COP28 took place during a particularly critical year for climate change. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) scientists predict that 2023 will be the hottest year ever recorded, building on the nine previous years that have already shattered temperature records. WMO also warns with high certainty that the world is on track to experience a 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in the next five years, an upgrade from their previous estimate of 50% to about 66%. Such warming would intensify extreme weather events and pose threats to food and water security, among other interconnected consequences.
Before COP28, the United Nations (UN) released a report evaluating countries' Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which outline their plans to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. The UN's evaluation reveals that countries are falling short in curbing temperature rise, projecting only a 2% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 2019 levels, whereas a 43% reduction is necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
During the same period, the US federal government published its fifth National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive report that outlines the present and potential harm caused by climate change in the country. A notable finding is that weather-related disasters already incur approximately $150 billion in direct losses annually, a figure expected to rise alongside global temperature increases. The report acknowledges the efforts made by the US federal and state governments to address climate change but advocates for more aggressive measures in the future to limit climate damage and seize economic opportunities from sustainability.
Armed with these crucial findings, stakeholders recognized that COP28 needed to be decisive, delivering concrete and actionable measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The event occurred from November 30th to December 12th in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), with Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of Adnoc, the UAE’s state oil company, serving as COP28 president. The event focused on several topics, including maritime shipping, oil & gas, hydrogen, industrial transition accelerator, and fossil fuels.
Major transportation and supply chain developments from COP28
Thirty shipping leaders came together to sign a Joint Commitment, aiming to usher in a new era of decarbonization in the maritime industry. The commitment entails embracing renewable hydrogen-derived shipping fuel by the end of this decade, aligning with the IMO's revised target of reducing emissions by 70-80% by 2040. Additionally, cargo owners pledged their commitment to exclusively utilize zero-emission freight services by 2040. This collective effort marks a significant step towards a sustainable and environmentally friendly future for the shipping sector.
Global Decarbonization Accelerator
Oil & Gas. Fifty companies, encompassing both nationally and independently owned entities, joined forces to sign the Oil & Gas Decarbonization Charter. Collectively, these companies represent over 40% of global oil and gas production. The signatories pledged to achieve net-zero operations by 2050, targeting reductions in scope 1 and 2 emissions. Furthermore, they aim to achieve near-zero methane emissions in upstream operations by 2030, completely eliminating routine flaring by the same year. Additionally, the signatories are committed to enhancing transparency in emissions reporting, thus fostering greater accountability in the industry.
Hydrogen. The Hydrogen Declaration of Intent has garnered endorsement from 39 countries, establishing a worldwide standard for hydrogen certification. This standard aims to foster mutual recognition in the certification of hydrogen and its emissions, ultimately facilitating financing processes.
Industrial Transition Accelerator. With a generous $30 million backing from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Accelerator strives to expedite the achievement of Paris-aligned goals in crucial sectors such as heavy industry, transport (including maritime shipping and aviation), and energy.
Expectations for significant action on fossil fuels were lowered when Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister declared that the Kingdom would not support a gradual reduction or complete phase-out of fossil fuels. To compound matters, OPEC urged its members to oppose any COP28 proposals that would impede the production of oil, gas, and coal. Haitham Al Ghais, the Secretary General of OPEC, cautioned against the potential threats to prosperity that would arise if plans for fossil fuel elimination were pursued, dismissing them as politically motivated campaigns.
However, despite these firm positions, COP28 concluded with 200 countries signing a voluntary agreement to "transition away" from fossil fuels in their energy systems – a momentous event in global climate change diplomacy.
Seizing the Momentum of COP28
COP28 played a crucial role in addressing global climate change trends, paving the way for decarbonization. While there were important victories like the call to transition away from fossil fuels and the increased support for climate financing, there was also frustration from many stakeholders who were hoping for a more decisive call to action to effectively meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, the push to move away from fossil fuels and the various commitments from stakeholders, including the maritime shipping industry, are encouraging steps forward. Now, it is crucial for national and local leaders to implement and advance these objectives in a sustainable way that results in substantial reductions in emissions.
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