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December 18, 2023

Editor’s note: how Sustainable Views saw 2023

A future of lawsuits is forecast as environmental groups and individuals try increasingly to force climate action through the courts (Samuel Corum/Getty Images))
A future of lawsuits is forecast as environmental groups and individuals try increasingly to force climate action through the courts (Samuel Corum/Getty Images))

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

Today we bring you our last podcast of 2023 – an end-of-year special featuring the whole of the Sustainable Views team.

The long and the short of it is that there have been advances in the world of sustainable finance in 2023. Likewise, regulation aimed at speeding up action to protect people and the planet has grown and matured.

There is, however, a long way to go before politicians prove they are really ready to implement their paper promises, and the geo-political dynamics for global agreement and action on climate change are getting more fraught, as the heated discussions at COP28 showed.

The agreement to “transition” away from fossil fuels in the final declaration of the climate conference was a win of sorts, but leaders must now show they have the courage and the will to implement the policies needed to put the declaration’s goals into action and hold warming at 1.5C or even 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Sultan al-Jaber, COP28 president and chief executive of the United Arab Emirates’ national oil and gas company, heralded the climate conference’s declaration as a success, but days later he confirmed Adnoc would continue its record investment in oil and gas production.

At COP28 UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for more action to reduce emissions and said the UK was “leading the charge”. Yet, he qualified these words by boasting that “we have scrapped plans on heat pumps and energy efficiency that would have cost people thousands of pounds”.

Instead, Sunak has opted for annual licensing rounds for oil and gas projects in the North Sea. Research by think-tank Common Wealth shows these are unlikely to benefit British people since more than 40 per cent of North Sea oil and gas licences are owned by overseas companies.

If politicians are serious about implementing the COP28 declaration and financing the transition there is no option but to change tack now. We are heading fast into 2024, which leaves the world six years to reduce emissions (which are still increasing) by 43 per cent by 2030.

If politicians really plan to triple renewables, double energy efficiency and hold warming below the most dangerous levels, they will need to start being honest with the public about what needs to happen and what is really compatible with this goal.

Businesses and industry need a clear roadmap if they are to be part of the solution and not find themselves investing in projects that in a couple of years become stranded assets.

And, as Alex highlights in the podcast, the public purse is not big or deep enough to pay for the transition. Sorting out the rules and regulations that push money from fossil fuels into clean technologies will be key in 2024.

Jaber has talked of “low carbon” oil to justify his company’s continued fossil fuel expansion. Investors in ESG funds everywhere need clarity about what is really clean and what is greenwashing with significant investment risks.

For politicians and companies who fail to live up to their promises, Claudia forecasts a future of lawsuits as environmental groups and individuals try increasingly to force climate action through the courts.

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is deputy editor of Sustainable Views

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