Articles - COP28 may be do or die for one point five degree aspirations

With the UN’s annual climate conference kicking off today in Dubai, Ritchie Thomson, senior responsible investment associate at Aegon Asset Management, says that COP28 may be the last chance to keep to the 1.5°C aspiration of the Paris Agreement. In the UN Environment Programme’s recently published UN Emissions Gap Report (aptly sub-titled Broken Record), it reports that global greenhouse gas emissions reached new highs in 2022. On top of this, 2023 is now almost certain to become the hottest year on record.

 Given this backdrop, many believe that this year’s COP may be the last chance to keep to the 1.5°C aspiration of the Paris Agreement. According to Thomson, this belief is “not unreasonable”.

 This year’s location (in one of the world’s largest oil-producing countries) and the president of the discussions (chief exec of the state-owned oil company, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber) are both controversial. Just this week, leaked briefing documents reportedly revealed that the UAE had planned to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 nations at the climate talks.

 As well as formally chairing the UNFCCC negotiations, the host country also has the opportunity to influence wider international debate around climate change.

 With this in mind, Thomson outlines some of the key issues to watch out for at this year’s conference, focusing on three topics that are central to the objectives of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and climate finance.


 “The key discussion point for this year’s COP28 is likely to be around the results of the first Global Stocktake (GST) and what this will mean in terms of strengthening climate action. The GST was established under the Paris Agreement and is designed to assess how well we’re doing, at a global level, on meeting the objectives that were set. In September, the UNFCCC published its GST synthesis report which outlined progress made so far and areas for future development.

 “The report’s findings weren’t encouraging, with its key conclusion being: “While action is proceeding, much more is needed now on all fronts”. It highlighted the need for countries to increase both the strength of their targets within their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and their implementation plans to meet them. In terms of implementation actions, the importance of system transformation across all sectors was emphasised, including the scaling up of renewables and phase out of all “unabated” fossil fuels.

 “In his Letter to Parties, Dr. Al Jaber set out tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030 as required mitigation outcomes, as well as the accelerated phasedown rather than phase-out of unabated fossil fuel use. This last point on fossil fuel phasedown versus full phase-out is likely to generate much debate within the negotiations.”


 “An important outcome of last year’s COP in Egypt was the loss and damage fund, supporting adaptation and resilience to the effects of climate change. However, details on its practical implementation (for example, its scope, which countries would be covered, and where the finance comes from) were lacking. Governments now need to agree on these points at COP28.

 “In addition, a key objective of the Paris Agreement in terms of adaptation is to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to future climate change. Governments are due to adopt a framework for achieving this objective to provide greater clarity on what it means in practice and how progress can be measured.”

 Climate finance

 “On climate finance more generally, a constant source of frustration among developing countries has been the failure of developed countries to meet the $100bn annual funding target agreed in 2009. The deadline for an agreement on a new target isn’t until next year’s COP, but significant progress on this target is expected in Dubai.

 “There is often a degree of cynicism around climate COPs, particularly due to the perceived lack of progress in some previous conferences, but international co-operation is vital if we are to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

 “The pace of transition can be materially increased by greater international co-operation, which can lead to faster innovation, realising greater economies of scale and levelling the playing field for climate solutions in competitive international markets. These factors in turn support long-term corporate investment.”

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