The consensus reached at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a significant diplomatic achievement and a demonstration of why we must keep faith in the multilateral process. The challenges of securing global agreement and turning this into delivery are the same ones that national political leaders must overcome if we are to collectively win our fight against climate change.
COP28 is likely to be remembered for three things:
1. A new loss-and-damage fund with initial pledges of more than $700 million to support the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
2. Pragmatic progress “outside the room” on climate finance through the new Global Climate Finance Framework, record commitments from the multilateral development banks, the UAE’s new $30 billion “Alterra” fund, and declarations in food, health and many other areas.
3. A hard-fought decision based on the global stocktake that for the first time explicitly calls on parties to transition away from fossil fuels.
It is never going to be possible to reach an agreement on which every party is completely satisfied. Addressing climate change is both our most pressing and our most complex challenge, requiring a wholesale transition of global energy systems and economies. Achieving consensus among 198 member states with varying national interests and economic models is an unprecedented diplomatic effort that will not get any easier in the short term. Next year’s negotiations on a new global-finance goal will take place at a time when the trust between the Global North and Global South is becoming increasingly strained.
This difficulty is not a reason to lose faith in the multilateral system – in fact, it illustrates the crucial role this system will play. Addressing climate change will require a global effort, and COP sets the direction for policies across the world. It is working, albeit not at the pace we require. Before the Paris Agreement we were on track for warming of 4 degrees Celsius; now, with 90 per cent of global GDP covered by net-zero commitments, we are on track to limit it to 2.7 degrees. Not far enough, but progress.
But the multilateral process alone is not sufficient: Addressing climate change will involve channelling finance and scaling technology in areas like clean energy, adapting food and health systems, and preserving and redeveloping natural carbon sinks while at the same time ensuring the most vulnerable are protected. Much of this work needs to be led by national political leaders: putting in place plans and delivering policies and investments.
Countries across the world are stepping up. For example, TBI has been proud to support the government of Mozambique to develop an energy-transition strategy and advance more than $4 billion of investment in hydropower, which will decarbonise industry across southern Africa.
The challenges at the national level mirror those we have seen on the global stage in Dubai: bringing together different constituencies around a common cause, disrupting entrenched and vested interests and redirecting financial flows. But navigating the politics successfully and delivering is as tough as it is vital. Updated plans will be important, but it’s the politically complex work to turn these commitments into investment and action that will really matter.