Cop28 legacy runs through Davos debate

Key figures say pledges made in Dubai last month must be brought to fruition

The world after Cop28 has been a key theme running through the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. AP
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The need to tackle the looming climate catastrophe was once a fringe topic in Davos, where the world's elites flock to talk about wealth creation.

Not any longer.

The urgent need for virtually every section of global society to act – not least governments and industry, who are out in force at the World Economic Forum – has been firmly on the agenda this week.

John Kerry, US envoy for climate change, said that for 28 years of Cop climate summits “every nation had to make up its own plan – not exactly the most effective thing”.

Cop28 demonstrated that multilateralism can still deliver historic results, however, it must work for all regions and peoples of the world - not just some
Badr Jafar, Cop28 special representative

“In Dubai, we were able to change that paradigm to some degree, with one critical paragraph. That paragraph was that we must transition away from fossil fuels,” he said, referring to the deal reached at December's climate summit in the UAE.

The agreement to fight to keep global warming within 1.5ºC, to phase down fossil fuels over 30 years, and to radically cut emissions by 2030 were pledges that were unachievable in previous summits, he told a packed auditorium.

“When you add all that together, folks, and 195 countries have signed off on this – that is a profound, important paradigm shift.

“Everybody is working to a stronger guardrail, if you will, which is that we must achieve by 2030 the 45 per cent minimum reduction [in emissions] globally and do other things.”

Speaking at a separate session, he struck an optimistic note: “We are in better shape to take this issue to where it needs to go than we have ever been.”

Watch: John Kerry speaks to CNN Business Arabic in Davos

John Kerry says Cop28 had ‘one of the strongest outcomes ever’

John Kerry says Cop28 had ‘one of the strongest outcomes ever’

Reaching net zero is no easy feat. It will require an estimated $3 trillion of investment – every year – to cut emissions, reverse nature loss and restore biodiversity to Earth.

If developing nations are left behind, then the goal fails.

“Cop28 demonstrated that multilateralism can still deliver historic results. However, it must work for all regions and peoples of the world, not just some,” said Badr Jafar, Cop28's special representative for business & philanthropy and chief executive of the oil and energy company Crescent Enterprises.

“Which is why the central theme put forward by the Cop28 Presidency was that the process must leave no one behind.”

There were no easy solutions in Davos this week.

Governments and private enterprises alike must look hard at how they channel enormous amounts of money into renewables, how to clean up polluting industries, and how they create a green workforce of the future, as jobs linked to traditional industries decline.

Financing and faultlines

Although 195 countries backed the UAE Consensus, as it was known, the summit ended with critical issues deferred to Cop29 in Baku.

These include how rich countries help poor countries pay to invest in renewables, known as the Just Transition, and helping them to set up physical defences to cope with rising sea levels and extreme weather, known as Adaptation.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, told a session that the climate change checklist has to be at the front of the minds of those in government.

“There are five conditions to consider Cop28 to be successful. Number one, we should get an outcome that the countries pledge to triple their renewable capacity,” he said.

“Number two, doubling the rate of energy efficiency. Number three, agreeing to have a major cut of methane emissions. Number four, countries should give a signal of an orderly move away from fossil fuels. And number, five, providing financial support for clean energy transition in emerging and developing countries. Five of them.

“I see that many of them have now been reflected in the outcome text for which we are really delighted.

“There are of course other areas, one area especially, which are not there, and in my view it is a fault line in our fight against climate change, which is the financing issue. How do we finance clean energy transition in emerging and developing countries is the fault line.”

In Davos this week, conversations also turned to what the technology industry must do to manage the enormous amounts of renewable energy that will be generated.

Sun, wind and sea

Harnessing the power of the wind, the Sun and the sea is all good and well. But if you cannot properly store the energy in super-advanced batteries, we have a problem.

Catherine MacGregor, chief executive of Engie, a low-carbon energy services company, said this was the focus of her industry.

She said the outcome of Cop28 was “really exciting” after years of Cops that had been “faltering” – but now the hard work begins.

“A lot more needs to happen, particularly around what we like to call flexibility – means to store energy at large scale: a very important component,” she said.

“You cannot just rely on sun or wind, you have to be able to store this energy when there is too much of it.”

Critical to climate change action is big businesses investing in clean industries of the future.

Ahmed Al Calily, chief strategy and risk officer at Mubadala Investment Company in Abu Dhabi, told The National that governments and companies must put net-zero principles, responsible investing and a clean future at the heart of their strategies.

“Cop28 is done, but the important part is that we keep to our promises, as nations, as companies,” he said in Davos.

“Everyone has a part to play. We've all made commitments – binding commitments to achieve net zero, 1.5ºC. The next step is how to stick to those commitments and make it happen.”

Updated: January 19, 2024, 11:10 AM