Kimberley Lloyd, Consultant at HMC, recently had the unique opportunity to attend COP28 in the UAE, engaging across various areas such as finance, regulations, and renewable energy. Here, Kimberley shares her experience of COP28 and offers reflections on the landmark meeting.
The State of Affairs
COP28 commenced with an urgent call to action to align efforts with the 1.5°C target by 2050. The magnitude of the task became evident as alarming gaps emerged between current actions and essential emission cuts required to meet the target. There is need for an annual addition of 1000GW of renewable energy, a fourfold increase in global investment in energy transition, and a mandate to reduce emissions by 60% by 2035. Additionally, the UK’s stance, while urging global shifts, faced scrutiny due to intensified support for O&G extraction and reduced sustainable transport ambitions.
Observations and Discussions
Climate Finance Day
Transparency emerged as a key element to revive carbon credit markets. Discussions underscored the necessity for climate finance to align with societal needs and integrate with poverty reduction, gender equality, and social inclusion. Experts advocated holistic approaches to climate disasters, emphasising early warning systems and comprehensive action plans. Novel financial approaches took centre stage, contemplating a shift from voluntary commitments to potential taxation as a deterrent for non-compliance with targets. Moreover, there was an emphasis on involving the private sector to bridge existing gaps, underscored by the General Counsel at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, who highlighted the necessity for government support and commitments for this collaboration. Proposals for super funds to assist industries in navigating uncertainty, mitigating risks, and addressing new challenges also gained traction during these discussions.
Policy & Planning Challenges
Both Margaret Leinen, Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Dr Jeff Ardron, Commonwealth Secretariat expressed the need for unified frameworks encompassing energy, blue carbon and restoration and the opportunity within Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to craft integrated adaptation plans that provide multiple benefits.
At an Oxford University Press panel, Freddy Sourgens, an academic and chief editor, led a discussion on the regulatory and legal tools needed to achieve a developmentally conscious energy transition. Key aspects highlighted included the significance of country-specific strategies and faster decision-making. Collaboration between government and industry is needed to understand practical on-ground realities and bridge the divide between policy goals and action on the ground. Additionally, robust socioeconomic planning encompassing sustainable supply chains, methodologies, workforce management, and material use emerged as essential components for a holistic and impactful approach. For more insights, see Principles of International Energy Transition Law.
While global advancements in renewable energy increased up to 440GW, impediments persist due to permitting processes and grid connection issues. At least 3000GW of renewables are waiting in grid connection queues globally, with losses up to 30% in the process, signaling the need for smarter grids that take holistic approaches considering grids, digital programmes, supply chains and customers.
Solutions and Hopes
The UK Net Zero Strategy was said to be a model of good practice by setting out different ways to meet 2050 targets and NDCs. It’s backed by specific sector commitments, it identifies cross-cutting challenges, fosters innovation in jobs and industries, and offers detailed sector plans with clear timelines for implementation. The US Inflation Reduction Act was showcased as an effective model for restructuring planning frameworks. It aims to promote clean energy, lower carbon emissions, decrease healthcare expenses, and boost tax revenue by investing in energy initiatives and increasing research and development.
Other noteworthy solutions surfaced, including cross-border collaboration to develop regional plans, proposals for transboundary transmission to share global energy supply, and investing in HVDC cables to reinforce transmission lines between countries to reduce costly generation, storage needed and save global economy nearly $3 trillion. TransitionZero presented a first-of-its-kind global analysis of electricity grid requirements to 2040 at a national and subnational scale. Simon Morrish, CEO of Xlinks showcased the Morocco-UK Power Project powered by a wind and solar farm with long distance HVDC cable, spanning 3,800km delivering 3.6GW of reliable energy.
Outcomes and Future Directions
COP28 delivered the first ever global stocktake under the Paris Agreement. The push for stronger language regarding the transition away from fossil fuels caused alarm, while financial support for climate-affected nations made headway. COP29 will decide the New Collective Qualitative Goal, and countries will submit NDCs before COP30, presenting new targets for 2035.
Kimberley’s experience at COP28 was eye-opening to the web of challenges and solutions in the race against climate change. However, there is an undeniable feeling of the need for more inclusivity and scientific exchange. Many experts bring invaluable ideas and expertise to the table, underscoring the importance of broader public engagement. Finding effective ways to capture this knowledge could steer future COPs towards a more comprehensive, cross-sectoral engagement platform.