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Coping after COP28: Little progress, plenty of loose ends  

Was the Dubai climate conference a success, or are we further away from 1.5°C than ever? 


This year’s COP in the United Arab Emirates, ended with some “first-evers” but in many respects fell short of necessary decisions. From First Climate’s perspective, there’s little to celebrate.



  

With nearly 100,000 attendees, this year’s COP 28 in Dubai was the most attended conference to date, possibly buoyed by anticipated prospects and high hopes. While the 10-day conference was punctuated by a good start with the formal establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund already secured on day one, other decisive markers were pushed to the last days, and many others, left unresolved by the closing date.     


Loss and Damage Fund: It's true that COP 28 hit the ground running with countries in the Global North anteing up on fiscal responsibility for the ramifications related to their roles in centuries of industrialization. As expected and promised in the prior year, the Loss and Damage fund received startup capital amounting to around EUR 393 million, with pledges of around EUR 91million each from the UAE and Germany. The fund creates a process for making good on damage and loss, however since the effects of climate change have been estimated to be more than EUR 365 billion annually, there is a great deal of clarity needed regarding how the most vulnerable countries will access the much-needed funds. Now that most financial commitments have been sealed in this historic call to action, the next steps will need to be targeted to ensure the fund’s fair handling and prompt implementation.  


Inaugural Global Stocktake: As anticipated, and according to agreements made in 2018 associated with the Paris Agreement, the first-ever global stocktake (GST) was carried out in Dubai – the first in a rolling five-year cycle. To that end, all participating countries are charged with sharing details on their NDCs, or nationally determined contributions, as part of a global climate change mitigation plan to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. First Climate sees the GST as one of the most significant highlights, which continued to be clearly addressed throughout the conference’s agenda. The inventory is meant to be a course correction should a nation have fallen short of goals in the last five years. Sadly, the numbers disclosed within the GST show that, collectively, the member states have gone way off course despite the previous enthusiasm for ambitious targets. Rather than meeting the 1.5°C-degree goal set, just half a decade later, global temperatures are poised to surpass the banner threshold and are closer to 2.7°C above preindustrial levels. Following the current climate trajectory, the year 2023 has topped the temperature charts as the hottest year on record in human history. First Climate notes the course correction inventory was conducted, but the national actions taken across the board continue to be too weak to meet necessary climate targets.


Sobering news for global climate change mitigation 


Fossil fuels: The issue of a fossil fuels transition making it to the agenda and being revisited was seen as a major step by many. However, discussions largely ended with vastly mixed opinions about seriousness of the parties’ ambitions and additional calls to step up action across the board in order effectively reverse the effects of climate change. The talks around the “unabated” use fossil fuels concluded with non-binding language which would not trigger noticeable change, and left many stakeholders asking if a gas, oil, and/or coal phase-out or phase-down would be possible in the foreseeable future.  


Article 6 negotiations: From the perspective of First Climate, the monumental setback following COP is the absolute failure of the negotiations related to article 6. Likely due to the highly politicized, and sometimes volatile nature of the negotiations, the talks ended with a lack of consensus and caused a major setback to this mechanism. Without bringing a formal and accepted framework into existence, the burden of implementing the visionary pulse of article 6.2., and respectively article 6.4, now lies with individual states and private sector initiators for their individual and self-organized activities.  


Even with the lack of guidance and foresight, Switzerland, for example, has forged ahead and signed bilateral agreements to implement a number of projects. However, the failure of article 6.4. translates to a major blow to the stakeholder engaged in voluntary climate action. First Climate sees a failed opportunity regarding the further convergence of both of the article 6 mechanisms and the voluntary carbon market, which remains one of the few existing tools to create scalable climate impact. With the interim defeat of article 6, it is more crucial, in First Climate’s view, that private sector takes on more initiative and responsibility for its own efforts to mitigate climate change. A dependable directive coming from the top down at COP would have meant supported facilitation of said climate engagement.



Forging ahead for global success. In time. 


Earlier this month, Lene Keerberg, Carbon Sourcing & Trading and Yves Keller, Head of Community-based and Article 6 Projects) represented First Climate at COP 28, where they engaged with numerous connections – old and new. In the absence of groundbreaking decisions on climate policy, coming together to connect and network is crucial to forging new sustainability partnerships and thereby enabling necessary climate action on a smaller, but highly effective scale.


"While I acknowledge the great ambitions manifested for the scale up of renewable energy deployment by 2030 as well as the realization of the loss and damage fund, the outcome of the COP 28 has been a tremendous setback to the market mechanisms to be established under articles 6.2. and 6.4. and therefore for the scale up of the global carbon markets. Moving forward, we can look to voluntary carbon market actors, who already deliver strong initiatives to enhance the quality, solidity and integrity of the market. Voluntary actors can continue to significantly contribute to global decarbonization through the VCM," states Wolfgang Brückner, Managing Director, First Climate Projektentwicklung (Project Development) GmbH, as he reflects on the closing of the conference.


We will continue to share information on the developments following COP as they arise.

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