G20 Information Centre
COP28 Proved It Could #UniteActDeliver
Ella Kokotsis, director of accountability, G7 and G20 Research Groups,
and director of external and public Affairs, Global Governance Project
December 22, 2023
With the gavel having come down at the meeting of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dubai on December 12, 2023, there has been some time to reflect on the conflicting narratives that emerged about its performance. If a commitment to phase out fossil fuels was the defining element of COP28's overall success, then climate critics would argue that the UAE Consensus failed to deliver. This narrow view, however, fails to account for the historic agreement of 198 countries, for the first time in the COPs' history, to "transition away from fossil fuels." Whether or not language around a phaseout was circumvented to appease the petrostate neighbours of the United Arab Emirates, the inclusion of that phrase has been hailed as a critical step in the eventual move to eliminate hydrocarbon emissions.
To view the UAE Consensus language on fossil fuels as a clear distinction between COP28's overall success and failure diminishes the significance of issues on which COP28 was able to deliver several consequential outcomes.
On day one of the negotiations, public and private climate financing pledges totalling $792 million were made for the Loss and Damage Fund, aimed at supporting the most vulnerable countries build climate resilience.
Days later, the Global Methane Pledge was signed by 150 countries, with a goal of reducing human-created methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. This was endorsed by 50 oil companies, representing nearly half of global production, which agreed to achieve near zero methane emissions from their operations by 2030.
In addition, 118 countries signed the Global Pledge on Renewables and Energy Efficiency, committing to "triple the world's installed renewable energy generation capacity" and double energy efficiency globally by 2030. In doing so, they committed to place energy efficiency as the "first fuel" at the core of their planning, investing and policymaking decisions.
The Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) acquired 13 new members, bringing the total membership to 165. Founded in 2017 by Canada and the United Kingdom at COP23 in Bonn, the PPCA works with governments, businesses and organizations in transitioning away from unabated coal-powered generation. The inclusion of nine new countries to the PPCA, including the United States, United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Iceland, Kosovo, Malta and Norway, is a testament to COP28's push to end unabated new coal-powered generation and phase out existing plants in line with the goal of the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement.
The United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada and Japan and 16 other countries signed a declaration calling to triple nuclear power generation capacity as a means of reaching carbon neutrality by mid-century. The declaration called on responsible countries to "explore new civil nuclear deployment under the highest standards of safety, sustainability, security, and non-proliferation."
For the first time at a COP, a "Health Day" showcased the impact pathways between climate change and human health. In highlighting the needs and best practices for strengthening the climate resilience of health systems, this historic climate-health nexus identified how scaling adaptation and mitigation measures are critical in addressing the impacts of climate change on all aspects of human mental and physical well-being.
Another first was delivered through the Declaration of Resilient Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture. Signed by 159 countries, this declaration pledges to "promote sustainable food security, production and nutrition" while "conserving, protecting and restoring nature." The progress made by these signatories to expedite the integration of agriculture and food systems into their national climate action plans is set for review next year at COP29, hosted by Azerbaijan.
And COP28's Global Stocktake presented the first opportunity for countries and stakeholders to assess their collective progress in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. Discussions were intended to identify opportunities, best practices, challenges and policy outcomes with a view of helping governments prepare more ambitious climate action plans, due in 2025.
The final UAE Consensus text reflects the international community's resolve to push for a 1.5°C-aligned outcome by making explicit the need to reach peak emissions by 2025, substantially reducing non–carbon dioxide emissions (including methane) by 2030, and ultimately hitting net zero by 2050.
With one compelling scientific report following another to highlight the worsening global climate crisis, the international community converged at COP28 on a shared goal of accelerating renewable adoption, transitioning away from fossil fuels and radically scaling up climate finance. In this respect, COP28's tag line to #UniteActDeliver should be celebrated as a historic moment in the world's collective will to advance progress on the most significant existential threat of our time.
In my next post, I will explore how the G7 and G20 can follow up on COP28 by the next COP in Baku in 2024.
[back to top]Ella Kokotsis, PhD, is director of accountability of the G20 and G7 Research Groups based at the University of Toronto and director of external and public affairs for the Global Governance Project. She has attended most G7 summits since 1994, has written broadly on various aspects of summitry and global governance, has directed the research and publication of numerous analytical documents, and has spoken extensively at summit-related conferences world-wide. Her most recent articles on G7 and G20 performance on energy are available in G20 India: The 2023 New Delhi Summit and G7 Japan: The 2023 Hiroshima Summit. She is co-author, with John Kirton and Brittaney Warren, of Reconfiguring the Global Governance of Climate Change and, with John Kirton, of The Global Governance of Climate Change: G7, G20 and UN Leadership. She holds a PhD in political science from the University of Toronto.
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