In years to come, I believe commentators will view COP28 UAE as one of the most important climate summits in history. After significant toing and froing in the lead-up to the conference’s conclusion, national delegations worked through the night to strike a breakthrough deal – one which achieved the first-ever global consensus on the transition away from fossil fuels.
This year’s conference was held for the first time in Dubai, UAE, and it was heartening to see our entire nation get behind the event. Yet again, the Conference of the Parties provided us with much-needed hope in the fight against climate change, and the Emirates played a central role in the proceedings.
Though COP28 is likely to be remembered for the signing of its historic global pledge, Expo City Dubai provided the backdrop for a raft of other milestone climate-related achievements. This year’s event witnessed 11 declarations and $57 billion in new pledges during its first four days alone, providing a forum for countless hard-hitting and vital conversations and offering plenty of goals to reflect on and work towards.
So, now that the dust has settled, here are my five key takeaways from COP28…
Cleaner and more efficient energy
To cut the share of fossil fuels in the world’s energy production, governments worldwide have developed and agreed to initiatives which will reduce the use of fossil fuels. Led by the UAE, the European Union and the United States, the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge is reported to be one of the most supported initiatives to date.
Delegates succeeded in mobilising $2.5 billion for renewable energy, while $1.2 billion was earmarked for methane emission reductions. As well as these amazing achievements, $568 million was pledged to drive investments in clean energy manufacturing – again, all within the first four days of the summit!
To say that COP28 enjoyed a promising start would be an understatement.
Loss and damage funding
COP28 also saw the development of a loss and damage fund for underdeveloped countries to better deal with the impacts of climate breakdown. This agreement, which took place on the opening day of the summit, elicited a standing ovation from delegates, which just goes to highlight the magnitude of this milestone. Money allocated as part of this fund will go towards vulnerable communities and locations at risk of being hit by extreme weather events, such as storms and floods.
It was also encouraging to see the UAE pledge $100 million to this fund – money that will no doubt positively impact many lives around the planet. I have been in favour of loss and damage funding since initial talks took place at COP27, and it’s great that our nation is leading the way with such a meaningful pledge. The UAE also committed $200 million to climate resilience in vulnerable countries and $150m for water security. I look forward to seeing these generous contributions take effect over the coming years.
Financial backing for climate action, which has a key role to play in promoting a more sustainable, carbon-neutral world, represented another major focus during this year’s summit. The UAE pledged $270 billion in green finance through its banks, which will help fund climate-related projects around the world.
The Emirates also launched a $30 billion catalytic fund, ALTÉRRA, which will be allocated to climate strategies and investment flows into the Global South. Appropriate levels of funding could mean the difference between the worsening of climate change and a more sustainable planet, so it’s inspiring to see the UAE leading the charge with a pledge that will do so much for so many people.
A focus on health
It was also great to see that climate-related health issues were a key topic at COP28 – an issue that I feel has been overlooked for some time. Climate change is known to exacerbate existing health issues, such as malnutrition and heat stress, while creating new public health concerns. General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), took centre stage during the summit to highlight this important issue, telling delegates that serious talks around environmental health were long overdue.
The introduction of the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health demonstrates that the international community is now taking the threat of climate-related health issues seriously. I, for one, am proud that the Emirates played such an integral role in bringing this issue to the fore.
Last but certainly not least, COP28 saw the signing of a landmark agreement to “transition away” from fossil fuels during the current decade. While international consensus on the “phasing out” of oil, gas and coal ultimately proved too divisive, this historic pledge nevertheless marks the first occasion on which all nations have reached a shared agreement to move away from fossil fuels.
This global consensus will be facilitated by other agreements struck during the conference, such as the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter (OGDC), which was launched by the COP28 Presidency and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to speed up climate action within the petrochemical sector. So far, 50 companies – representing more than 40% of global oil production – have signed this initiative, a major boost for global ‘net zero by 2050’ targets. Without the opportunity for so many delegates and leaders to collaborate, this charter may have never seen the light of day, which highlights just how effective COP28 proved to be.
I’m thrilled that Dubai and our fellow Emirates have done such an excellent job of uniting the world for this urgent cause. Given the historic progress that has been made this year, I am more optimistic than ever that COP29 can build on the many milestones achieved by COP28 delegates and the UAE.
It is now up to the international community to walk the walk after talking the talk. As Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President of COP28, pointed out following the signing of the milestone global pledge: “An agreement is only as good as its implementation… We are what we do, not what we say.”