As of 30 November 2023, the world gathered in Dubai for the COP28 climate summit. More than 100.000 visitors won’t leave the summit empty handed: all 198 countries have reached an agreement regarding the gradual transition from the use of fossil fuels. 

This year, COP brought together the largest number of world leaders, policymakers, industry innovators and environmentalists to date, to exchange ideas and formulate strategies on how to tackle climate change. The key themes for this year were: energy transition; accelerating innovation and the nexus of climate and nature.

The European Union, acting jointly at UN summits, had two key objectives beforehand: a statement on discontinuing the use of fossil fuels and a tripling of sustainable energy. They have achieved success on both fronts. Whilst the deal is great news from a climate negotiation perspective, more action is needed to tackle climate change. Our experts Marwa Mahmoud, Manager of Climate Risk & Decarbonization Strategies, and Charbel Moussa, Partner of Decarbonization & Climate Risk, were both on the ground at COP28 and share their reflections on this outcome.

Calls for transition from fossil fuels recognized

This deal signifies the first time calls for a transition from fossil fuels have been recognized officially in a global climate agreement, according to Charbel. The agreement also calls on actions to accelerate energy transition, such as tripling renewable energy, doubling energy efficiency by 2030, and accelerating the deployment of zero and low-carbon technologies. It highlights the solutions needed (renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies, and low-carbon hydrogen production) to get to net zero by 2050.

Many countries wanted a stronger reference within the agreement to ‘phase-down’ or ‘phase-out’ of fossil fuel. Marwa states that the text was watered down several times and of course the fossil fuel community had strong objections against it. Charbel notes that such demands have always been very sensitive in previous COPs, with strong objections to referencing fossil fuels.

'Phase-down / phase-out'

While the agreed upon text does not include the 'phase-down / phase-out' language, it is a compromise between 200 countries, including ones with economies fully reliant on oil and gas. It is the first time we have an agreement with a clear text on 'transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade'.

Marwa: “It is indeed a very big achievement that fossil fuels are mentioned clearly, and tripling renewable energy capacity and all of the nice things mentioned above, but I believe many of us were looking for more binding and stronger text.”

Charbel agrees on the need of stronger commitments and actions, but concludes that climate negotiations are about momentum building. Charbel: “This is a step in the right direction. Definitely more is needed. Right now it is up to the countries and governments to translate this agreement in national policies and regulations, and for the private sector to demonstrate which zero and low-carbon solutions are already viable, investable and scalable.” 

More information on COP28

We'll be sharing further insights on the outcomes of COP28 in January. In the meantime of course, feel free to reach out to our experts. 

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