Decoding COP28: Finally a Call for a Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

As consultants, we are constantly looking out for how the actions and decisions in the global sustainability space may impact or present opportunities for our clients. To that point, the outcome of the recent global climate conference, COP28, represented a possible inflection point in the global climate debate, with their direct discussions about fossil fuels and their contribution to climate change. For the first time in nearly 30 years of UN climate talks, global participants at the meeting had the opportunity to make truly impactful decisions and leave with a clear statement regarding what we need to do to change the trajectory of the global climate crisis.

There was finally a unanimous recognition at the conference that we need to address our continued reliance on fossil fuels. The conference ran a full day late – to wordsmith the final language of a statement that included a pointed declaration that the world must “transition away” from fossil fuels. This is notable in that the conference itself was hosted by one of the major oil producing countries.

Member Nations Approach to Emissions Reduction

Initially, the terminology used was to “phase out”, which was subsequently replaced with “transition away from” when referring to fossil fuel usage. Member nations, particularly those from major oil-producing or consuming regions such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iraq, objected to the use of “phase out”, due to its perceived extremeness and inflexibility, implying a final and irreversible deadline. Conversely, within the sustainability practitioner community, there appears to be a shared viewpoint that the expression “transition away from” fails to convey the proper sense of urgency.

It is important to have all players – especially those producing fossil fuels – agree to any type of reduction / phase out / transition away from fossil fuels, so this commitment is significant and represents progress. However, we, as well as other climate change advocates and many members of the ESG and sustainability community, were disappointed by the lack of clear metrics by which to monitor progress.

What Does This Mean For Companies?

Regardless of the exact wording, the final agreement from COP28 reinforces the urgency for businesses aiming to drive down their greenhouse gas emissions. But companies cannot achieve this on their own as they can’t facilitate the scaling of new green technologies and renewable fuel options on their own; they need global pressure to make such a transition technically and economically viable. However, COP28’s outcome will provide some air cover for global companies and organizations as they develop greenhouse gas reduction roadmaps, and energy efficiency initiatives.

So the bottom line is that although COP28 represented some progress, it could have gone further and made bold global commitments that we need to tackle climate change with the urgency it deserves.

Looking ahead, Sustainserv will continue to advise companies and our clients that they must prepare for a future green energy transition. For many of our clients, they have already anticipated a phase out of fossil fuels, and they have built this into their sustainability goals. In addition, with more aggressive regulations moving ahead in the EU and in California, it is clear that regulatory actions continue to advance and we will advise our clients accordingly. The outcome of COP28 helps this cause – and we hope to see even bolder steps and progress made at COP29.

Get in touch. We are happy to tell you more about it.


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