, and will be sending one newsletter a month until discussions begin on 30 November. In today’s first edition, sentiment is already sceptical, with Square Mile’s Jake Moeller questioning what it will take for agreements to stick and the Global Returns Project’s Jack Chellman saying the cyclical nature of the conferences aren’t maximising climate impact.
The focus on voluntary carbon markets at COP27 seems set to continue, and ESG Clarity has spoken to VCMI executive director Mark Kenber about integrity and progress on these markets at this year’s conference.
We’ll be monitoring the developments closely, and again bringing you coverage on the ground. Look out for our Countdown emails in your inbox and we look forward to seeing many of you there.