COP28 UAE - United Nations Climate Change Conference

Saqr Abuhatab

Published December 14, 2023
in News

By Saqr Abuhatab

My Experience at COP28:

Greetings from Dubai, UAE! As someone who grew up in the UAE and has now returned as a sustainability professional to attend COP28, I am deeply impressed by the UAE's substantial environmental efforts and innovative initiatives towards creating a better world. The nation's shift from an oil-centric economy to pioneering projects in renewable energy and sustainable urban development is a testament to its transformative vision. The UAE has remarkably expanded and developed, not just economically but also in technological innovation and cultural richness, emerging as a dynamic and influential hub on the global stage. This experience was a blend of learning, networking, and witnessing pivotal climate discussions. COP28 was an engaging forum for climate action, featuring global leaders and climate activists. The conference was immense and well-organized… lots of walking though!!

The Importance of ESG and Major COP28 Agreements:
One of the highlights was the significant focus on ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance. This was reflected in several key agreements:

  • Transition Away from Fossil Fuels: A groundbreaking decision to transition away from fossil fuels in a gradual approach, marking a first in the history of COP conferences. This includes a plan to phase down coal use.
  • Loss and Damage Fund: The establishment of a climate disaster "loss and damage fund" with countries pledging a total of $770.6 million to support communities affected by climate change. However, this figure falls short of the estimated needs, highlighting the ongoing challenge in financing climate recovery.
  • Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Commitments to triple renewable energy production and double energy efficiency by 2030, signed by over 130 countries.
  • Near-Zero Methane: Fifty oil and gas companies pledged to reach near zero-methane emissions by 2030.
  • Women in Sustainability: A $1.4 billion investment in the Women in the Sustainable Economy (WISE) initiative.

Canada's Contributions at COP28:
COP28 saw a strong Canadian presence, led by key government officials. Key highlights:

  • Loss and Damage Fund: Canada's commitment of $16 million to the fund reflects its dedication to supporting climate-affected communities globally.
  • Methane Emission Reductions: Canada's stringent new regulations demonstrate its leadership in reducing methane emissions.
  • $67 Million for Climate Projects: This funding, as part of Canada's broader climate finance commitment, is directed towards diverse projects in adaptation, mitigation, and biodiversity conservation.
  • Federal Nature Accountability Act: Scheduled for 2024, this act will formalize Canada's biodiversity goals, creating a structured approach to conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
  • Support for International Initiatives: Endorsement of initiatives like the Global Cooling Pledge, which aims to raise ambition and international cooperation through collective global targets to reduce cooling related emissions by 68% from today by 2050.

Key Takeaways and Reflecting on COP28:

Discussions spanned various themes such as sustainable procurement, carbon accounting, and the role of financial institutions in sustainable practices. Here are my key takeaways:

  • Sustainable Procurement and Circular Economy: Highlighted as crucial strategies, these concepts encourage organizations to collaborate, reduce waste, and consider the broader impacts of their procurement choices, fostering a market for sustainable products. Both strategies directly address the need to transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy, aligning with global climate goals by reducing the environmental impact of production and consumption.
  • Carbon Accounting; Measuring to Manage: The conference reinforced the saying, "We can't reduce what we can't measure." The focus on accurate carbon accounting, especially regarding Scope 3 emissions, emphasizes the need for improved measurement, transparency, and reporting.
  • Social and Sustainability Factors Impacting Sustainable Financing: The increasing importance of integrating social factors into sustainability strategies was clearly emphasized at COP28. Environmental actions must be socially equitable and inclusive. COP28 highlighted the evolving role of financial institutions in driving sustainable practices. Banks and insurance companies are increasingly recognizing the need to integrate environmental risks into their decision-making processes.
  • Climate Justice and Equity: The severity of climate-induced damages is directly linked with the capacity of countries to respond to these impacts. Nations and communities that have historically contributed the least to climate change are often the most affected. For example, the African continent, responsible for only a small fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions, faces significant vulnerability to climate change. Similarly, countries like Pakistan have incurred damages of over $30 billion due to severe flooding, despite their negligible emission contributions.

COP28 has acknowledged the challenges of climate change but revealed gaps in technologies and meeting the needs of affected communities. The commitments made, while significant, fall short of the estimated annual needs for loss and damage and to transition to clean energy. True effectiveness will hinge on genuine commitment and effective implementation. Despite these challenges, there's hope. The collective will and emerging commitments signal a resolve to tackle climate complexities and strive towards a resilient and equitable future.

Saqr Abuhatab, MSc, EIT
Decarbonization Specialist, Consultant | Upswing Solutions Inc.