COP28 kicked off this week in Dubai, with leaders from around the world gathering to negotiate global climate treaties on issues ranging from carbon markets to climate finance.
With a reported 70,000 attendees and state officials coming and going for the many summits scheduled alongside the U.N. negotiations over the next two weeks, it’s unrealistic to expect to stay abreast of every moment of the annual gathering.
We’ve compiled a condensed list of important dialogues and developments that executives, board members and sustainability executives can use as a filter.
A global system for carbon credit verification
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement allows countries to transfer carbon credits they have accumulated from domestic greenhouse gas emissions mitigation efforts — such as reforestation or forest protection — to other countries that need help meeting their own climate targets. The framework for Article 6 was officially approved at COP26 in Glasgow, with the exception of one crucial component: a carbon credit verification system.
Carbon credits sold on existing voluntary and compliance markets are verified by private third parties before their ultimate sale. But no global standard guides these processes, which leaves the crediting system vulnerable to fluctuations in valuation and the potential for greenwashing when accounting for them.
The ultimate outcome of the Article 6 discussions will affect billions of dollars of carbon credits. Globally, project developers will suddenly have a larger playing field.
The push for a fossil fuel phaseout, while tripling renewables production
COP28’s location in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates has hypercharged the debate over the speed of the world's phase-out of fossil fuels.
The European Union, U.S. and many climate-vulnerable nations — including Chile, Kenya, and several small island nations — are prioritizing a proposal to commit to a total phaseout of fossil fuels. France, supported by the U.S., plans to call for a ban on private financing for coal-based power plants.
Alongside the fossil fuels discussion, the COP28 presidency, the International Renewable Energy Agency and Global Renewables Alliance have released a call to triple global renewable energy output by 2030, a measure considered by many countries.
Addressing methane pollution
Mitigating and eliminating methane pollution — a highly potent and short-lived greenhouse gas — is another big focus at COP28. A Global Methane Pledge was first launched at COP26, with over 150 signatory countries agreeing to voluntarily help cut methane pollution 30 percent by 2030.
Sometime during the COP28 proceedings, the World Bank is expected to announce a new fund dedicated to methane leak detection technology in developing countries, with the independent backing of some oil and gas companies. The U.S. and China plan to host a Methane and Non-CO2 Gases Summit on Dec. 2, and China has pledged to include methane in its 2035 climate plan for the first time.
Official representation by ‘subnational’ delegates
For the first time at a COP gathering, subnational representatives such as mayors and governors will compose a global delegation for the Local Climate Action Summit. The aim of the gathering Dec. 1 and 2 is to facilitate a dialogue between subnational and national leaders that leads to tangible climate action at the local level.
This unprecedented meeting will address the activation of smaller-scale — think city-wide — sustainable financial mechanisms that could have an impact at the global level. The topics will also center on how to adapt local climate policy and replicate it around the globe, and how to fast track the scaleup of strategies currently in play at the local level.
A call for more climate finance
It’s estimated that the world needs to spend $4 trillion annually through 2030 for a global transition to a clean economy. Neither developed nor developing nations have the funds or political power to invest that entire amount, and inspiring more private sector investments is a major goal in Dubai.
At the center of the discussion is the "loss and damage" fund approved at COP27 in Egypt to help poor, vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters made worse by GHG emitted by industrialized nations.
Developing countries proposed a fund of at least $100 billion by 2030, but negotiations to make that a reality as recently as the beginning of November fell flat. Those same countries calculated that it will take at least $200 billion every year by 2030 for certain nations to adapt infrastructure for the climate crisis, with additional funds needed to transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy production.
The first official day of COP28 brought progress towards making the fund a reality: The UAE, Germany, the EU, the U.S., Japan and the U.K. pledged a combined total of $429 million to the fund.
For the first time since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, a global stocktake is planned during the proceedings. The global stocktake calls for all 196 signatories of the Paris Agreement to calculate their individual climate progress thus far, or lack thereof.