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December 6, 2023

Editor’s note: time for COP28 negotiators to insert some ‘active verbs’

Smoke stacks, emissions
Even if world leaders were to agree to the most ambitious climate goals, emissions cuts in line with 1.5C will not be achieved without mind-boggling amounts of money (Photo: Pexels-Pixabay)

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Dear reader,

“We need finance to unlock action,” WWF climate and energy policy lead Fernanda Carvalho said during a briefing at COP28 today. Leo Roberts, ​​research manager at think-tank E3G, made the same point on Tuesday afternoon. “There isn’t enough money,” he stressed. “The global south needs to know it is not just signing up to mitigation targets. Finance is key.”

It is obvious that not enough money will mean not enough action. Even if world leaders were to agree to the most ambitious climate goals ever, emissions cuts in line with 1.5C will not be achieved without mind-boggling amounts of money. Investment is needed to pay for the move away from fossil fuels in every sector of the economy, for the damage already caused by climate change, and to help people adapt to a warmer, more unpredictable world.

Public finances the world over are struggling with competing demands and the private sector will have to pick up a big share of the climate finance burden. How this happens at scale efficiently and benefits the people who need it most is a question that still needs a full answer. Roberts said there are “lots of mechanisms” being discussed at COP28, but they remain “fragmented”.

His colleague Alex Scott added that climate financing needs will not be met without broader reform of the finance system, a point not properly reflected in this week’s “global stocktake” text. “We need some active verbs about what we are tasking financial actors to do,” she said. 

Many attendees at COP28 would also like to see some active verbs around a fossil fuel phase-out in the next version of the global stocktake, which should land in the coming hours or days. The call for a fossil fuel phase-out and what this could, and should, mean in reality was a key subject of discussion in yesterday’s “energy day” at the conference, which you can read about in our daily COP briefing

David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute, was bullish about the inclusion of an end to coal, oil and gas making its way into the final text. “I don’t think we will leave Dubai without language on phasing out fossil fuels,” he said. “If Saudi ministers think that, I think that is a mistaken view on where we are headed.”

Saudi Arabian energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said earlier this week that his country will “absolutely not” agree to a deal that calls for a phase-down of fossil fuels.

And environmental groups are also clear that if warming is to be held to 1.5C, not only does an “energy package” need to be in the final COP28 document —  that links a tripling of renewables, a doubling of energy efficiency and a fossil fuel phase-out — to ensure countries cannot pick and choose which option they implement, but nature and agriculture must also be included.

For the moment, while there are a plethora of side events taking place in Dubai on protecting and restoring nature and how to make food and farming systems more sustainable, these subjects are yet to receive any significant attention in the main discussions.  

“The negotiations need to look at the world outside and take on the urgency the world demands,” said Carvalho, as negotiators ready themselves to enter the second week of talks.  

At Sustainable Views, we have been keeping our eyes on COP28 and on the outside world. 

Today, I examine the latest goings on around the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive ahead of the last leg of negotiations between the EU institutions in Brussels next week and the wildly differing opinions on the law coming out of France, the Netherlands and the US. We also bring you news of the EU’s move to regulate ESG ratings

Out in the real world, the transition is not on track, according to research from Net Zero Tracker, which shows only 0.8 per cent of global oil production is covered by a phase-out target, while BankTrack highlights the oil and gas expansion plans of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, whose chief executive is, of course, COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber. 

Until tomorrow,


Philippa Nuttall is the deputy editor of Sustainable Views

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