Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President

New charter urges private sector towards ‘bolder’ climate and net-zero action ahead of COP28

As the heatwaves that enveloped the world this year have prompted calls for an urgent scale-up of climate action, the upcoming COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates is being perceived as a key event where countries can come together and embrace bold net-zero measures to make meaningful strides towards a more sustainable future. With this in mind, the COP28 Presidency has revealed the launch of a new charter to mobilize and encourage the private sector to take further steps towards accelerating and bolstering their net-zero pledges.

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President

The world seems to be in an uproar, as it stands divided on several issues, including climate change challenges, with serious crises and strife in several parts of the globe, pointing towards the need for multilateral engagement at this critical time. As disasters induced by climate change intensify, the UN chief, António Guterres, recently urged all countries to boost resilience and adaptation to end the fossil fuel era and build a safer and more just future for all.

Simon Stiell, the head of UN Climate Change, also acknowledged the current global anxiety at the recent pre-COP meeting to lay the groundwork for COP28 and emphasized: “Let us be united by the knowledge that climate change is our common challenge.”

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The run-up to COP28 presents all players with an opportunity to ramp up climate action to ensure the energy transition to net zero can be ushered in within the existing timeframes. Recognizing this, the COP28 Presidency launched the ‘Net-Zero Transition Charter: Accountability mobilization for the private sector‘ on November 1, 2023, to encourage the private sector to take “bolder action on climate and commit to greater transparency and integrity in their net-zero emissions pledges.” This comes just weeks ahead of the COP28 conference, to be held in Dubai between November 30 and December 12, 2023.

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President, commented: “The private sector’s engagement in COP28 – their resources, expertise, and commitment – is vital in driving real-world action and achieving the ambitious climate goals set forth by the presidency. For every pillar of our action agenda – fast-track the energy transition, fix climate finance, focus on nature, lives, and livelihoods, and full inclusivity – companies can leverage their strengths and resources to advance our collective climate goals and provide us with required solutions.

“The Net-Zero Transition Charter will further enable the private sector to take meaningful action on climate, track progress and be held accountable. We have strong collaboration with the private sector already in the consultation and development of many of the outcomes of the action agenda – and I encourage all eligible private sector organizations to make this commitment and sign the charter today.”

In hot pursuit of more net-zero action

The charter, which is a stepping stone to the UNFCCC’s ‘Recognition Accountability Framework‘, follows a technical report from the Global Stocktake, which showed that the world is off track to keeping the goals of the Paris Agreement alive. As the charter is designed to enable the private sector to play a full role in the delivery of the Paris Agreement goals, all signatories will commit to a series of actions, including making net-zero and interim targets with an existing, high-integrity body; producing a credible net-zero transition plan within one year of COP28; and reporting annual progress and committing to robust validations processes.

As the private sector accounts for approximately 80% of global GDP, as well as the bulk of the world’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the COP28 Presidency has called for a collaborative approach to reduce emissions by 43% in the next seven years, with all sorts of capital- public, private and philanthropic sources necessary to help solve the emissions gap more effectively. 

“Philanthropy equally has a crucial role; they raise awareness on climate issues, they can convene as a neutral partner and bring risk-free capital to fund climate opportunities. More importantly, they can be nimble and help fast-track solutions especially when partnering with public and private funders. Less than 2% of total philanthropic giving ($810 billion in 2021) goes to climate and this is minuscule relative to the size of the problem we have. I hope to see many more philanthropists coming to COP28 and playing an active role in supporting climate causes and solutions,” added Al Jaber.

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By signing the charter or committing to a net-zero-aligned national pledge, organizations will be acknowledged as signatories in the run-up to COP28, and companies that meet all required criteria by November 15, 2023, will be featured on the COP28 website. In addition, all signatories will be required to have the appropriate documentation and undertake the necessary steps to align with the charter’s provisions.

A progress report is expected to be issued by December 2024 to verify that signatories have taken the necessary actions outlined in the charter to ensure transparency and accountability. Signatories that do not meet these requirements, will be delisted from the COP28 website and the COP28 progress report.

Recent reviews of global energy transition progress show dark clouds on the horizon, as net-zero by 2050 aspirations seem to be slipping through the world’s fingers. As cogs in the energy transition engine keep turning, their slow progress is once again in the limelight. Some are adamant that there is still time to achieve climate change goals as long as the world phases out fossil fuels and ups the renewables ante.

Others argue that oil and gas still hold the keys to global energy security and will remain in the energy mix alongside renewables and other low-carbon sources for years to come. This was confirmed by OPEC, which forecasts the combined share of oil and gas in the energy mix to be 54% in 2045. DNV’s new Energy Transition Outlook also warns that it will take the next 27 years to move the energy mix from the present 80% fossil and 20% non-fossil split to a 48/52 ratio by 2050 if the world does nothing to accelerate net-zero plans.

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Bearing in mind the current energy security woes, Offshore Energies UK is one of those that believe the world will require not just renewables but also oil and gas to safeguard the security of supply and meet energy needs. OEUK claims that the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry is making decarbonization inroads, as emissions from the production, transport, and processing of oil and gas fell to the equivalent of 14.28 million tonnes of CO2 in 2022, compared with the 2018 figure of 18.9 m tonnes, representing a fall in emissions of 24%.

The U.S. is also far from sitting idle and waiting for the energy transition gears to turn, as the energy landscape in America is peppered with oil, gas, and renewables with other low-carbon sources also in play. Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future is pushing for further investment in domestic infrastructure that can transport natural gas not only at home but also abroad, as the best option for the current energy woes.

While outlining its path to slashing global carbon emissions, Natural Allies underscores that utilizing natural gas, partnered with renewables, is “the most pragmatic solution to help us reach our climate goals affordably and reliably.”