COP28 Action Tracker: Ireland launches infrastructure and climate fund as UAE shapes summit plans

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.

The last COP was hosted in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, in late 2022. Major new commitments were made on topics including climate resilience and loss and damage funding, but the general consensus is that the final agreement was too weak on nature protection and phasing out fossil fuels.

Much has changed since then. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the hottest summer on record would have led to a laser-like focus on climate from world leaders. Instead some, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, are arguing that climate action is too expensive in the current economic scenario.

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 first edition.

Please note that this edition does not include news from Climate Week NYC and the UN General Assembly, both of which were hosted last month. edie’s  dedicated debrief from these events can be found here.

The numbers

  • 92% of global GDP covered by net-zero targets from governments
  • 6,255 companies signed up to implementing science-based emissions targets
  • 3,658 companies with verified science-based emissions targets

The headlines

EU countries wrangle over negotiating stance for COP28

Oil industry and OPEC will attend COP28

Enough with fossil fuels, says Pope in latest climate appeal

Net-zero by 2050 means ending fossil fuel expansion now, says IEA

UK updates

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not attend last month’s UN General Assembly, which included the UN’s first Climate Ambition Summit. His stated reason was a busy schedule. Some argued that he was skipping out because he knew the UK would not be allowed to speak at the Summit, which only gave the floor to governments with “credible, new” climate plans.

While dozens of other nations increased their climate pledges or at least stated their support in New York, Sunak gave a speech on 20 September stating that existing net-zero transition plans would place too much cost burden on average earners. He used this as justification to weaken plans for phasing out oil and gas boilers and delay banning new petrol and diesel car and van sales from 2030 to 2035. New home energy efficiency standards and plans to segregate domestic recycling were also on the chopping block.

The UK’s Climate Change Committee has stated that the changes have created a greater degree of risk regarding the delivery of net-zero by 2050.

There are fears that the changes could dent investor confidence and lead to investment in industries such as retrofitting, heat pumps and electric vehicles (EVs) going overseas. Clarity on how the new petrol and diesel ban will work did go some way to allaying the concerns of automakers.

Green economy leaders have also warned about the message that is being sent on the global stage by the UK. Former US President Donald Trump, famed for pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, called Sunak’s decisions “smart” during a speech in which he denied the  existence of man-made climate change.

It does bear noting that the UK’s Energy Minister Graham Stuart was present at the UN Climate Ambition Summit. He used his platform to commit £160m to support developing nations to grow clean industries.

This will form part of an existing commitment for the UK to provide £11.6bn in international climate finance between 2021 and 2026.

Since Sunak made his speech, all three of England’s largest political parties have hosted their annual conferences. The Conservative Party reiterated Sunak’s rhetoric around a “pragmatic” transition to net-zero and several ministers used their platforms to decry low-emission zones, low-traffic neighbourhoods and plant-based foods.

The opposition Labour Party unveiled a new automotive sector strategy including the reinstatement of the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales, plus measures to fast-track the development of battery Gigafactories. Members also supported the creation of a new public energy company and wealth fund to facilitate blended finance into next-generation low-carbon technologies.

Global moves

The UN-convened Middle East and North Africa Climate Week recently wrapped up. It was held in Riyadh from 8 to 12 October. The event has been badged as “a catalyst for sustainable solutions and global actions”. But it will not result in a final agreement or communique and has given much airtime to the oil and gas industry.

Elsewhere, six young Portuguese people are aiming to take 32 Governments to court over their insufficient actions to tackle climate change.

24-year-old Claudia Duarte Agostinho and het two siblings, aged 20 and 11, are among those in the group. They have filed a lawsuit against all EU member states, the UK, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey, with the support of the Global Legal Action Network.

None of the claimants are seeking financial compensation. Instead, they want the Governments to admit that past inaction on climate has undermined some human rights, including the right to life.

An initial hearing was held at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, in September.

In other news, Indonesia has launched a new voluntary carbon market and is gearing up to announce plans for its coal production to peak in 2030. It had previously stated a commitment to actively phase coal out from 2040 but is reportedly planning to accelerate this plan thanks to a $20bn package promised last year by nations in the global north.

Doubts remain about whether Indonesia will be able to achieve this milestone. It has been reported that donors to the funding, including the UK, have not been providing payments on time amid the current economic downturn.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) updated Net-Zero Pathway for the energy sector states that global net-zero goals will not be met without an immediate end to the creation of new coal mines or coal-fired power plants. The Pathway also hinges on all nations ending coal-fired electricity generation by 2040.

Also this past month…

  • Russia has stated that it will oppose efforts to reference a fossil fuel phase-out at COP28.
  • The IEA convened its first global summit on scaling critical mineral supply chains for the clean energy transition.
  • The COP28 Presidency announced subsidized delegations for 150 delegates from Indigenous organisations and also made other interventions designed to increase the effective participation of Indigenous Peoples.
  • France launched a 50-point ‘ecological plan’ including an aim to reduce fossil fuel dependence by one-third by 2040.
  • The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) launched its first Climate Action Plan through to 203. It includes a commitment to allocate 50% of its annual financing approvals to climate-related causes by 2025.
  • Ireland set out plans for a €100bn sovereign wealth fund, including a €14bn infrastructure and climate fund, intended to spur decarvonisation and put the nation back on track to deliver its legally binding climate commitments.
  • Brazil set out a vision to raise $2bn through green sovereign bonds.
  • Through the Inevitable Policy Response, 100 climate policy experts predicted that there is now more chance than not of the world achieving the Paris Agreement’s ‘well below 2C’ scenario…
  • … But DNV’s new Energy Transition Outlook concluded that warming of 2.2C is likely.

Private sector climate action

One of the biggest private sector announcements made ahead of COP26 in Scotland was the creation of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (GFANZ). It now convenes more than 650 financial firms, collectively managing more than $130trn.

The Alliance has not been without its controversies, including the weakening of its membership criteria last year and several firms leaving its ranks due to fears around competition laws.

It recently launched a consultation to inform its work to define ‘transition finance’ and, from there, set out recommendations for how its members should support high-carbon assets in aligning with a 1.5C pathway. This consultation will run until 2 November and the results will be published by the time COP28 begins.They will also detail how the finance sector can, and should, track whether transition finance is delivering the promised decarbonisation benefits.

The GFANZ also recently met with representatives from the COP28 organising team and the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) to discuss how to scale “high-integrity demand” for, and supply of, carbon credits through voluntary markets.

Also this past month…

Words of wisdom

“Every continent,  every region and every country is feeling the heat. But I am not sure that all leaders are feeling that heat. Actions are falling abysmally short.

“Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the climate challenge. We can – and we must – turn up the tempo.”

– Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General

Editor’s note: The COP28 Action Tracker will be published at least once every two weeks in the run-up to the summit.

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