Post-COP28: lessons and perspectives

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After about two weeks of negotiations, the leaders of the world in Dubai, UAE have agreed on a “final deal”. For the first time in the thirty years of COPs history the political deal calls on global community to “move away” from the use of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil), though not “phasing them out” as many wanted.  

   During the COP-summits, which are the world-wide “conferences of the parties” (aka, COP) of the almost all global countries, hence “parties”, most vital issues are discussed, new initiatives voiced and decisions adopted aimed at mitigating negative climate changes.
It has become apparent from the summits’ inception that climate-mitigating efforts are not only of socio-economic importance; they are politically sensitive as well. Therefore all previous twenty seven summits have been dealing with all issues involved in the political-economic agenda of the climate mitigation process and present COP28 was among those vital summits.
T   he summit’s topics mere numerous: – adaptation and resilience, – capacity-building, – climate finance and climate technology, – cooperative activities and SDGs, -education and youth, gender and innovation, – land use, local communities and indigenous peoples platform; – market and non-market mechanisms, – mitigation, – science and the ocean…
Some 85,000 participants attended COP28 to share ideas, solutions, and build partnerships and coalitions.

The following issues were either discussed and/or attracted global attention at the COP28:

  = Accelerating the deployment of nuclear energy: the resolution of 22 governments.
= Creation of numerous funds: e.g. “rescue fund” and science panels for some states in Africa.
COP28 has also discussed carbon pricing, so that more countries could put a price on pollution. The states have also been able to lay the ground for broader financial reforms, new innovative sources of funding, and aligning all financial flows with the Paris Agreement.
= Underlining that the universities and high education centers are the source of knowledge on global environment, as learning and bearers for knowledge to lead research on climate science and use that knowledge to inform policy-making and practice.
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   Higher education’s role in equipping students with the skills, knowledge and values needed to shape a sustainable future is revealed in:

  There is a newly forming “communiversity’s” concept, which is about the coexistence and co-creation of knowledge among universities and communities. Sustainability is learned and advanced by students during community engagements that can also deliver significant community’s benefits.
Integrating SDGs into universities is another vital issue: the guidance is primarily aimed at staff involved in curriculum design and course management and delivery, helping them integrate education for sustainable development into their courses. It could also assist senior management teams, such as those delivering quality assurance and enhancement.
The aim of the initiative is to support a reflective and collaborative approach to monitor, evaluate and strengthen the quality of education for sustainable development in universities. The initiative presents a practical framework, tools and case studies to offer real support to underpin theory.
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   Special session at COP28 was devoted to “Greening higher education: transforming competences and practices”; it underlined that higher education institutions are strong vehicles to promote social, ecological and sustainability’s change. The main message is that all society’s parts should gain from governments’ efforts in dealing with modern challenges. However, across higher education institutions worldwide there are several regions without sufficient means to accomplish the SDGs: that also includes the lack of strategic planning, budget allocation, engagement with students and businesses, etc.

  = Curbing methane emissions. Over half of today’s warming comes from so-called super-pollutants, i.e. methane, nitrous oxide, hydro-fluorocarbons, troposphere ozone, etc. Under the Global Methane Pledge, reiterated at COP28, more than 150 countries agreed to implement a collective goal of reducing global anthropogenic methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, from 2020 levels. This global initiative will help to keep the Paris Agreement objective of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. The EU has already supplied the pledge with €175 million for the “Methane Finance Sprint” to assist low- and middle-income countries around the world.
Note. The Global Methane Pledge, launched by the EU and the US at COP26 in 2021, has been the main coordination platform for global methane emissions reduction. About 150 states-signatories are now committed to at least a 30% global reduction in anthropogenic methane emissions by 2030, focusing on the energy, agriculture, and waste sectors. The strong global support for the pledge illustrates the growing momentum to swiftly reduce methane emissions. The pledge is co-chaired by the EU and the US and works with two UNEP bodies (Climate and Clean Air Coalition, CCAC and International Methane Emissions Observatory, IMEO). Through the CCAC, the global methane pledge has supported more than 50 countries in developing national methane action plans, and through the IMEO it has conducted a number of scientific studies and developed “methane alert and response system” for super-emitting events. In 2023, such countries as Canada, the Federated States of Micronesia, Germany, Japan and Nigeria have became global methane pledge champions alongside the EU and the US.

  = Renewable energy. The adopted initiative is to set the global goals for renewables and energy efficiency, the idea which was first announced by the European Commission already in April 2023. As part of the European Green Deal, the EU has recently raised its domestic targets for the deployment of renewable energy and the improvement of energy efficiency, leading the way globally on the clean energy transition.
By 2030 the EU will reach a minimum of 42.5% of renewables in its energy mix, and aim for 45%. Also this decade, the EU has committed to improve energy efficiency by 11.7%. In June 2023, the COP28 discussed the initiative with the Commission President; they decided to work together on several joint initiatives to drive a just energy transition globally, including the Global Pledge on Renewables and Energy Efficiency.

   Presently, the global “renewable pledge” unites 118 countries; it sets global targets to triple the installed capacity of renewable energy to at least 11 terawatts (TW) and to double the rate of global energy efficiency improvements from roughly 2% to an annual figure of 4%, by 2030. Delivering these targets will support the transition to a decarbonised energy system and help to phase out unabated fossil fuels. To support the delivery of the global pledge in renewables, the EU will invest during next two years €2.3 billion to support the energy transition in the EU’s neighbourhood and around the globe. The EU will also draw on its Global Gateway flagships program to continue supporting the clean energy transition.
Generally, the summit concluded that the strategic goals are “tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency” by 2030.

  = Supporting local climate actions. This summit marks a watershed moment: the leaders of cities, states and regions taking centre stage on the COP programme for the first time. And indeed, synergies between national and sub-national leaders are instrumental in steering our green transition efforts. The EU consistently championed multi-level governance cooperation: hence, the discussions at COP28 represented a timely opportunity to jointly consider the priorities of sub-national leaders from across the world. The EU supported principles and objectives outlined in the Declaration of the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships, CHAMP and issued a formal statement in this regard.
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  = Adopted COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health; the European Union has already endorsed the Declaration. It is about scaling up the investments and strengthening the synergies between climate change adaptation, mitigation efforts and health. The EU has set out a comprehensive approach to mental health, addressing environmental and climate change effects. These initiatives form a part of the European Commission’s ‘One Health’ approach to prevent, predict, detect and respond to global threats to the health of humans, animals and the environment, as well as to promote sustainable development in Europe and around the world.
As the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell noted at the summit’s last day, the highest climate ambition means more jobs, stronger economies, stronger economic growth, less pollution, better health. The summit, he added aims at more resilience and at protecting people in every country from the climate calamities; it is about secure, affordable, safe energy for all, through a renewables energy revolution that leaves no country or community behind, but instead leaving behind the dependence on fossil fuels. He also underlined that “finance must be the bedrock to scale-up climate action on all fronts”.

Our comment
In the summit’s triangle –unite, act and deliver- all three are half-done: a) united in numbers (about 200 head of states/governments and 85 thousand participants) but not in “united” final decisions; b) acting comprehensibly with hundreds of initiatives and proposals, and c) delivering is also partly done.
World remains “dreadfully far off track” in key climate targets, said the British monarch at the opening COP28 summit’s ceremony. However, some positive initiatives and decisions adopted during the summit are really vital and important for the mitigating effects in the right direction.
Global primary energy consumption increase since the beginning of the 21st century from 400 to 600 exajoules (including over 190 exajoules worth of oil consumed); the figures are expected to rise in the following years, and peak at over 854 quadrillion British units in 2050. Besides, presently fossil fuels demand in the world is around 497 exajoules. As of 2022, total global energy consumption is still about 80% from fossil fuels with about 30 percent of coal, gas and oil each. Would it be possible that the world “moves away” from fossil fuels shortly?
Only time will tell how realistic the agreements’ implementation is; since the first COP in 1995 not much is being accomplished!
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   At the summit’s conclusion, the European Commission president noted that the world has had a “multilateral agreement to accelerate emission reductions towards net zero by 2050”, with some urgent actions such as transition away from fossil fuels, reductions of global emissions by 43% by 2030, to keep 1.5 Celsius within reach, etc.; that would keep the states “on track with the goals of the Paris Agreement and speed up the transition to a cleaner and healthier economy’.


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