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Breakthroughs @COP28: Taking Stock of Climate Action With the Global Stocktake

The Agreement approved at the climate summit represents a major change by explicitly targetting fossil fuel usage.

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(COP28 concluded with historic breakthroughs, committing to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation. The Global Stocktake Agreement marks a pivotal shift from fossil fuels, emphasising a comprehensive approach. Despite criticisms, the conference signifies a transformative climate agenda, fostering global collaboration for a sustainable future.)

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), which ended recently, represents a firm commitment to tackling the intricate problems of land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change. The COP28 declaration highlights the interdependence of these issues and calls for a comprehensive strategy to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework by 2030.

It also acknowledges the serious effects of climate change on livelihoods and biodiversity. Expanding upon earlier accords, the proclamation emphasises the importance of global collaboration and altruistic alliances and endeavours to facilitate the successful fulfillment of obligations.

The urgency of taking comprehensive action against land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change is emphasised by COP28 attendees. Strengthening national planning's synergies, scaling funding from various sources, including everyone in decision-making, taking a whole-of-society approach, and encouraging coherence across data sources are some of the main goals.

The pledge to improve voluntary partnership and initiative coordination, together with frequent progress reports, represents a coordinated worldwide endeavour to tackle environmental issues effectively and cooperatively.

This declaration from COP28 marks a turning point in the global response to unseen environmental problems. 
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Turning the Tide? COP28’s Agreement on Transitioning From Fossil Fuels

The Global Stocktake Agreement, approved at the COP28 climate summit, represents a major change in how the world responds to climate change. Meeting a long-standing desire from participating nations, the agreement explicitly targets the usage of fossil fuels. 

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, the COP28 accord is praised for acknowledging the pressing need to move away from fossil fuels and for being a significant turning point in the global effort to address climate change.

This is consistent with the agreement's emphasis on moving away from fossil fuels and highlights the significance of taking proactive steps to fulfill obligations.
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Despite recognised flaws, the focus on concrete steps and the pressing need for transition demonstrate a shared commitment to addressing the critical challenges of the climate crisis.

India and several other developing countries have expressed apprehensions regarding the fiscal ramifications of swift decarbonisation, referencing past emissions that predominantly stem from developed nations.

India is looking for technological and financial assistance to enable a more seamless transition to cleaner energy, highlighting the idea of "common but differentiated responsibilities" in climate negotiations. This position illustrates the careful equilibrium between environmental goals and economic development.

Without mentioning a total withdrawal, the phrase "transitioning away from fossil fuels" suggests a more general move towards other energy sources. It proposes a phased transition from fossil fuels without a set timetable while embracing renewable energy sources.
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Global Recognition and Response to Loss and Damage: Urgent Actions Needed

As per Article 8 of the Paris Agreement, the COP28 outcomes underscore the necessity of addressing loss and damage caused by climate change. To improve comprehension and support, it advocates for cooperative efforts through platforms such as the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.

Understanding that certain nations and groups are more vulnerable than others because of location, socio-economic standing, gender, and forced migration, the paper emphasises the necessity of coordinated efforts to prevent, reduce, and deal with loss and damage. It recognises advancements made possible by the Warsaw International Mechanism's Executive Committee, notably the creation of the Santiago network.

It is accepted that national efforts have been made in risk management, proactive intervention, recovery, and local finance systems in response to loss and damage. The article conveys great concern about both the economic and non-economic losses preventing developing countries' achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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The negotiations emphasises the need for better understanding, support, policy, and action to effectively manage risks. It does this by highlighting the current and future implications of climate change. It points out the existing loopholes, especially in the financial sector, to manage the growing amount and frequency of loss and harm.

Emphasising the coherence between catastrophe risk reduction, humanitarian relief, and actions connected to displacement and migration, the outcome calls for immediate and increased action and support. It emphasises the importance of transparency when disclosing information about steps taken to mitigate loss and damage.

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First Global Stocktake: Acknowledging the Interconnected Challenges of Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss

The first global stocktake, described in the Paris Agreement's Conference of the Parties (COP), offers a thorough grasp of the interconnected problems of biodiversity loss and climate change.

This recurring evaluation, which Article 14 of the Paris Agreement requires, measures the overall progress made by all parties toward the agreement's objectives. The proclamation emphasises the common but distinct duties and equity at the heart of the Paris Agreement.

The commitment to conducting worldwide stocktakes and assessing mitigation, adaptation, implementation strategies, and support by the most recent scientific discoveries is reaffirmed.
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The findings highlight the connections between sustainable development objectives, biodiversity loss, and climate change. It emphasises how urgent it is to solve these problems and how crucial it is to preserve, restore, protect, and use the environment and ecosystems sustainably to combat climate change effectively.

The first global stocktake on climate change reflects a comprehensive strategy recognising the wide-ranging effects on human rights, biodiversity, and sustainable development. It offers parties a framework to improve their actions to promote international collaboration in a cohesive response to these difficulties.

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COP28 Gender-Responsive Just Transitions: Advancing Climate Action With Equality

Recognising the critical role of gender equality in the battle against climate change has advanced significantly with the creation of the COP28 Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership. The collaboration reiterates adherence to international accords such as the Beijing Declaration, the Paris Agreement, the Lima Work Program on Gender, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, building on the achievements of the Global Stocktake.

The paper emphasises how important it is for women and girls to be included in governance, finance, and decision-making related to climate change, especially regarding the switch to clean energy. It recognises the various contributions made to expediting the implementation of the Paris Agreement, such as those made by women from rural and Indigenous communities and by people with disabilities.

The alliance highlights the need for decent jobs in just transitions by acknowledging that women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change. It emphasises the importance of protecting women's land rights and acknowledges their contribution to climate adaptation-enhancing sustainable agriculture and land restoration projects.
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The alliance also tackles climate-related industries where women are engaged regularly, emphasising the need for resources, education, and training in climate-smart practices. Concerns are raised regarding the escalation of existing disparities, violence against women, and barriers to essential services brought on by climate change.

The commitment to creating a "Gender-Responsive Just" transition lays out important tactics, such as incorporating gender-responsive budgeting and policy, applying gender-responsive measures to mitigation and adaptation, and integrating human rights. It highlights finding financing sources to improve.

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International Collaboration for Mutual Recognition of Renewable and Low-Carbon Hydrogen Certification

The agreement on the "Mutual Recognition of Certification Schemes for Renewable and Low-Carbon Hydrogen and Hydrogen Derivatives" signifies a joint endeavour by participating nations to strengthen multilateral cooperation in tackling climate change and advancing the global energy transition.

Acknowledging the vital role of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen in meeting energy demands and reducing industrial carbon emissions, the participants aim to promote sustainable economic growth and eco-friendly industrialisation.

The document underscores the importance of transparent certification for building consumer trust and facilitating global trade in renewable and low-carbon hydrogen. It highlights the participants' complementary strengths and interests in hydrogen production, imports, and exports, emphasising the value of international standards and certification, as previously outlined in G7 and G20 agreements.
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Based on traceability, transparency, trustworthiness, and sustainability principles, the participants commit to collaborative efforts in developing technical solutions to mutually recognise their certification schemes. The document acknowledges the relevance of the ISO methodology for assessing greenhouse gas emissions related to hydrogen production and transport, aligning with the COP28 Presidential action agenda that prioritises certification.

Recognising the global implementation of diverse certification schemes, the participants aim to converge towards fundamental design principles to prevent market fragmentation. The agreement seeks to boost investor confidence in hydrogen as a burgeoning asset class, laying the groundwork for a global market in renewable and low-carbon hydrogen and its derivatives.

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8 Key Agreements of COP28: A Transformative Climate Agenda

  1. Historic Shift Away from Fossil Fuels: COP28 marked a groundbreaking moment after intense negotiations as nearly 200 nations agreed to initiate a global move away from fossil fuels. The Global Stocktake (GST) text, a conference highlight, emphasised the need for an orderly and equitable transition from fossil fuels, specifically mentioning coal without explicit references to oil and gas.

  2. Renewable Energy and Efficiency Surge: In a commitment to combat climate change, 117 countries pledged to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030. The "Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge" requires signatories to double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements, aiming for over 4 per cent annually until 2030.

  3. Formalisation of Loss and Damage Fund:  On the first day of COP28, a loss and damage fund was formally established. Acknowledging their part in the global catastrophe, developed nations offered a minimum of USD 700 million to assist disadvantaged countries facing the effects of climate change.

  4. Acceleration of Unabated Coal Phase-Down: Intense efforts were requested in the final COP28 document to phase down coal power without interruption. The final version removed the earlier draft's restriction on constructing new coal plants, giving nations like India more freedom as they work to fulfill the world's expanding energy needs sustainably.

  5. Oil and Gas Industry Commitment to Emission Reductions: Forty-five oil and gas producers, accounting for forty per cent of the world's oil production, committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in a historic agreement. This organisation promised to significantly reduce methane emissions to almost zero levels by 2030, with interim targets set to accomplish this aim. 

  6. Recognition of Food and Agriculture's Role in Carbon Emissions: By recognising the role of food systems and agriculture in carbon emissions, COP28 accomplished a first. More than 130 nations signed the declaration, which acknowledged that food had a major impact on warming gases that affect global temperatures.

  7. Declaration of Climate and Health Priorities: During COP28, the health effects of climate change were given prominent attention for the first time in the 28 years of UN climate talks. In addition to encouraging decreased greenhouse gas emissions, less air pollution, active transportation, and a transition to sustainable and healthful diets, the declaration strongly emphasised climate action for health advantages.

  8. Global Commitment to Cooling Technologies: At COP28, an innovative effort called the 'Global Cooling Pledge' was endorsed by over 60 countries. With an emphasis on energy-efficient cooling technology and refrigerant management, the commitment seeks to cut cooling-related emissions globally by at least 68% by the year 2050. It also intends to assist developing countries in shifting to sustainable cooling practices.

(Anjal Prakash is a Clinical Associate Professor (Research) at Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business (ISB). He teaches sustainability at ISB and contributes to IPCC reports. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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