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In his keynote address at COP28, King Charles issued a stark warning, noting that “unless we rapidly repair and restore nature’s economy, our own economy and survivability will be imperilled”.

One week into the summit, it is vital to step back to take stock of developments to date.

With big announcements headlining on day one, COP28 appeared to hit the ground running. It was clear from the beginning that the stakes are high, with other opening speeches also emphasising how this COP needs to be a game changer if we are to keep the global aim of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels

The key question is whether COP28 can make a fair and sustainable future a reality. Therefore, discussions focused on delivering loss and damage funding, unlocking climate finance and maximising momentum on mitigation, including pushing for a global deal to dramatically boost renewable energy efficiency by 2030

The role of lawyers and general counsel, in particular, is clear in this regard. Their role is to both manage risk and develop climate strategy, ensuring compliance on one hand and supporting transactions, on the other.

Loss and Damage

At COP27 agreement was reached to establish a fund assisting the developing countries particularly vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change, known as the Loss and Damage Fund. COP28 has seen further agreement, this time on a framework for the World Bank to operationalise the fund delivering on the agreement reached last year.

Policymakers have so far pledged over $420 million with the aim of distributing money as early as 2024. The three largest pledges came from the UAE, Germany and the UK.

Although this represents an important step, with loss and damage from climate change costing around $1.5 trillion in 2022, challenges including funding sources and scale remain, and conference leaders warned of the inadequate pace of emissions reduction efforts with fights over commitments to fossil fuels.

Climate finance

To further facilitate climate finance, the UAE announced a $30 billion climate fund called ALTÉRRA to invest in climate-friendly projects across the globe. Some of this will focus on tackling deforestation or projects driving energy innovation.

As renewables make up more of the world's energy generation mix and we look to decarbonise fuels, we face major infrastructure challenges and costs that will add up. Companies will, therefore, benefit from cross-practice, holistic strategic and legal advice to help bridge the gaps their business may face in achieving economic success and reaching climate goals. 

Energy

Some key energy related developments are worth highlighting:

Increasing renewable energy capacity:
The EU launched the Global Pledge on Renewables and Energy Efficiency together with the COP28 Presidency and 118 countries. Signatories commit to working together to triple the global installed capacity of renewable energy and to double the rate of global energy efficiency improvements by 2030. It is relevant to note that, while generally supportive of its aim, China and India have not yet signed the pledge.

A collaboration between Kenya, Denmark, Germany, the UAE and the International Renewable Energy Agency launched in September 2023 was back on stage with the announcement that it expected to be able to offer $600 billion in cash to African nations looking to develop wind and solar projects.

Nuclear:
Led by the US, 22 countries - including France, the UK, Japan, Canada, South Korea and Ukraine - pledged to work together to advance a “global aspirational goal” of tripling nuclear energy capacity from 2020 to 2050, recognising the key role that nuclear energy can play in limiting global warming and in ensuring net-zero transitions.

Other:
Other noteworthy pledges include the "cooling pledge" of 60 countries aiming to reduce the climate impact of the cooling sector and providing wider access to cooling, and an industry pledge by 50 oil & gas companies representing nearly half of global production to reach near-zero methane emissions and end routine flaring in their operations by 2030.

Food and agriculture

Food and agriculture also featured on the agenda during the first week of COP28, with President al-Jaber promising to make the adaptation and transformation of food systems a priority during the discussions, when it previously sat at the periphery in climate negotiations.

As the second week unfolds, it is clear that being bold and aiming high to create the right environment is necessary. It is also clear that the legal industry has a vital role to play, helping bridge gaps, foster agreements and ensure that companies and governments are well placed to play their part.

This article first appeared on law.com.

COP28

High stakes, low politics and great expectations

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Jannis Bille

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