COP28 rear-view mirror – the good, the bad, and the uncertain

The 2023 world climate gathering – COP28 – is over with some good gains, frustratingly bad delays and loopholes, a very welcome last-minute ‘down-but-still-not-out’ uncertain move away from greenhouse gas-creating fossil-fuels … plus very positive results for Lancashire and the Northwest.

In the tradition of good thrillers, the final deal in Dubai ran down to the wire. But forcing 198 nations to agree complex climate change solutions against the clock was an extremely serious real-life and death issue for the small island states threatened by rapidly rising sea levels … not a fictional melodrama.

As expected, negotiations continued through the 12-day summit’s final two nights, with the question of phasing ‘down’ or phasing ‘out’ the use of fossil-fuels almost becoming a make-or-break issue.

The ‘double-f’ words

Fortunately, consensus won out in the end. Setting a new precedent, and hopefully new long-term direction, the term ‘fossil-fuels’ was enshrined in the final global communique text for the first time.

The next challenge is for countries and billions of people around the world to put the deal’s details into practice.

If they do, they will be signing up to the best and possible final united opportunity to stop the Earth from overheating – while giving nature a chance to recover from decades of abuse, improving agriculture and global food security, and minimising catastrophic future extreme weather events.

Will it be enough? On its own probably not. The deal is not binding. However, the next big public test will come in 2025 when individual states must present for world scrutiny radically upgraded low-carbon plans.

Bringing the action closer to home

Meanwhile, the trajectory set by COP28 in general and its hard-won final statement are important.

Although the world is well behind the curve painstakingly set out at the Paris COP21 climate summit in 2015, many very worried cities, regions, public and business communities around the world are taking action where governments have failed.

It is also argued that market forces – supported by government interventions – will rapidly make renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs) cheaper and, therefore, commercially more attractive.

East Lancs in the Gulf

As an officially UNFCCC recognised NGO in the COP28 Blue Zone where key decisions are taken, the East Lancs Chamber was represented by Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker OBE and Director of Sustainability, Stephen Sykes.

However, the full Chamber team included seven green ‘tech’ innovator champion companies that jointly cover a comprehensive range of advanced environmental technologies now offered by the Northwest.

A key priority was to develop new international and government-level UK contacts for Lancashire businesses.

However, the team had two further goals. The first was to underline the importance of reaching net-zero emissions targets, while also influencing the shape the UK’s future low-carbon energy policy.

The second, supporting the first, was to make a strong commercial case for Lancashire ‘green tech’ to help limit global warming and climate change based on its growing international reputation for cutting-edge solutions with reasonable costs.

The team’s progress – plus the new leads that will be followed up in 2024 – are outlined below. IoT Horizon founder Deyrick Allen also explains what it was like to be a visiting company at COP28.

Nails in the carbon coffin

The final wording will not please everyone. Described as the ‘biggest step forward since the Paris agreement’, it will not be enough alone to peg maximum temperature rises at 1.50C; the World Wildlife Fund has described it as falling ‘short of consensus on the full [fossil-fuel] phase out.’

However, the deal was also positioned as ‘strong enough for the US and EU on the need to dramatically curb fossil-fuel use while keeping Saudi Arabia and other oil producers on board.’

Nations must now go home and create much more robust Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These are individual plans to slash their own carbon footprints, transition rapidly to renewable energy sources, and design energy-use out of their lives as much as possible.

There was welcome but limited progress on the provision of green climate finance from the world’s richer to its poorer nations. A climate loss and damage fund is now also up and running to help hard-hit nations on the climate change frontline, especially low-lying Pacific islands.

The emerging health impacts of global warming were also examined in detail and highlighted. However, there was no consensus on food supply or security.

The ‘global stocktake’ text

So, what was actually said? An immense amount of detail was covered in important peripheral meetings. There will also be more analysis, questioning, and interpretation in the weeks and months ahead.

However, the overarching composite view referred to as the ‘global stocktake’ text, which took into account late adjustments submitted by co-operating nations, officially recognised the evidence that the world is badly behind its Paris commitments.

In more than 20 pages containing some 200 clauses, the final conference statement: –

– Calls for countries to contribute to transition away from fossil fuels with the first ever explicit mention of reducing fossil fuel use – the main driver of climate change.

– Recognises that emissions will peak in the future, but the date of this happening will be different for developed or developing countries.

– Recognises that current levels of finance from richer countries to help their poorer counterparts cope with climate change and move to renewables has been lacking. However, it does not go beyond this to require richer nations to do more.

– There is no reference to reducing methane emissions, one of the most potent greenhouse gas emissions, included in earlier texts.

Nitty-gritty activity in Dubai

Part of our mission was to help our seven Northwest champion companies get their products and services out to a global audience. They were: – Carbon Bit (https://carbonbit.com/contact-us/), LINA Energy (https://www.lina.energy/), Isentra (https://www.isentra.net/), IoT Horizon (https://iothorizon.com/), Qwala (https://qwala.co.uk/), Green Shield Group (https://greenshieldgroup.co.uk/), and Ryse Energy (https://www.ryse.energy/).

Linking with a 120-strong delegation from the British Chambers of Commerce, Lancashire companies were able to visit the Green Zone hosting national public education, business and low carbon technology expos.

 

However, many also had privileged access to the more restricted Blue Zone where negotiations, awareness-raising, lobbying and protest group activities took place. Deyrick Allen of IoT Horizon (https://iothorizon.com/) describes the importance of these one-to-one business contact opportunities below.

Chamber Team aims

 

Our specific goals were to: –

– Raise awareness of our UK regional low-carbon tech companies

– Promote the ‘Green Tech Equity’ concept designed to transfer/export low-carbon and clean growth solutions to the Global South with no great debt burden.

– Show UK ministers/officials how Lancashire could be a unique UK low-carbon manufacturing centre of excellence for the regional/national economy, plus endangered global environment.

Who we met – and expect to meet again soon!

One reward of promoting Lancashire’s green tech strengths to senior political leaders and their advisors, explains Miranda Barker, is that it is a two-way process in which we will welcome their strong support in government but can also provide large-scale solutions for the national economy.

Clearly, political positions change in a Parliamentary democracy. However, we spoke to Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho MP, the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero Graham Stuart MP, and Shadow Secretary for Climate Change and Net Zero Ed Miliband.

The team also talked to former energy minister Chris Skidmore MP who published his Net Zero Review for the Government in January 2023 (www.gov.uk/government/news/net-zero-review-uk-could-do-more-to-reap-economic-benefits-of-green-growth)

We also took an active part in formative roundtable discussions with Nigel Topping, former High-Level Champion for Business at COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow, and now a member of the Climate Change Committee (CCC – www.theccc.org.uk). Ditto influential CCC Chief Executive, Chris Stark, who recently became the CEO of the Carbon Trust.

World view

The team also contributed to various Blue Zone panels live-streamed around the globe, and were able to start a number of new and potentially exciting relationships they hope to develop in 2024.

These include links with the University of Cambridge which has a fearsome international profile in cutting-edge technologies that could sit well with the East Lancs green tech mission, plus business departments at the University of Exeter.

Expanding the Chamber’s international business portfolio, we have also been invited to present and explore low-carbon programmes in Armenia.

IoT Horizon – Deyrick Allen’s thoughts

Visiting Dubai was a success for Deyrick Allen and the Northwest-based IoT Horizon (www.iothorizon.com) consultancy he founded six-years ago.

“I had three good reasons for going to COP28,” he says. “The first and second were to educate myself on the climate emergency and stay ahead of global advancements in green technology. Thirdly, I wanted to know what is involved in setting up a successful business in the Gulf. I ticked each box.”

“Joining the Chamber team was an investment I was prepared to make on gut-feeling and intuition which has already paid off in terms of important new financial contacts, plus supplier leads in the Gulf and UK gained from networking with the British Chambers of Commerce (https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/).”

“At the huge Green Zone’s tech exhibitions I spoke to people at Siemens, Microsoft and others working at the forefront of a rapidly developing sector with excellent potential matches for us in the Northwest. Very importantly, I also had detailed discussions with the UAE’s three leading banks.”

Many of the Lancashire companies were also able to visit the Blue Zone where world leaders were trying to conclude a meaningful final 2023 agreement.

Deyrick adds, “As a footnote, I must say that Miranda and Stephen’s organisation was outstanding. While clearly working full-on 16-hour days putting forward Lancashire’s green tech case in the Blue Zone, they made sure we had a full programme of meetings and opportunities.”

“It is also good publicity to be seen with the Chamber!”

In more detail

According to Bloomberg, the draft text of the global stocktake deal ‘calls on parties to contribute to the following global efforts,’ including ‘transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net-zero by 2050’.

The Press Association adds that the agreement ‘defied the expectations of many observers who thought that the host country [Dubai] being a major oil exporter would be too much of a conflict of interest.’ The Guardian meanwhile noted that ‘climate-justice advocates said the text fell far short of what was needed for a fair transition.’

However, the New York Times listed some of the final text’s other commitments, including a call on nations to triple the renewable energy capacity they install around the world by 2030.

The i newspaper, meanwhile, said both the US and the UK had been branded as ‘hypocrites’ by climate campaigners for ‘criticising countries that do not agree to a ‘phase out’ of fossil fuels while continuing to develop oil and gas fields domestically.’

The Financial Times’ take was that the disputes were ‘the majority of countries present clash[ing] with Saudi Arabia.’

All eyes are now on Azerbaijan in November 2024.

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