Tim Mohin: COP28 Opens with Optimism
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Another COP – Conference of the Parties – is upon us. As the 28th COP gets underway, climate negotiators from nearly 200 nations are arriving for two weeks of negotiations on what more needs to be done to stave off catastrophic warming. Having been to a few of these meetings, they seem to get larger every year, with estimates for this year’s meeting in Dubai topping 70,000.
U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry set the tone on day one, saying “We hope we can send a very strong signal that the nations of the world are committed to work together to transition away from fossil fuel emissions in the next three decades.”
Optimistic words indeed – and the negotiators did not disappoint. The event led off with an agreement on the blueprint for “Loss and Damage” compensation for less developed nations ravaged by the effects of climate change – receiving a standing ovation. The fund is aimed at ensuring climate justice by helping less developed nations that contributed least to climate change adapt to its repercussions, and is a tangible success right out of the gate. High-emitting nations, such as the US, China, and Saudi Arabia, are expected to contribute to this fund, originally conceived at last year’s COP meeting.
There are miles to go before we know the outcome of this meeting, but this report by colleague Edmond Rhys Jones revealed the key takeaways from the “Global Stocktake,” which found that the Paris Agreement (COP 21) reduced projected global average temperature rise by 1-2°C.
Three additional encouraging things to start this meeting:
- 1.5°C still in reach: Despite research indicating we only have a 14% likelihood of keeping warming below 1.5°C, and 2023 being confirmed as the hottest year ever – clocking in at 1.4°C above pre-industrial temperatures. In an interview with the Guardian on the eve of the event, COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber claimed that a deal to keep 1.5°C hopes alive is within reach, with talks leading up to the event showing that an “unprecedented outcome” is still possible
- US and China collaboration: In our last edition, we reported on the agreement between China and the US called the Sunnylands Statement. US Climate Envoy John Kerry doubled down on the commitment of the two countries to cooperate this week, saying, “We have decided to actually work together to get a successful COP.”
- Deforestation, renewables, and fossil fuels: On the mitigation side, a series of promising deals look likely. At COP26 in Glasgow, 145 countries set a goal to end deforestation by 2030, and it looks likely that Brazil will make a great contribution to that goal, setting up a huge fund to protect the Amazon. Also, an agreement to triple renewable energies by 2030 looks all but finalized. Lastly, there is renewed hope to reach agreements on the most contentious issues of ending fossil fuel subsidies and “phasing out” fossil fuels.
While there are reasons for pessimism, this year’s COP begins with an upswell of positivity. This optimism was expressed in an NYT article by David Gelles. He said, “Practically every day, there are encouraging new signs that after decades of dithering, the world is finally getting more serious about tackling climate change,” as he listed a series of positive trends.
A Swath of Green Investments in Africa
Although Africa currently contributes only 4% of global emissions, building clean energy infrastructure is essential as the continent rapidly develops. A swath of new green investments will help – Germany pledged 4 billion Euros for African clean energy through 2030. This investment comes shortly after COP28 host, the United Arab Emirates, committed to investing $4.5 billion into Africa to accelerate clean energy projects.
Most African countries share the ambition to industrialize cleanly. Mozambique announced an ambitious $80 billion energy transition plan while looking for donors at COP28. The African Group of Negotiators (AGN) will use COP28 to propose that developed nations stop investing in fossil fuel projects by 2030.