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Climate

COP28 So Far: A Cheat Sheet

Halfway through the year’s marquee climate conference, here’s where things stand.

COP28 elements.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

It’s a “rest day” at COP28, which means there probably won’t be a ton of news coming out of Dubai as delegates take a breather before the climate talks shift into high gear tomorrow. That makes now a good time to reflect on what’s happened so far and what to expect as the conference enters its second half.

Some key accomplishments:

  • The loss and damage fund: On day one of the conference, world leaders reached a landmark deal to help vulnerable nations deal with the costly effects of climate change. The early accomplishment set an optimistic tone for the summit — although The Guardiannotes that wealthy countries have so far pledged $700 million to the fund, “far short of what is needed.” In total, countries have announced $57 billion of various funding pledges at the conference.
  • Methane cuts: About 50 oil and gas companies pledged to slash their methane leaks by 2030. Critics cry greenwashing, but as Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo points out, recent technological advances in methane monitoring – including satellites, drones, and handheld detectors – could help in the international effort to hold these companies accountable. A planned $40 million infusion from billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg will bolster the cause, too.
  • A renewables pledge: At least 120 countries backed a pledge to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030. That goal made it into an early draft of the global stocktake report, the summit’s final deliverable, but that’s no guarantee it will be formally adopted.
  • A nuclear energy declaration: More than 20 countries including the U.S., Canada, the UK, and the United Arab Emirates, pledged to triple global nuclear energy capacity by 2050.
  • Growing support for a fossil phase-out: The number of countries pledging to voluntarily end oil and gas extraction and exploration grew to 24 when Spain, Kenya, and Samoa joined the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance
  • A global cooling pledge: More than 60 countries pledged to reduce their cooling-related emissions by at least 68% by 2050.

Still to come:

  • Phase out or phase down?: The global stocktake will be the main focus heading into the second week of COP28. This key document will set out the world’s climate goals for the coming years, and help determine how they’ll be accomplished. The most contentious issue is whether to include a call for a phase out of fossil fuels. A new draft of the global stocktake is expected tomorrow.
  • What comes after $100 billion?: Ministers will also need to lay the groundwork for new climate financing targets for poorer countries. Rich nations recently (and belatedly) hit their goal of providing $100 billion annually for poorer countries, a pledge set out in 2009. But finance efforts don’t end there, explains the World Resources Institute. Next year’s COP will call for setting a new “collective quantified goal” that uses the existing $100 billion target as a jumping off point but will likely balloon to be much bigger. Delegates in Dubai will try to come to some consensus on what to prioritize when negotiations start at COP29.

“We had a pretty damn good week here in Dubai already,” U.S. Special Envoy John Kerry told the AP. But underlying it all is the reality that the event is being held in one of the world’s biggest petrostates, fossil fuel lobbyists are out in force, and the summit’s president, Sultan Al-Jaber, has been openly skeptical about the science connecting fossil fuel caps to taming global temperatures.

“I’m not telling you that everybody’s going to come kumbaya to the table,” Kerry added, “but I am telling you we’re going to make our best effort to get the best agreement we can to move as far as we can as fast as we can. That’s what people in the world want us to do. It’s time for adults to behave like adults and get the job done.”

The summit is set to end on December 12, but previous COPs have run into overtime.

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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