COP28 marked the conclusion of the first-ever “global stocktake” and the findings confirmed that countries as a collective, were falling short of the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5–2°C above preindustrial levels. Fossil fuels were explicitly called out as the cause for the ramp up in global temperatures.
While nearly every participating country agreed to “transition away from fossil fuels”, there were concerns that the term “transition” may be too soft, leaving loopholes for the production and consumption of coal, oil and gas to continue. But the communique said countries “recognise that transitional fuels can play a role in facilitating the energy transition while ensuring energy security”. One positive development though, was that Australia joined 40 other signatories to stop financing overseas fossil fuel within a year.
Outcomes from the COP28 also included the creation of a loss and damage fund to help poor and vulnerable countries to shift to a low-carbon economy and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. However, small island states have characterised the $770 million raised so far as trivial and were disappointed with the lack of support from Australia - its Pacific neighbour.
Some of the other key initiatives of COP28 included the goal to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by the end of the decade, which over 100 countries have agreed to. An analysis by researchers at Climate Action Tracker described the pledge as a key highlight of COP28, saying it could “close about a third of the gap between current policies and 1.5°C in 2030 if fully implemented”. Views on nuclear and carbon capture technologies, however, were divided, receiving pledges from only 20 countries.
One other interesting outcome from the COP28, was the oil and gas decarbonization charter which 50 oil companies signed, each pledging to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Colombian President Gustavo Petro made waves by becoming the first major oil exporter to sign the fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty that implies zero new exploration projects in the world – advocating for human life over fossil capital, despite the country’s dependence on oil and coal.
The COP28 also lifted the political profile of the climate-health nexus as extreme weather threatens human health in a variety of ways. In conjunction with this, Australia launched its first National Health and Climate Strategy, which sets out a plan to decarbonise the country’s health system, as well as build resilience in the health system and communities to protect against the effects of climate change.
Another area which was given a prominent spot on the table, was sustainable agriculture. More than 150 countries pledged their intentions to integrate food and agriculture into their climate plans. However, one report noted the conversations were focussed more on adaptation strategies rather than concrete steps to mitigate emissions in the food systems.
Overall, the common criticism has been the lack of detail and near-term targets. But others remain optimistic that the groundwork laid at COP28 will make COP29 a more progressive climate summit.