SIDS chart vision for energy transition at COP28, advocating tripling renewable energy initiatives and global decarbonisation efforts

Fossils to renewables action by Digo Bikas Institute during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) at Expo City Dubai on December 5, 2023. Photo Credit UNFCCC, used with permission.

By Richie Ferrol

In the pursuit of maintaining the 1.5 degrees Celsius target by 2030, developed nations must prioritise addressing heavy-emitting industries. This requires increased financial investment, labour, and collaboration between industrialised countries, climate-focused organisations, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like the Caribbean.

SIDS leaders continue to express support for initiatives such as the Industrial Transition Accelerator (ITA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). A global coalition of leading financial institutions, GFANZ is dedicated to developing tools and methodologies essential for translating financial institutions’ net-zero commitments into tangible actions in line with the Paris Agreement‘s objective to limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels.

Following COP28, the ITA aims to spearhead the most extensive global decarbonisation effort to date, tripling its implementation scope across energy, heavy industry, transport sectors, finance, and public policy. Some of the big topics for SIDS at the Conference of the Parties in Dubai this year, are adaptation financing and just energy transition.

Director-General of IRENA Francesco La Camera has championed corporations, organisations and world leaders to support SIDS in their efforts of just energy transition and other climate adaptation projects. At COP28, the attendance of leaders and officials from SIDS was abundant — La Camera described it as a testament to their unwavering resolve to “keep 1.5C alive!”

Positive developments for SIDS’ energy transition and atmospheric decarbonisation

During COP28, IRENA showcased its commitment to championing the energy transition interests of SIDS, particularly in the Caribbean. Surpassing its financial pledge target, IRENA offered SIDS renewed hope with substantial financing of USD 4.05 billion through the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing Platform (ETAF).

Established in 2021, IRENA aims to amplify renewable energy initiatives aligning with the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in developing countries. With support from the United Arab Emirates, this initiative seeks to enhance energy access and security, foster economic growth, and promote diversification, benefiting communities.

COP28 witnessed collaboration agreements between IRENA and key entities such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), HSBC, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Addressing world leaders at COP28, Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, shared a message of both hope and caution. While acknowledging the acceleration of the global shift toward clean energy, he emphasised the need for faster progress, particularly in the industrial sector.

Bloomberg introduced the ITA as a transformative partnership capable of cutting emissions while expanding industries, fostering prosperity, and reducing poverty. This collaborative effort aims to unite industry leaders, financial institutions, policymakers, and technical experts to facilitate carbon emission reductions and create supportive public policies.

The World Leaders Summit at COP28 concluded with over 100 countries pledging to triple renewable generation implementation and double energy efficiency by 2030, marking a positive step forward. Following COP28, countries will transition into the policy implementation phase.

HE Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and COP28 President, December 5, 2023. Photo by UNFCCC, used with permission.

COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber launched the Global Decarbonisation Accelerator (GDA) Initiative, which includes the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter (OGDC). This initiative boasts the participation of 50 companies, responsible for over 40 percent of global oil production, committing to eliminate methane emissions, cease routine flaring by 2030, and achieve total net-zero operations by 2050 at the latest.

More than 29 national oil companies (NOCs) have pledged their commitment, marking the largest number of NOCs to sign such a decarbonisation initiative. The OGDC represents a significant stride toward aligning industry actions with the goals of the Paris Agreement. However, emissions reduction commitment in the charter is voluntary, making this aspect non-binding. The agreement only addresses emissions from the operations of oil and gas production, not those generated during the combustion of these fossil fuels. The effectiveness of clean energy efforts may be compromised if fossil fuel-related pollution persists on a global scale.

Signatories of the ODGC Charter commit to various key actions, including investments in the future energy system, encompassing renewables, low-carbon fuels, and negative emissions technologies. The GDA further compels parties to enhance transparency through improved measurement, monitoring, reporting, and independent verification of greenhouse gas emissions, showcasing their performance and progress in emission reduction.

Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis Terrance Michael Drew speaks onstage during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State at COP28, December 2, 2023. Photo by UNFCCC, used with permission.

Speaking at the World Climate Action Summit on December 2, 2023, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Terrance Drew, represented the Caribbean’s interests and the need for global partnership in this endeavour. He said that although Caribbean islands are not responsible for the human-induced climate disasters it faces, SIDS are not “laying blame” or “playing the victim.” Instead, Drew says they are being proactive in climate adaptation initiatives and seeking assistance in renewable energy transition programmes.

Meanwhile, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, and GFANZ Co-Chair, Mark Carney, embraced the plan to decarbonise heavy-emitting industries so that countries remain within the global carbon budget.“These industries are currently in transition traps. They know what they need to do but struggle to get the investment they need to meaningfully cut emissions.”

The Global Stocktake: a guideline to fossil fuel phase-out

Day 6 at COP28 saw new text being added to the Global Stocktake (GST) report on efforts to garner support for fossil fuel phase-out initiatives and keeping 1.5C degrees alive. The GST is the UNFCCC‘s report card on national climate plans, and from its inception at COP26 to the present, it has illustrated that countries have failed to cut emissions fast enough.

Some key points from the GST draft to be negotiated during COP28’s second week include the establishment of new national climate plans before COP30 in 2025. However, a range of options for reducing fossil fuels remain, including “an orderly and just phase-out of fossil fuels,” “accelerating efforts towards phasing-out unabated fossil fuels,” or “an immediate end to new unabated coal power.” With regard to carbon capture, storage, and hydrogen, the text includes the need to improve “zero and low emissions technologies.”

Moving forward, there is a greater need for more investment into the Loss and Damage Fund, Adaptation Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund, and the Special Climate Change Fund. However, SIDS “got a win” with IRENA, which exceeded its target of financial pledges at COP28. Each signatory to the Paris Agreement must create new plans to close the gap on the emission phase-out. However, countries must reach a shared consensus at COP28 on the approach to target reductions in all aspects of the fossil fuel industry.

Richie Ferrol is a Fellow with Climate Tracker's COP28 Climate Justice Fellowship and is covering COP28 in Dubai.

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