December 19, 2023 • 4 min read
COP28: A different approach in 2023
Sue Brown and Paul Ebert decode the new developments in this year's discussions
This year’s Conference of the Parties (COP28) saw intensified urgency and pressure placed on nations and companies to put sustainability and the energy transition at top of their agenda to keep climate targets within reach.
For the first time, the need to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems was agreed to by all countries in the final COP28 communique – the UAE Consensus – an outcome that surprised many, with major implications for global response.
Sue Brown, Executive Group Director for Sustainability and Dr Paul Ebert, Group Director Sustainability and Energy Transition Leadership share what else they think set COP28 apart from previous years.
It involved the right stakeholders in the conversation
The 2023 conference stood out for its inclusive approach, bringing together a range of stakeholders, which saw a positive shift in the narrative.
“The fact that this conference was inclusive and that major energy companies were involved was a good thing, and without a doubt was a factor in consensus being achieved,” says Brown.
We may not all agree on how to get to net zero, but there is almost unanimous agreement now of the need to achieve this.
It confirmed we need to keep all options open, not rely on one solution
“The energy mix will need to change significantly and some of the big pledges at the 2023 conference indicate what those changes may entail. We need to deploy a broad range of technologies to make net zero possible and discussions around this did happen on the ground,” says Ebert.
The global commitment to tripling renewable energy and a similar ambition on nuclear are really satisfying steps forward, and are really important pieces of the broader energy jigsaw puzzle. Both demand significant infrastructure development and are critical in a lower carbon energy system.
“It’s encouraging to see numerous countries pledging to escalate their efforts. However, we must integrate a variety of approaches, including enabling more technology options, standardization and continuing to focus on industry collaboration to deliver the scale of change required. Such pledges will need solid change to implement.”
It showed that energy and industrial systems need to transform at scale
“COP28 really emphasized the criticality of scale and the need for extensive infrastructure development,” says Ebert. “Trillions of dollars must be invested in lower carbon infrastructure to meet our climate goals – more than USD20 billion every single day. Currently, we’re far from this target.
“This is one of our greatest challenges and I didn't feel the debate swung to this issue yet,” Ebert adds. “It is great to make incremental changes and solid technology commitment; but we’re looking at a transformative scale of investment and construction that is needed.
“Just how will supply channels meet this demand? Who will build the critical enabling infrastructure, and provide the critical master planning? How will communities be brought on this journey and benefit from this change – and how will trust be built with them and maintained?
“Tinkering at the edges of this challenge won’t be near enough.”
Major oil and gas producers representing 40% of global production signed the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter
The new Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter was another significant outcome at COP28. Fifty oil and gas producers, including many of our major customers, agreed to zero routine flaring by 2030, near-zero upstream methane emissions by 2030 and net zero operations by 2050.
“How energy producers address methane emissions – as well as how accurately they can measure them and demonstrate progress – is a critical part of delivering on the commitments of the Charter,” says Brown. “Methane emissions are a low hanging fruit with an outsized impact on climate change, and energy producers need to start demonstrating measurable progress on reducing them to build trust with their stakeholders.”
Be part of the conversation
The message remains clear: urgent, large-scale climate action is needed now. Dive deeper into the practical solutions and strategies needed to achieve the goals set at the 2023 conference in our From Ambition to Reality paper series.