One of the most pivotal events on the environmental calendar, COP, or the Conference of the Parties, seeks to bring together the world’s leaders and delegates under one roof to discuss the pressing issues that face the world.
While the agenda at COP can often encompass a huge range of different topics, ranging from economics and fiscal planning to complex geopolitical problems, it’s predominantly known for its reputation as a platform for new and emerging environmental initiatives and schemes.
2023 saw the latest of these events, the 28th Conference of the Parties, which in turn brought about new changes and adjustments to what we can expect from the world and its energy usage. And at Tariff, that’s naturally something we’re keen to keep abreast of, and how we can impart that latest global wisdom in all we do.
With our newest article, we’ll be summarising the key moments from another year of the worldwide energy summit, what these latest developments mean for you and your business, and how they’re set to shape the future.
While it’s an event on a global scale, and it’s often at the forefront of businesses’ minds going into the winter months, it can be difficult to understand just what’s accomplished at the conference.
In a nutshell, COP is the annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP), to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP28 is the 28th such meeting, taking place over the course of 13 days – from November 30th till 12th December 2023 – in Dubai.
With an expected attendance of more than 70,000 delegates, from all aspects of the environmental spectrum, it’s an event of significant magnitude. That’s further magnified by the pressing need to address the planet’s burgeoning issues with climatology and rising sea levels.
This is the crux behind what’s arguably one of the most important COP events in recent memory. The UNFCCC poses it best themselves – “We are in a decisive decade for climate action”.
In our opinion, that’s an understatement. Decisive action needed to come from each and every climate summit, and plans of action needed to be robust and focused in order to achieve the lofty goals set out by previous meetings.
There’s multiple, substantial reasons behind that. A rise of just 2°C could see the planet drastically change, with significant losses to biodiversity, habitats and even more coastal communities, especially on island nations.
We’ve seen unprecedented (and continually rising) demands for fossil fuels in recent years, spurred on by rising population rates across the world. There’s the slight counterbalance by the fact that we’ve seen a more substantial investment into renewables, but much more needs to be done to ensure that that focus remains consistent.
We addressed this in more depth in our comprehensive retrospective of energy in 2023, but suffice it to say that this most recent COP summit held significant sway when it comes to ensuring that we achieve the ambitions set out by past events. Let’s break down a few of the more standout moments from COP28.
While COP28 brought with it much to discuss and consider, we’ve distilled it down to just 6 crucial things to note from the summit.
It’s perhaps expected at this stage that there’d be debate and vexation to any deal that’s agreed upon. This does often crop up as an issue, especially given the different ideologies, priorities and foci of the different countries and their representatives.
COP28 took this to an entirely new level. In an unprecedented turn of events, the conference’s closer was pushed back an entire day, taking its conclusion from the 12th December to 13th December. Essentially, this all boiled down to highly debated wording surrounding the final agreements presented by the summit.
While some countries – namely those who form the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – advocated for the acceptance of oil, coal and gas in our collective futures, this was met with stern resistance and consternation by the majority of attendees, including the US, UK, and the majority of European countries.
Initial drafts of the agreement published on 12th December omitted key wording that had been present in previous agreements, specifically surrounding the “phase out” of the consumption of fossil fuels, Reuters reported. These phrases were stripped out in favour of wording that provided alternative options, but that didn’t outright push the reduction of reliance upon coal, oil and natural gas.
While it may have seemed minor alteration on the surface, particularly to those watching from a distance, it acted as confirmation of what many had feared, insomuch as the goals that had long been posited (such as global net-zero by 2050) were now taking a back seat.
The changes were, perhaps understandably, met with significant frustrations by much of the summit. The chief negotiator for the EU, Wopke Hoekstra, referred to the potential agreement as “clearly insufficient” and “not adequate in addressing the problem we are here to address”. Similarly, the US’s special climate envoy John Kerry referred to the problems we face as “a war for survival”.
This disagreement lead to an inevitable delay in proceedings, where delegates and representatives entered frantic last-minute discussions and traded compromises and counterpoints through shuttle politics.
As we touched upon, this bled into an additional day of the conference, wherein an agreement was finally reached. This time, we saw a revival of the terminology surrounding the phasing out of fossil fuels – a landmark commitment to a brighter future, and a long-awaited move away from those dwindling natural resources.
A hard-struck balance that appeased both the member countries of OPEC, and more progressive and forward-thinking nations, especially those more at risk from rising ocean levels, was achieved, and carried forward as the summit drew to its eventual conclusion.
While the speeches, initiatives and proposals are often the key feature of any COP summit, COP28 also brings with it diverse crowds, all of whom have a vested or personal interest in the planet. These range from climate change activists, to individuals who are seeking to make a huge, personal difference to the future of our planet.
Of course, with huge crowds comes the inevitability of protests, and on this level, they need to be organised and focused to ensure their cooperation with the stringent rules of the summit. And with COP28, that truly came to the fore.
More than 84,000 people descended on Dubai for the summit, and, as The Guardian documented, a good proportion of these were protesters. That ought to come as no surprise, given the tumult we’ve witnessed in the energy market over the last year, and in the time since the previous COP summit in 2022.
While it’s difficult to choose which of those demonstrations are the most pivotal, standout examples include a gathering of indigenous peoples from isolated Brazilian communities that have been adversely affected by climate change, and activists who highlighted the connection between militarism and climate change.
You might recall a recent speech by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in which he rolled back many of the trailblazing initiatives that had seen the UK pave the way for substantial action and support. Chief among these was the ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars which, while panned by critics, was generally seen as a hugely positive and forward-thinking move.
There were also rollbacks to the use of off-grid fossil fuels sources which, while they’d previously been slated for a 2026 revolution, are now set to only become the focus from 2035 onwards. While the delay was predominantly attributed to infrastructural issues, the fact that technology is already existing, and that funding had been allocated, was a sticking point to say the least.
The speech, and Sunak’s decisions by extension, was therefore naturally the subject of much concern and derision at COP28. The Guardian reports that the PM had been accused of “hypocrisy” in the wake of September’s U-turn, particularly given the UK’s prior position of, in the words of former US vice-president Al Gore, “punching above their weight in terms of environmental policy”.
Ultimately, however, these backsteps were overshadowed by the UK’s vocal commitment, alongside the US and the EU, to more stern and decisive wording in the final agreement at COP28. It does, however, feel a thin veil to the more pressing issues on our shores, and could lead to further scorn I upcoming climate summits.
In a move that came to much surprise to many in attendance, the UK’s Minister for Climate Graham Stuart flew back to the UK during the final stages of the conference. Many viewed it as an abandonment of duty, with Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace’s Head of Politics, branding the flight back as an “outrageous dereliction of leadership at the most crucial point”.
Similarly, environmental activists at Friends of the Earth viewed the decision in an equally dim light. Rachel Kennerly, the organisation’s international climate campaigner, excoriated the decision, stating that it “starkly highlights the government’s policies, and that it’s prepared to sacrifice people on the frontlines of the climate crisis at home and globally for short term political gain”.
Of course, this was met with stern remonstration from the Conservative party, who neither confirmed nor denied the fact that Mr Stuart had returned back to the UK to take part in the controversial vote on the Rwanda bill.
They also countered with the idea that the UK government still had representatives at the conference, although refused to acknowledge that their primary minister on climate had left arguably the most pivotal climate event on the calendar, at its most crucial stage.
Therein lies the core of the issue that many had with the departure of the climate minister. As one might have expected, Labour viewed the move with disdain, with shadow ministers condemning the decision to bring back the climate minister seemingly to vote on a policy that the Labour party had already vowed to repeal should they be voted in at the next election.
It also bears mentioning that the minister flew back and forth between the UK and the conference in Dubia twice, with the BBC estimating that the trip was around 6,824 miles. There’s a certain irony in that, which wasn’t lost on Chiara Liguori, Oxfam’s senior climate change policy advisor. She lambasted the decision, saying “There can be no more tragic outcome for UK climate diplomacy than this [the flight]”.
While our list so far may seem like much of COP28 was a washout, there were significant rays of hope within all the noise and commotion surrounding the delays and departures. One of the major agreements surrounded the agricultural and farming industries, particularly in less economically developed countries.
As summarised by the World Wildlife Fund, the agreed-upon policies and commitments show a definitive commitment to improving the world’s agricultural sector, food-based climate action and the restoration of freshwater ecosystems that are integral to rural or isolated communities.
There were several key initiatives chosen to feature at the latest COP summit, which included two significantly fleshed-out plans:
Both of these saw substantial support from the UK government, with the International Development and Africa Minister Andrew Mitchell pledging more financial support to the World Bank, and greater backing for the world’s water and food supplies.
One of the largest sporting events in the calendar year, the Euros run on a four-year basis, and attract crowds in the hundreds of thousands to various destinations across Europe. It’s a showcase of some of Europe’s foremost footballing talents, but it’s also an opportunity for further climatological improvement.
At COP28, this is something UEFA formally recognised, outlining a comprehensive plan and framework for ensuring that the tournament is as streamlined and eco-friendly as it can be. Their latest report shows both the agreement in principle, as well as the levels of funding the organisation has committed.
That’s best exemplified by the organisation’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy, posited by UEFA’s director of environmental sustainability, Michele Uva. A fully realised and comprehensive plan, UEFA’s Euro 2024 ESG Strategy also comes with a sizeable €32 million (£27.5 million) investment to the scheme is fully enacted.
The key tenets of the pledge encompass:
While this is something we’ve seen at previous tournaments, its only at COP28 that we’ve seen these announcements truly take shape. It also heralds the first steps along the road towards the more all-encompassing Football Sustainability Strategy that’s slated for 2030.
Truth be told, the end of COP28 was too short a time ago to truly understand the ramifications for the future. As we write this piece, the announcements and debates of another Conference of the Parties are still fresh in the mind, and the cogs of political change are well and truly in motion.
However, while the world’s great thinkers and representatives in the climatological sphere mull over what’s been an undoubtedly eventful environmental summit, it begs the question of how this is set to shape the future. This is where Tariff, with our expertise in the energy sector, can help.
We’ve outlined 3 key predictions that are expected to come to fruition following COP28, and how they’re a crucial consideration going forward.
Although not a direct outcome of the summit, it’s a damning indictment of the conference as a whole. We’ve discussed the issues faced by delegates and representatives over those last few days, but the final agreement is perhaps a hollow victory.
Many are already starting to critique the agreement’s wording and its choice of vernacular, and we understand why. For policies of such global scope, there can be no doubt in terms of what it means, and how it will affect everyone involved.
This latest agreement unfortunately does just that, casting aspersions over what the true final conclusion of the summit is. While the policy does recognise need to “transition away from fossil fuels”, it neglects to actually provide any words of action or of guidance going forward.
Instead, there’s vague-at-best allusions to carbon capture technology (unlikely to go beyond pipedream for many countries and governments) and carbon credit systems, both of which have been in existence for some time, but that have yet to be tested at the scale which the new agreement will inevitably demand.
All-in-all, while there’s a distinct air of the positive to the conclusion, it’s the undertone and rumblings of a distinctly negative
While the closing stages of COP28 offered up some of the more strained and eleventh-hour discussions, more ecologically-focused heads eventually prevailed, and landmark agreements were put into place.
Of course, there’s likely to be much more discussion and deliberation in the coming days, weeks and months, but one thing that won’t change is the final agreement. Subsequent talks are likely to be surrounding the practicalities of such an endeavour, and how nations across the globe are set to make the necessary changes.
In Tariff’s eyes, that’s set to be through continued support for renewable energies, including wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric. Our recent overview of 2023’s energy developments detailed as much, and COP28 acts as confirmation of our suspicions.
In that article, we discussed how renewables had seen their greatest uptake ever, and more and more developed and developing countries were getting onboard with that. We’re firm believers that that’s only set to continue, especially after this latest summit.
One of COP28’s biggest revelations was the decision to triple the renewable energy capacity across the world by 2030. An ambitious yet necessary goal, it’s one that The Guardian posits is intended to take some of the market share away from fossil fuel conglomerates where, in the past, they would have acted a supplement to oil, coal and gas.
While COP28 ended with a note of positivity (particularly given the circumstances which surrounded its final few days), it wasn’t the satisfying conclusion that everyone had hoped for. That’s especially true of island countries and archipelagos, which have long since been among the worst affected by climate change.
This is by no means a new development, either. Back in 2010, the World Bank highlighted the plight of the Maldives, which have long since been at the very precipice of the fight against climate change. For island countries who are at risk of flooding like Vanuatu and Tuvalu, the agreement doesn’t go far enough to assuage those fears.
COP28’s agreement, in the words of the Alliance of Small Island States, is plagued by a “litany of loopholes”, and only offers support and protection for those who don’t face the immediacy of climate change that they do.
That’s further exacerbated by reports that we had the hottest summer globally since records began in 1850, and that, according to NASA, sea surface temperatures were exceptionally high.
In the aftermath of such a seismic climatological summit, it’s important to recognise what the next steps are. While COP28’s final agreement doesn’t offer the concrete guidelines that we’d been looking for, it does still provide an indicator of the next steps in renewable energy.
That’s where Tariff comes to the fore. With our extensive levels of expertise, alongside our long-standing commitment to net-zero and to a more sustainable future for the next generation, we’re already tailor-making solutions for a huge range of sectors and industries.
Plus, as 2024 rears above the horizon, there’s never been a better time to invest in the energy your business uses. Get in touch with Tariff today, and we’d be more than happy to discuss the range of options available to you.