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COP28 in full swing on Day 3

u.n.'s cop28 climate summit in dubai
A man walks next to flags during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 3, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfliky

It was UAE’s national day on Saturday and it received its rewards. It was a day that moved the COP28 dial with major pledges and announcements.

The COP28 Presidency announced a ‘Global Decarbonization Accelerator’ (GDA), with three major components: a renewable energy and energy efficiency pledge, decarbonization of the existing energy system largely by focusing on high-emitting industries, and phasing-out of methane emissions by 2030. All three got off the ground, with 117 countries endorsing the GDA, spearheading the way for a successful COP.

In a major development, 118 countries signed a pledge to triple global renewable energy capacity to 11,000GW and double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. These are “the two biggest global actions needed to cut CO2 emissions this decade.”

Another major announcement was the voluntary Oil and Gas ‘Decarbonization Charter’ supported by 50 of the world’s biggest producers, including 29 national oil&gas companies – led by Saudi Aramco and ExxonMobil- promising to phase-out methane emissions to near-zero and end routine gas flaring by 2030. This goes hand-in-hand with the with the agreement made in November by China and the US to eliminate methane emissions.

Despite its importance, it immediately received criticism from climate activists that are calling for commitments to to end all new oil and gas expansion.

Related to the Charter, IEA, EDF, IMF and the UN announced the ‘Methane Transparency and Accountability’ initiative, with $40billion funding, to make sure that pledged emission reductions materialize. In addition, more than $1billion grants were pledged to cut methane emissions, particularly in developing countries.

The IEA, OECD and 36 countries announced the launch of the ‘Climate Club’, a high-level forum aimed at accelerating the decarbonisation of industry, that is responsible for about a third of global CO2 emissions. In addition, an ‘Industrial Transition Accelerator’ (ITA) initiative was announced at COP28 in Dubai, backed by $30million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, aiming to “catalyse decarbonization for energy, industrial, transportation and other polluting companies.”

More than 130 countries signed a pledge to make food and agriculture -that accounts for a-third of global emissions- a priority in their national climate plans, making it the first ever major COP declaration on food systems.

22 countries, led by France, the UK and the US, signed a declaration to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050. It currently supplies about 10% of global electricity.

The ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’ (PPCA), got another ten new members, including the US and…Cyprus, promising to phase-out unabated coal. But without China and India joining, its effectiveness will be limited.

The ‘Coal Transition Accelerator’ was also launched by France, the US, the EU to cut-off private coal finance and transition economies away from coal.

Brazil announced a ‘Tropical Forest Forever Facility’, aimed at “protecting standing tropical forests in up to 80 countries,” and set-out to raise $250billion.

In another significant initiative, a pledge was signed by 52 countries to reduce emissions from global cooling by 68% by 2050.

Even President Christodoulides got onto the act by announcing environmental sustainability initiatives. Cyprus received easy publicity by joining the anti-coal initiative, even though it does not really use coal.

These positive developments, and more pledges for climate finance, enabled COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber to claim that the GDA “represents an inflection point for addressing various challenges that to date have slowed down the energy transition.” It was certainly “the most impactful day” so far at COP28. Even though the 1.5oC limit may now be difficult to achieve, if all pledges are implemented, they may get the world closer to 2 oC.

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