The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the collection of 198 nations that signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) over 30 years ago. The UNFCCC is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The overarching aim of these three agreements is to prevent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from reaching concentrations that will lead to irreparable damage to humanity and global ecosystems. With 2030 rapidly approaching, along with a multitude of climate target deadlines, this year's conference, COP28, will have a strong focus on progress since previous years and the implementation of established and upcoming policies.
Overview of COP28
COP28 marks the UN's 28th annual climate summit, with over 190 nations expected to attend. The event, commencing today, is being hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and will last until 12th December. Last year, there was significant debate about the Loss and Damages Fund for vulnerable countries, the UN Early Warnings for All Action Plan, climate finance and the energy transition away from fossil fuels, amongst others. Everyone is awaiting updates on each of these with the phasing-out of coal, the operationalising of the Loss and Damage Fund and the Global Stocktake, at the forefront of discussion.
The Global Stocktake
It is becoming all too common for promises and pledges to be forgotten after the excitement of the conference dies down. The WWF has recently confirmed (24th October) that deforestation
has increased by 4% between 2021 and 2022 despite 140 nations committing to halt and reverse forest loss at COP26. The Global Stocktake poses renewed accountability to accelerate changes towards a low carbon future. Article 14 from the Paris Agreement calls for an inventory of the progress made by countries and stakeholders to assess their progress towards the goal of remaining under a 1.5 C temperature rise.
The stocktake is a 2-year inventory that is to be repeated every 5 years, helping to bridge the gap between fanciful goal setting and effective, targeted policies that will have real impact. The idea is that any gaps, areas of weakness and neglect will be exposed, informing decisions regarding the effectiveness of current and new policies to be amended/strengthened for the next round of climate action. National legislation can then be tailored to address the specific requirements to cut emissions for each country.
The Energy Transition
Switching to renewable energy is a necessary step in aligning with the 1.5 temperature rise goal of the Paris Agreement. However, the parties at COP27 failed to commit to decisive action with over half of the countries refusing to support a call to wind down the use of all fossil fuels  including this year’s host, the UAE. The watered-down decisions of last year will need to be strengthened, with lots of debate regarding the phasing-out of all coal and 'inefficient subsidiaries', to ensue as a starting point. Despite stalling over gas, oil and coal reductions, there has been growing ambition for scaling up renewable energy capacity.
Over 60 countries are set to support an agreement to push for tripling renewable energy this decade. The UAE has been a key driver in rallying support for this and so the outlook seems promising. A draft of the pledge also pushed to double energy efficiency to a 4% improvement per year , further cutting global emissions.
Loss and Damage Fund
The Loss and Damage Fund was a contentious agreement established at COP27. It is designed to provide financial compensation to developing countries experiencing devastation caused by climate change, e.g. rising sea-levels and extreme weather events. This allows for vulnerable countries that require aid to be supported by wealthier, high-emitting countries so that countries such as Pakistan, who has experienced US$30 billion due to climate related flooding but only generates <1% of global greenhouse gas emissions , can recover.
A list of recommendations will be put forward at COP28 outlining how to make the fund operational; this must be approved by the parties at the conference so progress can be made towards implementation. Details to be considered include how the funds will be raised, what is a realistic target and how will they be mobilised when required.
Adaption and Protecting Human Lives
For the first time, a whole day of the conference focused on protecting lives and communities has been scheduled into the summit. Talks during ‘Health Day’ on 3rd December 2022 will focus on the following topics:
- Effect of climate change on human health
- How mitigation can save lives
- Requirements, challenges and best practices for resilient healthcare systems
- Adaption measures to reduce climate change induced health problems
- Taking action to reduce both emissions and societal harm
The anticipated outcome of the first Climate-Health Ministerial is a roadmap outlining strategies and opportunities to increase the climate-resilience of healthcare systems and protect lives. Additionally, a political declaration will be made to determine the member states priorities regarding health and climate change and to encourage the inclusion of health within the mitigation and adaption agenda.
Scaling up renewable energy, providing relief for vulnerable countries and driving sustainable, resilient development all comes at a cost. Estimations vary, but there is no uncertainty that it will be in the region of trillions of dollars per year. Determining the source of this financing is a huge problem that needs addressing. The spending of this money broadly falls into mitigation and climate adaption, with the Loss and Damage Fund being a new addition.
COP27 was meant to develop a quantified strategy to replace the unsuccessful US$100 billion annual target previously made but instead was pushed forward to this COP. Likewise, carbon markets, trading systems for carbon credits, will need further definition as there is significant concern that this will promote greenwashing as opposed to having the intended impact. This system has been generated alongside Emission Trading Schemes (ETS) which put a cap on emissions and require excess carbon to be paid for via carbon credits, which offset the emissions.
Transparency is key to reduce the possibility of double-counting, human rights abuses and misleading marketing. Countries must ensure that any emissions reductions and removals they purchase are real and align with their targets. Once the details have been ironed out, the benefits of carbon markets are significant. By putting a price on emissions and reducing the cap over time, businesses will be faced with their impact and swayed to choose cheaper, lower emission pathways.
NUS will be monitoring the outcomes of COP28 - keep an eye on our LinkedIn page and the NUS Energy Blog for updates.
More: Energy Market Commentary, COP28
-  What you need to know about the COP27 Loss and Damage Fund (unep.org)
-  Late-night fossil fuel fight leaves bitter taste after Cop27 (climatechangenews.com)
-  Exclusive: Over 60 countries back deal to triple renewable energy this decade -officials | Reuters