COP28: Progress and Controversy


By Emil Bjerg, journalist and editor

For the first time in the 28 years of international climate summits, an agreement has been reached to start transitioning away from fossil fuels. We’ve gathered what you need to know about the COP28 in Dubai.

“I must say, that you did it: you delivered” Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 president, told delegates after the parties  “this is a true victory of multilateralism.”

This Wednesday the conference, which saw intense negotiations going into overtime, culminated in an agreement that, for the first time in UN climate history, calls for a transition away from fossil fuels.

The road to get there was long and difficult – and the conference not without its controversy. The appointment of Sultan Al Jaber, an oil executive, as COP28 president raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest.

Controversies over oil and other fossil fuels became the central point of discussion in this years summit.

According to Reuters, the United Arab Emirates, as the host country and a significant oil producer, came under pressure from other major oil-producing nations, such as Saudi Arabia, to avoid explicitly mentioning fossil fuels in the agreement.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was notably against the proposal to phase out fossil fuels. During the summit, the oil lobby organization warned that “pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences”. This stance highlighted deep divisions at the summit, as a significant number of countries, at least 80, demanded an agreement calling for an end to the use of fossil fuels.

After days of intense intense negotiations, the countries participating in the summit commits to: “Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

Criticisms Over Loopholes

However, the agreement stopped short of a more assertive “phaseout” of oil, coal, and gas, leaving a mix of reactions among participants and observers.

The agreement has been criticized for its lack of clarity, which some fear might leave room for continued influence by fossil fuel interests. “The Alliance of Small Island States, who are experiencing effects of climate change more dramatically than anyone, called the agreement a ‘litany of loopholes’.

Operationalization of Damage and Repair

Despite these criticisms, COP28 made notable progress on other fronts.

The COP28 climate conference marked a significant milestone with the operationalization of the “loss and damage” fund, a key agreement initially reached during COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. This fund aims to assist developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The fund seeks to provide financial assistance for mitigation and recovery efforts in these communities​​.

The United Arab Emirates, the host nation for COP28, announced a commitment of $100 million to the fund. This contribution set a precedent for other nations to follow, with several countries making notable commitments. For instance, Germany also pledged $100 million, the United Kingdom committed £40 million directly to the fund (and an additional £20 million for other related arrangements), Japan contributed $10 million, China the same amount and the United States committed $17.5 million​​​​​​.

Discussions over a loss and damage fund have held back progress in previous climate summits. The operationalization of the loss and damage fund therefore signifies an vital step towards acknowledging and addressing the disproportionate impact of climate change on less developed nations – even if the pledges fall short of the estimated $400 billion annual damage caused by climate change.

Other notable results

COP28 marked several significant achievements that went beyond the main headlines. Here are some of the key outcomes and initiatives that have received as less attention but are vital in the context of global climate action and collaboration:

  • Climate Finance: The UAE President announced a $30 billion fund for global climate solutions, aiming to attract $250 billion of investment by the end of the decade. The fund is designed to bridge the climate financing gap and facilitate affordable access to climate solutions. It aims to stimulate the raising and investment of $250 billion by 2030.
  • Renewable Energy Commitments: A major agreement at COP28 was the commitment by 118 countries to triple renewable power generation capacity to 11,000 GW and double energy efficiency – within this decade. This target supports the ambitions to phase out fossil fuels and can contribute to a positive ‘tipping point’, making renewable energy price competitive over fossil fuels.
  • Methane Reduction: Fifty oil and gas companies pledged to achieve near-zero methane emissions by 2030 and committed to submitting a plan to meet these targets by 2025. This is a significant step considering methane’s potency as a greenhouse gas.
  • Food and Agriculture: Over 130 countries signed a declaration to include emissions from agriculture and farming in their national plans to tackle climate change. Additionally, leading food and agriculture organizations joined forces to scale regenerative agriculture, partnering with millions of farmers to transition over 160 million hectares to protect soil and limit carbon emissions.
  • Progress on the Paris Agreement: COP28 concluded the first assessment of each state’s progress towards reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. These assessments are crucial in evaluating how far countries have come in their efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

These outcomes from COP28 seems to reflect a growing global consensus on the urgent need for climate action across various sectors and indicate a shift towards more sustainable and climate-resilient practices worldwide.

The ‘UAE Consensus,’ as named by Sultan Al Jabber, signifies the historic impact many observers hope COP28 will have. Time, along with the climate action inspired by the agreement, will tell if the ‘UAE Consensus’ will go dow in the books with the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol. However, despite the critiques that the framework has met, this years summit does place itself among the more productive in recent climate discussions.


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