The seventh day of the UN climate summit COP28 in Dubai was devoted to urbanisation, the built environment and transport, including sustainable mobility and shipping. But with the summit past mid-point, the focus is inevitably shifting to finalising the commitments in the draft Global Stocktake agreement.

Simon Stiell, executive secretary UN Climate Change, warned that the draft Stocktake is currently a “grab bag of wishes and heavy on posturing”, essentially providing “building blocks for a future outcome”. He urged countries and negotiators to “up their game” and avoid falling into the trap of point-scoring and “lowest common denominator politics”.

The ’BuildingtoCOP’ coalition hosted a ministerial meeting that discussed the ‘Buildings Breakthrough’ global initiative. This was launched at COP28 by France, Morocco and UNEP to accelerate change in the buildings sector that is responsible for for 37 per cent of energy-related global emissions and 34 per cent of final energy use. Its mission is that “near-zero emissions and resilient buildings become the new normal by 2030”. Transforming buildings will be essential in global decarbonisation efforts. Twenty-seven countries have joined it so far.

‘C40 Cities’, a global network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities, attended COP28 and called for “fossil fuel phase-out, halving emissions by 2030 and more direct investment in cities to accelerate the fair and just transition to tackle the climate crisis”. Cities contribute over 75 per cent of global emissions, making city-focused action crucial to meeting Paris Agreement targets. More than half the world’s population is living in cities, and the UN is predicting that this will increase to 68 per cent by 2050. This makes urban planning a top priority for governments to ensure mitigation, adaptation and resilience to climate change. C40 announced an updated ‘Cities Climate Transition Framework’ for cities to follow in their fight against the climate crisis.

Demonstrating the importance it places on cities, the COP28 Presidency hosted a ministerial meeting on ‘Urbanisation and Climate Change’, during which, government ministers, regional leaders, financial institutions and non-government stakeholders were urged to support the ‘Joint Outcome Statement on Urbanisation and Climate Change’. Its purpose is “to support and integrate climate action across every level of government, while accelerating local climate finance to ensure adequate adaptation finance reaches cities”.

Transport featured in a number of events organised by the COP28 Presidency that included ‘Put Transport and Mobility on Track for 1.5C Future’, ‘Transport-energy nexus to deliver climate goals’ and a ‘Road Transport Breakthrough’ roundtable meeting. Key presentations were made by the IEA and the ‘International Transport Forum’ (ITF). It is essential that there is strong collaboration between energy supply and transport “to align policies, overcome shared challenges, and forge coalitions to decarbonise both sectors in tandem”.

The CEOs of leading global shipping lines announced collaboration at COP28 to accelerate the decarbonisation of global maritime transport that, if were a country, it would be the sixth-largest carbon emitter. They issued a joint declaration “for an end date for fossil-only powered newbuilds, urging the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the global regulator, to create the regulatory conditions to accelerate the transition to green fuels”.

The EU is pushing for a tax on aviation fuel. The EU climate commissioner, Wopke Hoekstra, said a levy would generate a “substantial amount of money”. There were calls for cleaner energy sources at the ‘Sustainable Aviation Forum’ at COP28, organised by Air Transport Action Group (ATAG). Going further, Airports Council International (ACI) World advocated for regulatory frameworks that facilitate airports’ transition to cleaner energy sources.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) launched a ‘Nature Solutions Finance Hub’ for Asia and Pacific, supported by a large number of partners, aiming “to attract at least $2billion into investment programmes that incorporate nature-based solutions”. Its president, Masatsugu Asakawa, said “Nature is a critical carbon sink with forest and land ecosystems as well as oceans absorbing around 55 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions…It is vital to protect nature in our battle against climate change.”

Professor Jim Skea’s, chairman IPCC, verdict so far is that this is an inclusive COP “that is making progress”.

But the limelight of the day was stolen by Simon Stiell rallying delegates to up their game or face failure. He said the ‘loss and damage’ fund agreement had given COP28 “a spring in its step”, but it was just the start, adding that “at end of next week, we need COP to deliver a bullet train to speed up climate action.”

Dr Charles Ellinas is a senior fellow at the Global Energy Centre of the Atlantic Council