COP28 and The Path Forward in Global Sustainability

  • 13 min. read
  • Hemant Joshi
COP28 and The Path Forward in Global Sustainability

As the world turned its gaze to COP28, the stage was set for dialogue and decisive action in the realm of global sustainability. 

This pivotal conference marked a watershed moment, where discussions ranged from environmental concerns to strategies for change. These strategies are going to prove pivotal in shaping the future of businesses and economies worldwide. 

The outcomes of COP28 have illuminated the path forward for corporations, policymakers, and individuals alike.

I delve deep into the heart of COP28’s resolutions, dissecting the agreements and initiatives that are set to redefine the global sustainability landscape. 

Read my guide to understand how climate action milestones intertwine with your corporate sustainability strategy.

What is the Need for COP Summits Every Year?

COP28, like its predecessors, exists as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It’s a global effort to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable practices. 

The significance of COP28, and the COP conferences in general, lies in several key areas:

COP conferences serve as a platform for nations worldwide to collaborate and negotiate on strategies to mitigate climate change. This international cooperation is crucial, given that climate change is a global issue requiring collective action.

These conferences are pivotal for setting new climate goals and reviewing progress on existing commitments, such as those made under the Paris Agreement. They provide a structured framework for countries to regularly update and enhance their climate action plans.

COP conferences play a significant role in advancing the understanding of climate science and the development of effective climate policies. They facilitate the sharing of research, technology, and best practices among countries.

Climate Science and Policy
Image credit: Mídia NINJA

The COP meetings also focus on climate equity, ensuring that the needs and concerns of all countries, particularly those most vulnerable to climate change, are addressed. This includes discussions on financial and technical support for developing countries.

These conferences also provide a platform for engagement between governments, the private sector, NGOs, and civil society. This broad participation helps in mobilizing resources and fostering innovative solutions to tackle climate challenges.

The decisions and declarations made at COP conferences shape the global climate agenda. They influence national policies and international agreements and guide the allocation of resources towards climate action.

A Brief History from COP22 to COP27: Agenda and Outcomes

Here’s a timeline of how the major decisions of the COP summit over the years, to refresh your memory before I dive into the nitty-gritty of COP28. 

Agenda: Focused on starting the process of turning the Paris Agreement into a detailed action plan.

Major Outcomes:

  • Decision to complete the Paris Agreement details by 2018, with a review in 2017.
  • Urging countries to scale up financial contributions towards the $100bn/year by 2020 goal.
  • Approval of a five-year work plan on “loss and damage” due to climate change.
  • The Marrakech Action Proclamation reaffirming commitment to the Paris Agreement.
  • Launch of a new fund to encourage transparency efforts with a $50m injection.

Agenda: Continued negotiations on the details of the Paris Agreement’s implementation from 2020 onwards.

Major Outcomes:

  • The US and China co-chaired a working group on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
  • The “We Are Still In” delegation, including major US sub-national actors, set up a large pavilion to counter Donald Trump’s anti-climate policies.
  • Launch of the “Powering Past Coal Alliance” led by the UK and Canada, aiming for a coal phase-out.
  • Discussions on pre-2020 climate action, leading to additional stocktaking sessions in 2018 and 2019.
  • Fiji, as the talk’s president, pushed for the Gender Action Plan and Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform.
  • Introduction of the “Talanoa dialogue” for inclusive, participatory, and transparent discussions.

Agenda: Finalizing the Paris Agreement “rulebook” for implementation starting in 2020.

Major Outcomes:

  • Starting a new international climate regime for reporting emissions every two years from 2024.
  • Discussions on the IPCC 1.5 report led by the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait.
  • Finalization of the Paris rulebook, covering greenhouse gas emissions reporting, climate finance, and rules for market mechanisms.
  • Set up an expert compliance committee for monitoring adherence to the Paris Agreement.
  • Debates on raising the ambition of climate pledges (NDCs) for the 2020 submissions.
  • “Pre-2020” commitments, urging developed countries to ratify the Doha Amendment and increase financial support.
  • Discussions on setting a new climate finance goal above the $100bn per year by 2025, starting at COP26.

Agenda: Finalizing the Paris Agreement “rulebook,” addressing carbon markets, and signaling intent to limit global warming.

Major Outcomes:

  • Longest climate conference, ending without consensus on many critical areas.
  • Key discussions on Article 6 (carbon markets), loss and damage, finance, gender action plan, and agriculture were held.
  • A notable aspect was the focus on oceans, with 39 countries committing to including oceans in their future Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

Agenda: Addressing the $100bn climate funding, finalizing the Paris Agreement “rulebook,” and keeping the 1.5C target alive.

Major Outcomes:

  • Glasgow Climate Pact, focusing on doubling adaptation finance, and requesting countries to present more ambitious climate pledges.
  • Progress on Article 6 (carbon markets), loss and damage, adaptation, transparency, common time frames, global stocktake, and various other areas.
  • UK COP presidency announcements on deforestation, methane, coal phase-out, fossil-fuel financing, zero-emission cars, and a financial alliance.
  • Discussions on leaders’ summit speeches, new NDCs, US-China joint climate declaration, and the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance

Agenda: Addressing loss and damage, adaptation, and climate finance reforms.

Major Outcomes:

  • Historic agreement on funding for loss and damage due to climate impacts.
  • Limited progress on adaptation, failing to meet the scale and speed necessary.
  • Climate finance reforms gained traction but with limited new pledges.
  • Incremental progress on emission cuts, discussion on energy transition, and shift in the Global Stocktake from technical to political phase.
  • New African initiatives for environmental restoration and water issues.
  • Carbon market rules raised concerns over the integrity and safeguards.
  • Inclusion of nature-based solutions in the negotiation text for the first time

COP28 Overview: Setting the Stage for Global Sustainability 

Global Sustainability - COP28
Image credit: Victor Barro

COP28, the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was a landmark event for many reasons.

The conference was held in Dubai, which is poignant considering the Gulf nations’ attitudes and policies to climate change previously. Having been unresponsive so far to the threat of fossil fuels, the agenda at COP28 does offer a glimmer of hope.

This year the target was to transition away from fossil fuels and the global stocktake under the Paris Agreement. And by the time the summit ended on December 13, there was more reason to believe that countries might embrace environmental sustainability in all facets of life.

So, let’s look at what these outcomes are and why you should be hopeful. 

  • Agreement on transitioning away from fossil fuels, though with frustration over the lack of a clear call for a fossil-fuel phase-out.
  • Global stocktake included a list of goals, emphasizing the transition away from fossil fuels and the need for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.
  • US$700 million has been pledged for the “Loss and Damage” fund.

There have also been agreements between nations to triple renewable energy capacity, enhance energy efficiency, and reduce methane emissions.  

These commitments are part of a broader effort to transition away from fossil fuels, as outlined in the final declaration of the conference. 

The COP28 agreements, like those from previous COPs, are non-binding, but they set an important framework for countries and companies to show progress in their climate action efforts.

Looking ahead, the final versions of the reporting tools for COP28 are expected to be made available by June 2024. 

Meanwhile, the upcoming COP29 is particularly significant, as governments are expected to establish a new climate finance goal​​​​​​​​​​.

The Key Outcomes of COP28 and What They Mean?

The “UAE Consensus” at COP28 marked the first collective mention of fossil fuels in a COP agreement. 

This non-binding agreement emphasizes a transition from fossil fuels in energy systems, aiming for net zero by 2050. 

Here are the key takeaways from the summit, after which I’ll take a deep dive into the implications of these decisions. 

The Loss and Damage Fund was established to support countries vulnerable to extreme weather events​​. A sum of US$700 million has been pledged, which was previously agreed in COP27 in 2022.

The private sector widely acknowledges the need to accelerate action toward net zero. COP28 saw significant participation from private-sector leaders, along with the launch of initiatives like the Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum and Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA), focusing on accelerating climate action and growth​​.

There is a commitment to rapidly scale up renewable energy and improve energy efficiency. This includes tripling renewables by 2030 and doubling energy efficiency improvement rates, as well as tripling nuclear capacity by 2050​​.

Moreover, industries have agreed to scale up the production of renewables-based hydrogen to 11 million tonnes by 2030.

A significant focus was placed on reducing emissions from fossil fuel operations. Over 40% of global oil and gas production companies signed the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter, committing to net-zero operations by 2050 and near-zero methane emissions by 2030​​.

Methane reduction emerged as a major theme, with commitments from countries and the World Bank to launch methane reduction programs. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is a critical focus for emission reduction efforts​​.

More than $80 billion in climate finance commitments were made, although this falls short of the needs. Efforts were made to scale blended finance structures to attract private capital to climate finance. Agreements were also reached on the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund and the establishment of new coal transition credits​​.

Proven climate technologies are available for significant CO2 abatement, but they require accelerated deployment. Renewable energy and other interdependent climate technologies must grow at more than 20% annually over the next decade​​.

Heavy-emissions sectors like energy, transport, and industry are working towards decarbonization. This includes scaling implementation and delivery of decarbonization in key sectors and making near-zero building the norm by 2030​​.

COP28 emphasized the importance of addressing nature conservation and expanding nature-based solutions alongside climate action. More than 30 companies committed to 100% Sustainable Ocean Management by 2030​​.

Image credit: COP28 / Stuart Wilson

COP28 saw significant agreements on nature, health, food, and water systems. Over 130 leaders committed to transforming their food systems for climate action, and more than 30 countries signed the Freshwater Challenge to preserve freshwater ecosystems​​.

Leaders are encouraged to decarbonize existing assets, power up climate technologies, facilitate significant capital investment in new climate technologies, and ensure an equitable and inclusive transition to net zero. 

This includes focusing on regenerative agriculture, water efficiency, and creating new forms of collaboration across sectors​

Analyzing the Implications of COP28 Heading into 2024

Analyzing the Implications of COP28 Heading into 2024

The outcomes of COP28 have significant implications for the global response to climate change heading into 2024 and beyond. These implications span various domains, including international policy, economics, technological development, and social dynamics. 

Here’s an overview:

Countries will likely need to update or create new policies to meet the commitments made at COP28. This could involve enhancing renewable energy policies, introducing stricter emissions regulations, and developing strategies for energy efficiency and methane reduction.

Sprih addresses this by offering continuous insights and updates, ensuring that businesses are informed and well-equipped to respond proactively to these changes. 

Visit our website to confidently keep pace with the evolving sustainability landscape. 

The focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency will likely influence investment trends. There could be a surge in funding for green technologies, renewable energy projects, and energy-efficient solutions. Companies may also face increased pressure to align their operations and strategies with sustainability goals.

The push towards tripling renewable energy capacity and improving energy efficiency will drive innovation. For instance, research and development in solar, wind, battery storage, and other renewable technologies are expected to accelerate.

Carbon capture technology can be integrated with renewable energy sources to enhance their efficiency. Capturing carbon emissions from bioenergy processes makes these renewable sources even more sustainable. 

This leads to a reduction in net atmospheric carbon.

The non-binding nature of COP28 agreements means that international collaboration and diplomatic efforts will be crucial for their success. Countries will need to work together to share technologies, best practices, and strategies for achieving the agreed-upon goals.

The focus on establishing a new climate finance goal at COP29 suggests an increased emphasis on financial mechanisms to support climate action, particularly in developing countries. This could involve new funding models, increased aid, or innovative financing solutions.

The outcomes of COP28 may boost public awareness and engagement in climate issues. This could lead to increased advocacy for climate action and greater scrutiny of government and corporate responses to climate change.

With the ongoing effects of climate change, there will likely be a heightened focus on adaptation and resilience-building measures, especially in vulnerable regions. This includes investing in infrastructure, developing early warning systems, and implementing climate-resilient agricultural practices.

The ultimate test of COP28’s impact will be its effect on global greenhouse gas emission trajectories. It will play a crucial role in determining whether the world can meet the targets set under the Paris Agreement and effectively mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

Industry Implications for Corporates

Global Sustainability

Apart from these, there are also some industry implications of COP28 with various sectors rapidly adjusting their strategies. To reflect new sustainability benchmarks, corporations are changing their strategies in the following ways. 

Corporations will need to increasingly integrate sustainability into their core business strategies. This might involve investing in renewable energy, improving energy efficiency in operations, and adopting more sustainable practices across their value chain.

As countries update their policies to align with COP28 commitments, corporations will face new regulatory requirements. This necessitates a proactive approach to compliance and risk management, particularly in areas related to emissions, energy use, and environmental impact.

The push towards renewable energy and energy efficiency will drive corporations to invest in new technologies and innovations. This includes renewable energy sources like solar and wind, energy-efficient technologies, and potentially, carbon capture and storage solutions.

The shift in investment trends towards sustainability and green technologies presents both challenges and opportunities. Corporations might find new avenues for investment and growth in green sectors, but they may also need to navigate away from fossil fuel-based investments and operations.

Consumer awareness and expectations regarding corporate responsibility for climate action are rising. Companies will likely experience increased scrutiny from consumers, investors, and the public, making corporate reputation management more crucial than ever.

Corporations will need to ensure their supply chains are not only resilient but also sustainable. This could mean re-evaluating supply chain partners, sourcing practices, and logistics to minimize environmental impact and ensure alignment with sustainability goals.

As sustainability becomes increasingly important, corporations will find that their approach to environmental issues plays a role in attracting and retaining talent. Employees are more likely to seek out employers who demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices.

 Companies that effectively integrate sustainability into their business may achieve a competitive advantage. This could manifest in the form of brand differentiation, increased market share in green sectors, or leadership in sustainable practices within their industry.

To meet sustainability goals and navigate the changing business landscape, corporations might seek partnerships. This includes collaborations with governments, NGOs, industry peers, and other stakeholders to share knowledge, resources, and best practices.

With the shift towards sustainability and potential new regulatory landscapes, corporates will need to consider long-term financial planning that accommodates these changes and mitigates associated risks.

Issues and Advantages for Corporates Following New Regulations Under COP28

Advantages for Corporates Following New Regulations Under COP28
Image credit: Garry Knight

The implications of COP28 outcomes for corporates bring a mix of challenges and opportunities. Understanding these is crucial for businesses to navigate the evolving landscape effectively.

First I’ll take you through some of the problems that will force corporations to rethink their strategies and suitable solutions. 

Adapting to new environmental regulations and standards could incur significant costs. Corporations may need to invest in new technologies, processes, or infrastructure to comply with stricter emission controls and energy efficiency requirements.

For companies heavily reliant on fossil fuels or high-emission processes, transitioning to greener alternatives could be challenging. This transition involves potential risks like stranded assets, shifts in market demand, and the need for new business models.

Implementing sustainable practices across the supply chain can be complex, especially for global companies. This might involve re-evaluating and potentially changing suppliers, which can disrupt operations and increase costs.

The shift in investment trends towards sustainability might require corporates to reallocate resources, potentially moving away from profitable but non-sustainable areas. This could impact short-term financial performance.

Investing in new, often rapidly evolving green technologies carries inherent risks. Technologies that are currently seen as cutting-edge might become obsolete, or fail to deliver on their promises.

Advantages of Adhering to Climate Protocols

While there are risks, I’m more optimistic about the positives. I believe the latest climate protocols will result in greater success for businesses in the long term. 

Here are some points to justify my claims.

Corporations that invest in sustainable technologies and practices can position themselves as market leaders. This can open up new markets and customer segments, especially among environmentally conscious consumers.

Implementing energy-efficient practices and renewable energy sources can lead to long-term cost savings. Reduced energy consumption and waste can also lead to more streamlined and efficient operations.

Being proactive in sustainability and environmental responsibility can significantly enhance a company’s reputation. This can lead to increased customer loyalty, brand value, and attractiveness to investors.

There is a growing pool of green finance and investment focusing on sustainable projects. Corporations engaging in sustainable practices might access these funds more easily, along with new markets that prioritize environmental responsibility.

Companies with a strong focus on sustainability are often more attractive to the workforce, especially millennials and Gen Z, who increasingly prefer to work for environmentally responsible employers.

Moreover, it leads to consumer satisfaction and increases trust as people are shifting more towards sustainable businesses. Organizations that are transparent about their sustainable policies and take proactive steps to reduce carbon footprint, will be able to retain existing customers.

By adopting sustainable practices, companies can mitigate risks associated with climate change and regulatory changes. This proactive approach can safeguard against future disruptions and penalties.

The focus on sustainability encourages collaborations across industries and with governments, NGOs, and other organizations. These partnerships can lead to shared expertise, resources, and innovative solutions.

Reinforcing The Commitment to Driving Sustainable Practices 

COP28 has set a new benchmark in global sustainability and climate action. 

From the agreements to the innovative initiatives launched, COP28 has charted a course for transformative environmental policies and practices. Now, it’s time for businesses and industries to embrace and integrate these changes. 

With a keen focus on corporate sustainability strategy, they must leverage the learnings from COP28 to remain compliant. 

Organizations should look to lead the global march towards a more sustainable and responsible future.

Ready To Navigate The Post-COP28 Sustainability Landscape? 

Align your corporate sustainability strategy with global climate action goals. Visit the website today and book a demo to take a decisive step towards a sustainable future.


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