Climate and Environment

Pledges made so far at the COP28 climate talks

Agence France-Presse
Pledges made so far at the COP28 climate talks
Handout picture released by the Cuban presidency press office showing Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel (3rd R) next to the President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (3rd L) and the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (2nd L) during a press conference at the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 2, 2023. The COP28 conference opened on December 1 with an early victory as nations agreed to launch a "loss and damage" fund for vulnerable countries devastated by natural disasters.
Alejandro Azcuy / Presidencia Cuba / AFP

PARIS, France — The COP28 climate talks in Dubai have begun with a flurry of announcements promising action on global warming, led by its big-spending, oil-rich host the United Arab Emirates.

But observers have warned that the headline-grabbing pledges could distract from the real battles on fossil fuels and negotiating a formal COP28 text at the end of the two-week talks.

As pressure builds during what is expected to be the hottest year on record, here are some major funding pledges and declarations announced so far at COP28.

Loss and damage 

The first day of the talks Thursday saw the launch of a landmark "loss and damage" fund to help vulnerable countries cope with the increasingly costly and damaging impacts of climate disasters.

The UAE and Germany pledged $100 million each, France $109 million, $50 million from Britain, $25 million from Denmark and $17.5 million from the United States, the world's biggest historical polluter.

Campaigners said the US offering was woefully inadequate.

The total committed as of Saturday was some $656 million, according to a tally by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.

That falls vastly short of the $100 billion a year that developing nations -- which have historically been least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions -- have said are needed to cover losses from natural disasters.

Tripling renewables 

At least 116 countries committed Saturday to triple renewable energy capacity worldwide by 2030 and double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements.

G20 nations, which account for nearly 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, paved the way for a deal when they endorsed the renewable energy goal in September. 

While supporters are expected to push for the pledge to be included in the final outcome of the talks, there are fears that the COP28 hosts were willing to shunt the more ambitious targets into voluntary deals.

Fossil fuels 

The US committed to phasing out its existing unabated coal plants as it joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) Saturday. 

Abatement generally means when the emissions from a power plant are captured before going into the atmosphere. 

Global CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants reached a new high in 2022 and the US has the world's third-biggest capacity behind China and India.

Colombia became one of the largest fossil fuel producers to join the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, a movement led by climate vulnerable island nations to end new development of coal, oil and gas.

Meanwhile, 50 oil and gas companies representing 40 percent of global production also pledged to decarbonise their operations by 2050. But the non-binding agreement does not include emissions when their fuels are burned by customers.

Tripling nuclear 

More than 20 countries led by the US called Saturday for the tripling of world nuclear energy capacity by 2050. While nuclear generates almost no greenhouse gases, the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 dealt it a severe blow. 

But experts and activists point to the fact that new nuclear plants can take decades, while renewable energy is rising fast.

Food and farming 

More than 130 countries have agreed to prioritise food and agriculture systems in their national climate plans. 

The non-binding declaration was welcomed by observers, with food systems estimated to be responsible for roughly a third of human-made greenhouse gases.

But some criticised it for lacking concrete goals -- and not mentioning fossil fuels or signalling any change to more sustainable diets. 

Healthy future?

Over 120 countries signed up to a declaration to "place health at the heart of climate action". It called for governments to step up action on climate-related health impacts like extreme heat, air pollution and infectious diseases.

Almost nine million people a year die from polluted air, while 189 million are exposed to extreme weather-related events.

The declaration notes "the benefits for health from deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions", but makes no direct reference to the fossil fuels responsible for most human-caused pollution. COP28's themed day on health is Sunday. 

UAE climate investment fund 

The UAE said it is putting $30 billion into a new private climate investment fund. 

The oil-rich COP28 host said that the fund, called Alterra, would partly try to focus on climate projects in the developing world, and hoped to stimulate investments totalling $250 billion by 2030.

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