The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in which approximately 200 Parties participated, concluded on December 13, Japan time, after the session was extended one day. An outcome document was adopted for the Global Stocktake (GST) that included an agreement to “transition away from fossil fuels,” the main cause of climate change, attracting much attention. This is the first time in the nearly 30-year history of the COP that the need to move away from fossil fuels has been stated so clearly.
Included in the UAE Consensus, the outcome document of COP28
1.Transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy
The Global Stocktake, a global assessment of progress in climate change action, includes a wide range of climate change action assessments, mitigation, adaptation, means of implementation (MoI) and support, loss and damage, as well as future challenges and directions. Of these, Paragraph 28 is particularly noteworthy in relation to energy.
Paragraph 28 recognizes the need for significant, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions along a pathway that limits the temperature increase from pre-industrial times to within 1.5°C, and calls on parties to contribute to global efforts in a nationally determined manner, taking into account the Paris Agreement and their respective national circumstances, pathways, and approaches.
- (a) Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030
- (b) Accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power
- (c) Accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emission energy systems, utilizing zero- and low-carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century
- (d) Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science
- (e) Accelerating zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production
- (f) Accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030
- (g) Accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on a range of pathways, including through development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low-emission vehicles
- (h) Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible
Although the phasedown of coal-fired power was agreed to at COP26 (Glasgow, UK, 2021), the agreement to expand the framework to include “fossil fuels” is indeed a historic turning point. Nevertheless, many countries pointed out the inadequacy of the agreement, as it contains no clear call for “phasing out” fossil fuels during this decade, and contains “numerous loopholes” that may allow for continued production and consumption of coal, oil, and gas.
Others pointed out that the phase-out must be “fast, fair, full, and funded,” and that financial and technical support and capacity building are essential if developing countries are to be part of the global effort to transition away from fossil fuels.
2. Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA)
Another focus of COP28 was the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA). While the term “mitigation” refers to measures to reduce the impacts of climate change. The GGA is a part of the Paris Agreement that sets specific targets for adaptation, which undeniably has received less attention and funding than mitigation (emission reductions), and aims to strengthen efforts in this area. A two-year work plan (GlaSS) was launched at COP26 and its discussions were to conclude at COP28, with its results also to be reflected in the Global Stock Take (GST).
However, negotiations at COP28 ran into difficulties due to disagreements over how to set targets and funding, and since the outcome of the GGA negotiations will also affect the GST, the second half of the conference focused on the direction of the negotiations. On the last day of the extended session, parties managed to agree on sectoral targets by 2030 (water, food, health, ecosystems, infrastructure, poverty eradication, and cultural heritage), but they were unable to agree on a specific agenda item to continue discussions under the GGA, and only a general call for financial support was made. A two-year work program will now be undertaken to establish what “indicators” can be used to determine the degree of future adaptation.
Global Stocktake and raising of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)
The Global Stocktake is a five-year process that will assess progress on the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target, and countries are expected to strengthen their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in a way that reflects the GST’s conclusions. The report of the Global Stocktake technical dialogue released just prior to COP28 indicated that current efforts are insufficient based on the science that states global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 43% from 2019 levels by 2030 in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
In light of this, the outcome document of COP28 includes the consideration of global GHG reductions when formulating the next NDC in line with the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) released in April 2023 (global GHG emissions need to be reduced by 60% from 2019 levels by 2035). Parties are expected to set more ambitious emission reduction targets for their countries when developing their next NDCs.
Reflections on COP28
One of the most important developments of COP28, as noted in JBC’s interim COP report, was the agreement reached on the first day on the rules for the operation of the Loss and Damage Fund, a fund to prevent and remedy loss and damage due to the effects of climate change. Contributions to the fund began as soon as it was adopted and have already exceeded US$700 million in total. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) have also agreed to serve as the Secretariat of the Santiago Network, which is expected to facilitate technical assistance to developing countries that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Although there was no explicit statement in the COP28 outcome text of “phasing out” all fossil fuels as many countries had hoped for, it is a significant achievement that it referred to a transition away from the fossil fuels that have supported the global economy up to now. Japan, which is involved in many fossil fuel projects both domestically and internationally, needs to contribute to the global energy transition effort.
COP 29 will be held in Azerbaijan from November 11-22, 2024, and COP 30 will follow in Brazil from November 10-21, 2025.
As Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), stated in his closing speech,“Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.” Now all governments and businesses need to turn these pledges into real-economy outcomes, without delay.
Please refer to the various releases on COP28 from JBC partner organizations for more information.
Statements and Press Releases from JBC Partner Organizations
- FoE Japan：Press release: Activists at COP28 call on Japan to end financing for fossil fuels (Link)
- Renewable Energy Institute: Triple Renewables in Japan for a 1.5℃ Pathway: Following the Pledge to Triple Renewable Energy at COP28 (Link)