Loss and Damage breakthroughs and China’s vague methane plan: COP28 Action Tracker

Pictured clockwise from top left: Abu Dhabi, host of the latest loss and damage talks; Youth activists call for strong loss and damage agreement; King Charles gives his speech on 7 November; Flooding in India in 2018

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 third edition.

Editor’s note: You can recap on the first edition of this Action Tracker here. The second edition is located here. The third edition is located here.

The numbers

  • 92% of global GDP covered by net-zero commitments from nations and regions
  • One-third of national and regional net-zero commitments with a deadline of 2050 or sooner
  • 6,437 businesses committed to setting science-based emissions targets
  • 3,776 businesses with verified science-based emissions targets

The headlines

UK updates

Shortly after we published the last edition of this Tracker, the Environmental Principles Policy Statement came into force in the UK. This means that UK Government departments and Ministers now have enhanced legal obligations to consider how their decisions could impact the delivery of domestic commitments on nature, pollution and waste.

Then, as the new working week began, the UK was accused by Global Witness of failing to properly implement a ban on imports linked to deforestation. A ban on forest-risk commodities with illegal deforestation links was implemented in late 2021 under the Environment Act. This received Royal Assent on the eve of COP26 in Glasgow. Since then, Global Witness claims, commodities linked to more than 50,000 acres of deforestation – predominantly tropical – have entered Britain.

MPs have also implored ministers to do more to safeguard a sustainable future for the production of fruit, vegetables and plants in the UK by linking policies relating to nature, climate and skills.

Aside from agriculture and forestry, the Government confirmed an as-yet undisclosed support package for British Steel to assist its transition from fossil fuel blast furnaces to electric alternatives. The total cost of transitioning two blast furnaces in Scunthorpe and Teesside is badged at £1.25bn. British Steel hopes the electric arc furnaces could be up and running by late 2025.

The decision from British Steel has prompted fears of job losses and fresh calls for the Government to come up with a more robust industrial strategy. Additionally, it has re-ignited calls for the UK’s first deep coal mine in more than 30 years to be axed, given that the intended use for the extracted coal is in British and European steelmaking.

These pieces of news were quickly swamped by reaction to the King’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday (7 November). Such speeches are typically given once a year and set out the Government’s priorities for passing new legislation.

King Charles confirmed that the Conservative Government will attempt to attract record levels of investment in renewables but provided no further details on how. He also reiterated the rhetoric Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used when rolling back policies on electric cars, building energy efficiency and low-carbon heating in September – that the net-zero transition should not place undue burdens on the general public.

The key announcement concerned new interventions to mandate the UK to run North Sea oil and gas licensing rounds every year. Labour had pledged to end these rounds if elected. The rounds are usually held most years, so this is certainly a trap being laid in the case of the opposition winning at the upcoming general election.

Green economy commentators have said this sends the wrong signal globally and undermines Sunak’s claims that he is acting for the long-term benefit of the nation.

Also this week…

  • The UK has signed a new declaration of intent on low-carbon energy collaboration with Germany
  • The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Climate has published its recommendations for how the UK should approach COP28
  • The UK Government has come out in support of a global moratorium on deep sea mining
  • More than 40 organisations, coordinated by IEMA, have urged the UK Government to advocate for stronger green skills planning at COP28
  • A poll has revealed that Brits are not optimistic about COP28’s ability to deliver a strong outcome, with only 1% believing it will result in a global acceleration of climate action

Global moves

COP28 hosts, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have shown no sign that the summit could be re-arranged in any way due to the current situation in Israel and Gaza. As it stands, things will go ahead as planned.

Gaza’s health ministry has stated that more than 10,000 people there have been killed by Israel’s military since attacks began last month, in response to Hamas’ killing of at least 250 people and wounding of a further 1,500+ on 7 October.

Many of Israel’s supporters including France and the US are calling for a temporary pause in fighting to enable more people to leave Gaza and additional aid and supplies to be ferried in. The UAE, which supports Israel, is not advocating this move.

Something we do have more clarity on is how debates on loss and damage are likely to take shape at COP28. After a string of lengthy meetings, including the latest round which was tabled as an emergency, governments have finally agreed on a blueprint regarding how a global loss and damage fund should be operationalised.

The World Bank has agreed to act as administrator for at least four initial years. Additionally, nations which should pay in have been named, including the US, UK and EU. These wealthiest nations will be “urged” to contribute their fair share, while rapidly developing nations with major economies, like China, will be “encouraged” to pay in. There is not yet a set target for how much should be provided and by when.

Nations will need to approve the blueprint at COP28 to properly operationalise the fund. EU climate chief Wopke Hoekstra has said this approval may hinge on the ability of the COP to deliver a stronger agreement on climate mitigation, thus reducing the amount that will need to be allocated to the fund in the long term.

The UN’s latest adaptation gap report, published on Thursday (2 November), warns that current annual levels of international climate adaptation funding could need to increase eighteen times over without more concerted climate mitigation efforts. $21bn was provided in 2021 and up to $387bn could be needed in 2030.

Also this week…

  • More than 200 faith leaders from across the world have signed an open letter to the COP28 team imploring an agreement that sees nations “address the climate crisis with full responsibility”. The COP28 President has called the document “a powerful statement of intent that the whole world needs to hear”.
  • The UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change has held a session bringing together local government leaders for discussions on issues such as sustainable urban planning, climate-resilient infrastructure and low-carbon transportation
  • China has held fresh climate talks with the US, raising hopes for renewed collaboration at COP28
  • China has published a new plan to monitor, report on and reduce energy-related methane emissions, but stopped short of joining the Global Methane Pledge commitment to a 30% reduction by 2030
  • The UN has revealed that current unsustainable food systems are externalising $10trn of costs each year in terms of damage to human health and the environment
  • Portugal has set a new renewable energy record, generating more renewable electricity than was needed to meet demand for 149 hours consecutively
  • The International Energy Association (IEA) has published its first energy outlook report assessing Latin America’s energy transition
  • France has completed a review of its Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) label and will now bar any company or project expanding fossil fuels from using this categorisation

Private sector climate action

Last month, an edition of this Tracker covered an open letter from 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 initial letter called for a major scaling up of public investment in renewable energy and power networks, plus energy system permitting reform. It also implored Governments to adopt low-emission public procurement practices to help stimulate the market for low-carbon goods and services.

Now, the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders is advocating for an agreement to cut emissions 7% per year this decade, in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory. This is in contract to an average 1.5% increase seen in each of the past five years.

They are also advocating for nations and regions with net-zero targets set after 2050 to explore how they can bring them forward.

Elsewhere, after a We Mean Business Coalition poll revealed a reluctancy to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels in high-emission sectors, more than 360 big businesses and financial institutions are urging hard-to-abate firms to set science-based targets.

The call to action is coordinated by CDP and has the support of more than 367 financial giants and multinational corporates with a collective valuation of more than $33trn.

And, finally, Net-Zero Tracker has confirmed a 40% increase in net-zero target setting by large businesses over the past 16 months. However, it has voiced concerns about slow improvements to the quality of the targets including delivery plans.

Also this week…

Words of wisdom

“The problem is that most political leaders are aware that the climate and nature of (the) crisis is serious, and they need to do something, but that is very far from a crisis mentality. And we need a crisis mentality.”

– Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and chair of The Elders

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