Why We’re Daring To Hope For An Ambitious Outcome At COP28María Mendiluce
This piece first appeared in Forbes.
Headlines coming out of COP28 suggest an agreement to phase out fossil fuels is top of the agenda at the climate conference in Dubai. There is a real sense of hope that momentum for ending the world’s addiction to oil, coal and gas is growing, as businesses and politicians show they are ready to back an ambitious COP28 declaration.
It is important to highlight that the conference has already achieved several wins. The agreement on the loss and damage fund on the first day of COP28 was a historic moment. There is still a long way to go, but countries are stepping up to ensure poorer nations will receive the support they need to better cope with the impacts of climate change.
In one of the most widely supported initiatives, and signalling the ambition and tone of COP28, 118 governments pledged to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030. Led by the European Union, United States and UAE, the commitment is being seen as a route to cut the share of fossil fuels in the world’s energy production and phase out fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest.
The UAE’s declaration on sustainable food and farming systems, signed by over 130 countries, is also a good step in the right direction to begin to reduce emissions from food systems.
These agreements are proof that COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber wants climate action and is more than capable of bringing countries together to achieve significant outcomes.
There is also considerable support at COP28 for a fossil fuel phase out. As we enter the second week of negotiations in Dubai, over 100 countries have expressed support for this call, and my meetings with high level political leaders leave me convinced the majority of attendees have high ambitions for this summit and its final outcome.
Yet this will require all countries to agree, and a handful of them – including Saudi Arabia – might block it. What is particularly interesting is to see so many oil-producing countries understanding the inevitability of the energy transition and working to manage it in an orderly transition.
Further, over 800 leaders from the worlds of business, finance and politics, plus scientists, health professionals, indigenous peoples and faith leaders, including the CEOs of over 300 companies, have published a call for a 1.5C-aligned outcome at the end of the summit “because later is too late”.
Al Jaber referred to these demands on Friday morning to make the point that expectations around the COP28 are high. “This is the challenge that parties must rise to against the clock,” he said. “It is fast-moving and we need to adapt and shift gears and move even faster.”
Many businesses, and even industries that have historically emitted high levels of emissions, are voicing their readiness and willingness to work to bring their activities in line with what science shows must happen to keep global warming below the most dangerous levels. These companies realise there is a first mover advantage to acting now to reduce emissions and to transition to cleaner production methods.
And companies want to do business in countries offering stable regulatory frameworks aligned with international, science-based, climate goals. These firms are in a race to the top and want regulation that helps them to win by encouraging innovation and rewarding climate action, rather than laws that ignore reality, opening the door for shocks further down the line.
Al Jaber is a skilled businessman who wants to deliver a COP that is “unprecedented”. This attitude, in conjunction with a real understanding among the majority of political and business leaders about the need for an ambitious climate deal, offers some genuine hope for the outcome of the negotiations.