COP28 Action Tracker: CEOs press for end to fossil fuels as King Charles gets go-ahead to attend climate summit

Pictured clockwise: Deforestation; UK Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho; COP28 President-Designate Sultan Al-Jaber; Scenes from Storm Babet off the Aberdeenshire coast. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED Rab Lawrence

COP28 begins on 30 November in Dubai. As with all UN climate summits, it is a major event in the diary for anyone working in – or passionate about – climate action and sustainable development.

With global climate diplomacy evolving at a pace, edie is running the COP28 Action Tracker – a regular feature rounding up all of the business and policy preparations being made here in the UK and across the world. Read on for our second edition.

Editor’s note: You can recap on the first edition of this Action Tracker here.

The numbers

  • 92% of global GDP covered by net-zero targets from governments
  • 6,323 companies signed up to implementing science-based emissions targets
  • 3,696 companies with verified science-based emissions targets

The headlines

UK updates

Since edie published its first COP28 Action Tracker, Claire Coutinho presented her first keynote speech at an event outside of Parliament in her role as Energy Secretary.

Coutinho stood Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to roll back policies relating to low-carbon heating, building energy efficiency and electric vehicles. She stated that the Climate Change Committee believes these changes will make “no material difference” in emissions cuts through to 2030, omitting its warning that decarbonising buildings post-2030 is now likely to be riskier.

Industry bodies have also warned that the changes may deter international investors. Coutinho stated that investment is her “top priority” and said she is “conscious” of the need for the UK to rival the US and EU in offering incentives for low-carbon industries.

The UK is set to come forward with new plans in the Autumn Statement following a delay confirmed by the Chancellor at the Budget this spring. Coutinho indicated that this could be coupled with a long-term vision for carbon capture and storage, building on a £20bn, 20-year commitment announced in the Spring. She also promised that the next British renewable energy auction will not, like the last, fail to attract any offshore wind bids.

Coutinho also mentioned the uplift in the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which provides homes with grant funding to replace fossil fuel boilers with heat pumps. Each home can now claim up to £7,500, up from £5,000. But the total amount of funding on offer remains the same.

Coutinho’s speech came on 18 October. Since then, her Party, the Conservatives, has suffered two heavy defeats in by-elections in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire. These are usually safe seats.

Conservative Environment Network director Sam Hall stated: “While there is no evidence that the Prime Minister’s recent changes to net-zero policies have caused the defeats, it is clear that they have not precented them. Nor have they motivated 2019 Conservative voters to turn out in sufficient numbers.”

Meanwhile, Development Minister Andrew Mitchell has told the Guardian that he believes the UK is changing its definitions of what constitutes ‘climate finance’ in order to meet its £11.6bn commitment spanning the 2021-22 to 2025-26 financial years.

In relation to COP28 itself, there has been confirmation that King Charles has secured permission to attend and deliver a speech. This will be his first environment-related public speaking event since his coronation. Charles attended COP26 in Glasgow in place of his mother but was not in Egypt for COP27.

All of this has happened against the backdrop of Storm Babet. The Environment Agency had, by Sunday night (22 October), received reports of 1,250 flooded properties in England alone. Seven people are known to have died in flooding caused by the storm.

Global moves

A key breakthrough at COP27 was the creation of a loss and damage fund which has long been called for by the most climate-affected regions. Parties including the EU made a last-minute U-turn to support the creation of such a fund.

However, efforts to operationalise the fund this month continued to remain fruitless. The fourth meeting of the transnational committee on loss and damage ended last week and, despite going into overtime, produced no agreed outcome. Key elements of the fund’s functioning, including governance, structure and location, are still contentious. Nations are also continuing to row over which nations should pay in and which should receive funds.

The COP28 Presidency team in the United Arab Emirates has been busy taking photo opportunities, hosting events and making announcements. A key point of note is confirmation that the Summit will play host to a ‘Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum’, which should attract some 500 people. The Presidency has partnered with organisations including the Asian Development Bank and Sustainable Markets Initiative to design the Summit programme.

Meanwhile, questions continue to be raised about the ethics of the Summit. The Guardian has reported that workers were seen readying the conference infrastructure in temperatures of 42C last month, despite the fact that working outside during the hottest hours of the day is illegal in the UAE. The paper also reported that the majority of these contract workers are migrants. Contractors have denied the alleged violations, as has the COP28 organising team.

Elsewhere, it is Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week – the penultimate event in a series of regional climate weeks to have been hosted this year in the lead-up to COP28.

Nature-based solutions are likely to be a key talking point at the event, which runs to Friday (27 October), given that the region represents around 57% of the world’s remaining primary forests. Loss and damage funding and general climate and nature funding are also likely to be high on the agenda; the UN believes that the region needs between $470bn and $1.3trn annually by 2030.

Also this past week:

Private sector climate action

The big news this week is an open letter signed by more than 130 businesses, collectively with annual revenues of around $1trn, imploring world leaders to commit to phasing out fossil fuels by 2040.

Signatories of the open letter, coordinated by We Mean Business and sent on Monday (23 October), include Heineken, AstraZeneca, Nestle, Danone, Ikea and Volvo cars. The letter states that although many large businesses have strong energy transition ambitions, they “cannot make this transition securely or efficiently alone”.

World leaders are called upon to work with financiers and energy sector players to deliver a just transition away from fossil fuelled power by 2035 in wealthy nations and 2040 elsewhere. You can read edie’s full coverage of the letter’s contents here.

A day after this open letter was unveiled, another separate open letter was released by the World Economic Forum’s Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders. This group includes more than 125 CEOs across companies responsible for 14% of global annual emissions.

This second letter calls for a major scaling up of public investment in renewable energy and power networks, plus energy system permitting reform. It also implores Governments to adopt low-emission public procurement practices to help stimulate the market for low-carbon goods and services.

Additionally, world leaders are called upon to set higher carbon removal targets covering both man-made and nature-based solutions, coupled with plans to increase investment accordingly.

“The pathway to these emissions reductions will be paved with a complex mix of the right policies, technologies and infrastructure – which is why public-private collaboration has never been more important,” said World Economic Forum president Børge Brende.

Also this past week…

Words of wisdom

People around the world are facing serious consequences from climate impacts and need scaled-up support from the global community. 

Empowering and enabling community members – especially those often marginalized and excluded – allows for effective and equitable responses to the loss they have faced. By adopting a community-led approach to loss and damage, the global community can help to advance the agency of those most affected, respecting and upholding their experience and wisdom.”

Heather McGray, director of the Climate Justice Resilience Fund

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