COP28 Action Tracker: The UN’s stark new climate warning and renewed China-US collaboration

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 fourth edition.

Editor’s note: You can recap on the previous editions of this Tracker here.

The numbers

  • 92% of global GDP covered by net-zero targets from governments
  • 2.9C of warming on pre-industrial times predicted by the UN by 2100
  • 6,561 companies committed to setting science-based targets
  • 3,898 companies with verified science-based targets

The headlines

UK updates

Green policymaking in the UK continues to be a case of disconnect between rhetoric and action.

Despite rolling back on electric vehicles and building energy efficiency, plus displaying increasingly brash talk about expanding fossil fuels, the Government has moved in recent days to:

We may see more detail on these announcements, plus additional financial benefits for the green economy, at the Autumn Statement. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver this at lunchtime on Wednesday 22 November.

The big news of the past fortnight has, of course, been the Cabinet Reshuffle. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak began undertaking a reshuffle on Monday 13 November to find a new Home Secretary to replace Suella Braverman. James Cleverly was selected for that position.

Elsewhere, Therese Coffey stepped down as Secretary of State for the Environment and has been replaced by Steve Barclay. Coffey, despite having more direct experience on the topic than Barclay, had been proving increasingly unpopular due to the Government’s handling of the ongoing sewage scandal.

George Freeman was ousted as Science, Innovation and Technology Minister to make way for Andrew Griffith. Griffith may be familiar to edie readers for his work in 2020 and 2021 as the UK’s net-zero business champion for COP26.

There is still no indication that Sunak or his Energy Secretary, Claire Coutinho, have made a U-turn and decided to attend COP28 in person.

Global moves

Sustainability folks using social media will doubtless have seen headlines about the fact that China’s greenhouse gas emissions are likely to peak before 2030 – potentially as soon as next year. This was a conclusion from researchers at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki, Finland.

China has, at present, the world’s largest carbon footprint of any nation. The stance it takes on fossil fuels could prove to be a key sticking point at COP28; it is likely to back a phase-down rather than a phase-out.

China and the US have released a renewed statement of intent on climate cooperation since the last edition of this Tracker. The ‘Sunnylands’ statement backs a global goal of tripling renewable energy generation capacity this decade, to significantly reduce power sector emissions. It makes no mention of phasing down coal in China, which has disappointed some observers.

Another big story this past fortnight was the OECD’s declaration that wealthy nations likely met their long-standing goal to provide $100bn of international climate finance to emerging and developing economies in 2022. The promise was first floated in 2009 and was ratified in 2015.

It is unlikely that poorer climate-affected nations will let the Global North rest on its laurels at COP28. We can expect calls for additional payments to account for historic shortfalls, as well as an assessment on whether the $100bn figure should be increased going forward.

From the UN itself, we have had confirmation that existing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement put the world on track for a 2.9C warming pathway. This could be reduced to 2.5C if all NDC aspects that are contingent on external support such as finance are delivered.

In either scenario, the result would be catastrophic for humanity and for ecosystems per the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Also this past fortnight:

Private sector climate action

This fortnight has come with a mix of good and bad news about leaders and laggards in terms of corporate climate action.

Starting with some good news: The Climate Group has revealed continuing strong growth to its RE100 initiative, which unites businesses in setting and achieving 100% renewable energy goals this decade. More than 400 businesses are now RE100 members and, collectively, these firms consume more energy each year than France.

Another glimmer of hope has come from Business for Nature, which has launched a new campaign aimed at increasing the number of organisations with specific nature-related targets and strategies. The organisation has published a new handbook including advice on alignment with new standards relating to science-based nature targets and nature risk disclosures.

On the other hand, the past two weeks have seen businesses criticised for loopholes in their environmental, social and governance (ESG) approaches.

InfluenceMap released a new study on 16 November outlining how more than half of 293 Forbes 2000 businesses with climate targets could be undermining them through participation in third-party lobbying bodies. This practice is a particularly prevalent risk in sectors including energy, mining and transport according to InfluenceMap.

Then, on 22 November, ShareAction released new analysis of the climate transition disclosures of Europe’s largest 20 banks. Its overall conclusion is that there is a “clear lack of transparency” around how net-zero financed emissions targets will be achieved.

Also this past fortnight:

Words of wisdom

“The adaptation finance gap is immense. Developing nations need five to ten times more public finance than what is currently available. And, too often, the most vulnerable are the orphans of climate finance left behind.”

– Mafalda Duarte, executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF)

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