Why I’m (Cautiously) Optimistic About COP28

The most obvious requirement is that countries narrow the gap between their goals and their policies. Empty promises mean nothing. Countries must put in place real, tangible policies to reduce emissions.

Ambitious targets to develop low-carbon technologies will be a key pillar. In its 2023 report “Roadmap to net zero emissions by 2050”, the International Energy Agency call for a tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030. Almost all of this energy will be solar and wind. If the world wants to cap and reduce global coal production, this is essential.

This goal appears to be led by the European Commission. Earlier this fall, he presented its position at COP28, and the tripling of renewable energy was at the heart of its negotiating position. The rapid development of renewable energy is unlikely to be controversial (although its rate might be).

What will be far more controversial is the call for a global phase-out of “relentless” fossil fuels, that is, fossil fuels burned without carbon capture and storage. It is this reduction that the European Commission is asking for. Two years ago, heated debates took place over the phasing out of coal. Ultimately, a watered-down deal was reached for a “gradual reduction coal consumption”: coal consumption was to represent a smaller part of the energy mix, but not completely eliminated.

Last year India requested this gradual reduction be extended to all fossil fuels. Eighty countries – including those in the European Union – supported this proposed expansion to oil and gas, but with strong resistance from others. We can expect the same dynamic this year, with some countries fiercely opposing it. I am reasonably optimistic about an ambitious renewable energy target, but I am skeptical about the likelihood of a global agreement on phasing out (or reducing) fossil fuels.

This is worrying because the development of low-carbon technologies will not be enough to stop climate change. Real commitments to reduce fossil fuels will be essential; they need to be actively lowered as we charge solar and wind power.

Fundamentally, climate negotiations are about money. This year will be no different. There will be growing tensions between developed and developing countries as rich countries have failed to meet previous commitments to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance to help low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). ) to invest in and adapt to low-carbon technologies. to climate impacts. Exactly which LMIC countries should receive climate finance and how it should be spent remains controversial.

Once again, talk about a “loss and damage” fund– where the rich countries that have contributed the most to the problem pay for climate damage in low-income countries – will be the priority for LMICs. Some countries have agreed to a plan proposal over the past few weeks, but this will need to be finalized next month. The fund will initially be hosted by the World Bank, and the amount of country contributions has yet to be determined. I expect these conversations to be lively.

Most progress is arguably happening off the main stage, in discussions on the fringes. Private sector investment and innovation are crucial, whether financing low-carbon projects, implementing adaptation measures or developing new technologies. Achieving carbon neutrality will require solutions across all sectors – not just power and transport, which grab the headlines – but also cement, steel and agriculture. It is in the corridors that these solutions are built and partnerships are formed.

I expect COP28 to leave me in the same pessimistic-optimistic state I find myself in today. There will be positives that will move us forward, but this progress will leave us short of what we urgently need to achieve.

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