The UN COP28 conference came to a close on 13 December, marking the most-attended COP to date. Hosted in UAE by an oil chief, the conference has been one to watch from the get-go. Has it delivered on much needed action, or was COP a flop? We’re breaking down the key energy takeaways.

“Transitioning away from fossil fuels”

The language around fossil fuels, phasing “out” vs phasing “down”, was set to be one of the areas of highest contention at COP28. In fact, neither of these terms showed up in the final text. Rather, the agreement was finalised as transitioning “away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”.

The final text has received mixed reviews, with some crediting it as the ‘start of the end of fossil fuels,’ while others say it is lacking in clarity and urgency.

“To those who opposed a clear reference to a phase out of fossil fuels in the COP28 text, I want to say that a fossil fuel phase out is inevitable whether they like it or not. Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late,” said Mr. Guterres at the close of the conference.

Tripling renewable energy capacity worldwide by 2030

On December 2, another initiative launched to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and enhance energy efficiency. The global pledge, unveiled by EU President Ursula von der Leyen at the World Action Summit during COP28, garnered support from 130 countries, marking a significant expansion since its inception. The initiative aims to triple the global installed capacity to at least 11 terawatts by 2030, a target initially proposed by von der Leyen in April at the Economies Forum.

Additionally, it sets a goal to double the annual rate of global energy-efficiency improvements from 2% to 4% by the end of the decade. Leaders from many nations, including the EU, US, and UAE, spearheaded the effort, with backing from Brazil, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Canada, Chile, and Barbados. Analysis by Climate Action Tracker hailed the initiative as a key highlight of COP28, potentially closing a third of the gap between current policies and the 1.5C target if fully implemented. Notably, absent from the initiative were China and India, despite their endorsement of tripling global renewable energy capacity at the G20 summit in September.

Cutting back on Methane emissions

The Global Methane Pledge, signed by over 150 countries, aims to cut methane emissions from human sources by 30 percent from 2020 levels by the end of this decade. This collective effort has the potential to avert 0.2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2050. During COP28, countries, including the US, Canada, Brazil, and Egypt, revealed their plans to achieve these targets, accompanied by a commitment of over $1 billion in new grant funding.

Global Cooling Pledge takes off

Over 60 countries signed the Global Cooling Pledge, an initiative to reduce 68% of cooling-related emissions by 2050. The pledge is led by the COP28 Presidency and the UN Environmental Programme’s Cool Coalition. Cooling emissions account for 7% of GHG emissions and have been projected to triple by 2050, making this a vital win for the cooling sector. Signatories include the US, Canada, the UK, and Kenya.

“A successful Cop28 is not about a single individual or nation, but the collective will and concerted efforts of all countries in these negotiations,” Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former UN Climate Envoy.

While there were some landmark pledges that resulted from COP28, pledges are only a starting point. What we urgently need to see now is action.