As negotiations conclude and agreements are signed, another COP comes to an end. Parties came together in Dubai for COP28 to discuss climate action with the overarching aim of limiting global temperature rise below 1.5°C. The topic at the forefront of discussions this year was the energy sector and limiting fossil fuel use. Agreements were made, but is it enough?
The climate talks resulted in a non-binding agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. This year, the conference featured a global stocktake which shows countries and stakeholders their progress towards the goals set through the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The stocktake takes into account scientific evidence that indicates greenhouse gas emissions globally need to be cut by 43% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels. With this information, the stocktake calls on Parties to take action towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals. To do this, a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling of energy efficiency improvements by 2030 need to be implemented on a global scale. This initiative was one of the most widely supported at the conference, with 118 countries signing a pledge to meet those energy needs, but the feasibility of achieving this goal is challenging. If the target is to be reached, governments and financial institutions need to greatly increase investments and address the high cost of capital associated with renewable energy projects, specifically in developing nations. All Parties are encouraged to come forward with ambitious, economy-wide emission reduction targets, specifically focused on greenhouse gases, in their next nationally determined contributions by 2025.
It was agreed upon by all parties that to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement there would be a transition away from fossil fuels. Despite this being a historic outcome, many climate advocates are not content with it. This is due in part to the language used in the “Outcome of the First Global Stocktake.” The document explicitly states “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems” rather than phasing them out completely. This language matters as the idea of transitioning away is not as binding as phasing out.
Professor Joeri Rogelj, professor of Climate Science & Policy and director of research at the Grantham Institute, explains that “The COP28 outcome only describes partial measures in very vague and non-committal terms. This leaves lots of room for interpretation which will have to be dealt with in the years to come. While the COP28 outcome is a step in the right direction, it is also a hesitant and insufficient step. It is far from clear that this will keep global warming within the safety limits set out by the Paris Agreement.” At this rate, the goals of the Paris Agreement will not be met and we must adapt to a warmer future. This result is a step in the right direction, but will only be impactful if Parties follow through with ambitious goals to transition away from fossil fuels.
Transitioning away from fossil fuels presents an opportunity to scale up renewable energy and make the global energy sector more circular. Renewable energy is one of the main pillars of the circular economy. It acts as a key aspect of producing circular products and resources, as it helps in reducing the environmental impact of energy production and contributes to the sustainability of the overall system, but this is only if renewable energy is used for every part of the supply chain.