Advancements, Challenges, and the Road to Net-Zero Emissions
By: Zainab Bie
As COP28 draws to a close in Dubai, the international community celebrates notable achievements and commitments in the ongoing endeavor towards a sustainable and climate-resilient future. While positive momentum has been generated in the pursuit of net-zero emissions, it is evident that the current global transition is not occurring at the required pace. Leaders must now intensify their commitment and actions, striving to accelerate progress aligned with the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.
The focal point of COP28 has been energy, recognizing its pivotal role in the climate crisis. To effectively limit global warming to the crucial threshold of 1.5 °C, there is an urgent need to navigate the phased transition from the existing energy system while concurrently amplifying efforts to develop the energy system of the future. The global energy system stands as a significant contributor to more than three-quarters of global emissions. The decarbonization of energy systems holds immense potential, accounting for up to 74 percent of greenhouse gas mitigation required to achieve net-zero emissions, as highlighted by the Global Stocktake.
As the conference concludes, the call for intensified commitment and immediate action resonates, emphasizing the critical juncture at which the world stands in the fight against climate change.
Takeaway 1: Operationalization of the Loss & Damage Fund
COP28 marked a significant milestone with the establishment of the Loss & Damage Fund, a crucial step in addressing the impacts of extreme weather events on developing economies. Despite its promising start with $735 million in pledges, concerns arise as this amount falls short of the estimated requirement, covering less than 0.2% of the needed funds.
- Acknowledgment of Impact: The fund recognizes the severe consequences of events like droughts and flooding on emerging economies.
- Financial Commitments: Despite commitments from 18 countries and $725 million in pledges, this amount is insufficient given the estimated annual loss and damage exceeding $400 billion in developing countries.
- World Bank Hosting: The Loss & Damage Fund will be hosted at the World Bank for four years, aiming to gather support and contributions from various countries.
- Call for Replenishment Cycle: A crucial aspect highlighted is the necessity for a clear replenishment cycle to ensure consistent and sustained funding. This raises the question of how to secure ongoing financial support to address climate-related challenges effectively.
While the operationalization of the Loss & Damage Fund is a commendable step forward, the emphasis remains on addressing the disparity between current pledges and the increasing financial requirements for climate resilience. The call for a clear replenishment cycle underscores the need for a strategic and long-term approach to funding.
Takeaway 2: Pioneering Financial Solutions with ALTÉRRA and Blended Finance Models
A development at COP28 was the announcement of the ALTÉRRA fund, a $30 billion catalytic climate fund under the COP28 Presidency. With a specific focus on scaling solutions for climate change, especially in emerging economies, ALTÉRRA incorporates a blended-finance model, comprising $5 billion in concessional funding. The objective is to catalyze the mobilization of up to $250 billion in investment by 2030, with strategic partnerships from financial giants such as BlackRock, TPG, and Brookfield.
Furthermore, the COP28 platform witnessed the unveiling of several private and blended climate-related funds. During the Business & Philanthropy Forum, notable commitments included $5 billion in public and private financing across three distinct funds from the Green Climate Fund, Allied Climate Partners, and Allianz Global Investors. Additionally, the Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners are in the process of raising $3 billion for a new fund dedicated to greenfield renewable projects in emerging markets. These announcements supplement the $30 billion ALTÉRRA fund and the $750 million investment unveiled through the Innovate for Climate Tech platform.
The significance lies in the potential of blended-finance structures, exemplified by ALTÉRRA and other initiatives, to expand the pool of risk mitigation capital for climate projects. By fostering collaboration between public and private sectors, these financial models aim to de-risk climate investments, paving the way for increased capital flow towards sustainable solutions. The involvement of major financial institutions and the diversification of funding sources demonstrate a concerted effort to drive innovation in financing mechanisms and address the unique challenges posed by climate change.
Takeaway 3: Global Stocktake and the Urgent Need for Climate Action
The inaugural Global Stocktake (GST) has provided a sobering reality check, revealing that despite increasing momentum toward net-zero commitments, we are falling short of meeting the Paris Agreement’s target to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The synthesis report emphasizes that even if all existing pledges are fully implemented, we are on a trajectory for warming between 2.4–2.6℃. This underscores the pressing need for more ambitious and immediate climate action.
The first annual GST dialogue, scheduled for the next UNFCCC meeting in June 2024, offers a platform for countries to share best practices derived from the GST outcomes to inform their next Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The “Road map to Mission 1.5°C,” spearheaded by the UAE, Azerbaijan, and Brazil Presidencies, aims to catalyze international cooperation and ambition in crafting these NDCs. The GST presents an opportunity to identify gaps and enhance the delivery of climate action and sustainable development objectives.
Key Points from the Global Stocktake:
- Historic Mention of “Fossil Fuels”: Notably, the COP final text explicitly discusses “transitioning away from fossil fuels,” signaling a potential shift away from the fossil era.
- Call for “Phase-Down of Unabated Coal”: A call for the “phase-down of unabated coal” echoes sentiments from two years prior in Glasgow, emphasizing the need for tangible action in this critical area.
- Concerns on Finance: Despite these positive strides, there is little emphasis on finance mentioned.
- Timeline for New Pledges: The GST outcome stresses the urgency for more ambitious national climate pledges, with a deadline set for the delivery of these commitments by the end of 2025.
The inclusion of local authorities in enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions, as demonstrated by the 64 countries joining the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP), offers a pathway to more effective planning and implementation of emissions reduction plans, recognizing the critical role of subnational governments in high-emission sectors. Overall, the Global Stocktake underscores the need for immediate, comprehensive, and transformative climate action to align with the Paris Agreement goals.
Takeaway 4 : Global Goal on Adaptation: Addressing Challenges and Urgent Finance Needs
The Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) within the framework of the Paris Agreement aims to bolster climate change adaptation by raising awareness and funding for countries’ adaptation needs in alignment with the 1.5/2°C goal. This includes methodologies, indicators, metrics, and data sources to assess overall progress in adaptation. The GGA is recognized as a crucial framework to guide countries in their adaptation efforts, but its effectiveness hinges on addressing the identified weaknesses and ensuring the necessary financial support to turn words into impactful actions. The recent text on GGA mentions that by 2025, countries carry out impact, vulnerability and risk assessment plans as well as draw up national adaptation plans. By 2027, it proposes parties establish multi-hazard early warning systems and climate information services for risk reduction, and by 2030, they make progress on their goals and establish ways to monitor and evaluate progress made. The recent text on the Global Goal on Adaptation reveals several shortcomings that hinder its effectiveness.
Key Points Identified:
- Weak Timelines and Targets: The latest Global Goal on Adaptation still comprise weak timelines and no specific targets. The absence of clear, actionable goals raises concerns about the effectiveness of the agreement.
- Financial Concerns: While the text reiterates the call for doubling climate finance from developed to developing nations by 2025, it needs to have more concrete numbers and a roadmap for scaling up finance.
- Weakening of the Agreement: Obstructions from certain nations, particularly regarding financial targets, have contributed to the diluted nature of the agreement. Many parties and members of the civil society highlighted that the latest version of the Global Goal on Adaptation has a weakened state, lacking specific targets, a work plan, and sufficient funding. Several Developing Countries raised the concern for greater emphasis on developed country parties to pay
- The Urgent Call for Finance: In the face of these challenges, voices within the COP discussions stress the critical importance of finance for any meaningful progress on adaptation. A sentiment echoed by various stakeholders emphasizes that any deal on adaptation that lacks substantial financial commitments is essentially empty. The urgency was highlighted by the immediate needs of vulnerable countries, grappling with the impacts of climate change on their infrastructure and population.
Takeaway 5: Global Decarbonization Accelerator (GDA) – A Bold Step Towards a Sustainable Future
At COP28, the Global Decarbonization Accelerator (GDA) was unveiled as a pivotal initiative, outlining a comprehensive strategy to decarbonize the existing energy system and shape the energy landscape of the future. This forward-thinking approach is specifically designed to address the urgent need highlighted by the Global Stocktake, targeting a reduction of 20–24 Gt CO2e per annum in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Key Initiatives and Commitments within GDA:
- Renewable Energy Commitment: A significant stride was taken with the commitment of 118 governments to triple renewable energy capacity and double the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. This commitment aligns with the broader goal of achieving net-zero emissions from the energy sector by 2050.
- UAE Hydrogen Declaration of Intent: An integral component of GDA, the UAE Hydrogen Declaration of Intent garnered support from 27 countries endorsing a global hydrogen certification standard. This initiative reflects the growing global interest in hydrogen as a clean energy source.
- Global Cooling Pledge: In a collaborative effort, 52 countries pledged to reduce emissions from cooling by an ambitious 68 percent by 2050. This commitment recognizes the anticipated tripling of emissions from cooling as more nations adopt air-conditioning.
The success of these initiatives hinges on the collective effort of nations, businesses, and policymakers in driving the necessary transformations to achieve a net-zero emissions future.
In conclusion, while positive strides have been made, urgency remains paramount. The commitments and initiatives unveiled offer hope for a sustainable future. For us Youth, the call for intensified commitment, immediate action, and accelerated progress echoes loud and clear. The path to a resilient, low-carbon world requires unwavering dedication, collaboration, and an urgent embrace of transformative measures. The legacy of COP28 lies not only in its achievements but in the collective resolve it ignites for a planet that thrives amid climate challenges.
The Climate Crisis is a Values Crisis: A Paradigm Shift into a New Beginning for Humanity
By: Bodhi Patil
Wisdom Keepers – Who Are We?
The Indigenous Wisdom Keepers Delegation is an ancestrally rooted community of 13 traditional knowledge keepers from 6 continents dedicated to restoring planetary wellbeing. Despite forced erasure through colonialism, racism, and violence alongside a myriad of socio-economic-ecological threats the planet faces, the Wisdom Keepers are bringing back ancient wisdom rooted in Indigenous practices to enact contemporary solutions. Being holistic by nature, this group of new-age climate avengers embraces a mission to transcend the turbulent chaos of the Anthropocene and guide the world forward to bring back a pre-colonial equilibrium with biodiversity rooted in ancient ways of living.
While some argue that Indigenous practices may not be scalable to address the climate crisis, it’s essential to consider their unique localized benefits. Internal Indigenous power struggles and tribal conflicts should not be used to dismiss the potential benefits of Indigenous knowledge systems and practices. A diverse range of solutions will be needed to address the complex challenges of the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crisis we are up against. This is a team effort that involves all of humanity, especially those of us who are privileged and capable of taking radical transformative actions.
Our Core Belief: “Rather than imposing ourselves as arbitrary leaders, we stand humbly as individuals in the community, nurtured by the wisdom passed down through our diverse Indigenous traditions, attuned to the needs of our communities, and untainted by the will of nongovernmental organizations. (Wisdom Keepers)” This simple yet profound statement sums up our authenticity in pushing forward a climate justice and Indigenous Rights agenda for the collective well-being of humanity.
Fighting for Indigenous Rights means recognizing the rights of Nature within multilateral United Nations Frameworks because Indigenous Peoples (IP) globally steward biodiversity by protecting healthy ecosystems, having a solid connection to our shared oceanic water heritage, and keeping cultural practices alive despite immense resistance.
This blog will delve into my reflections from the recent United Nations Conference of Parties (COP28) and offer insight into ocean-climate breakthroughs, planetary self-identity and differences in the framing of ‘nature.’ To do this, we will explore the inherent values required to build a regenerative and environmentally healthy future for all.
Guiding Humanity towards Reciprocal Relationships with Nature
The current relationship between industrialized humanity and the environment is perpetuating extractive systems that drive the climate crisis and a mass extinction event of tremendous biodiversity loss on Earth. Oceanic warming, acidification, and resulting sea-level rise are the highest in millions of years. As a result, coral reefs could be the first full-scale ecosystems to go extinct in the fossil fuel era. Coral reefs are home to 25% of marine biodiversity and provide livelihoods to millions in climate-vulnerable low-lying island nations (UNEP). Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stopping the flow of plastic pollution and chemical leachate are critical to coral survival in unfavorable conditions.
Native Polynesian Peoples have developed locally-managed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) called “rahuis” to extend the lifeline of coral reefs and combat pollution from upstream sources. This place-based knowledge now informs large-scale MPAs, global treaties, financial mechanisms for coral stewardship like the coral breakthrough, and international climate negotiation texts including the ocean-climate dialogues.
Despite encompassing only 5% of the global population and 15% of the world’s poor, Indigenous Communities steward 80% of all Biodiversity (Statista).
We need to collectively transform our relationship with Nature to stop the extinction of all species, including our own. During COP28, the Wisdom Keepers became the Wisdom Weavers by using the connectivity of water and resistance against fossil fuels to explain the strong interconnection between all living and nonliving beings to decision-makers and world leaders. The policy advocacy, direct interventions, and roundtable discussions we hosted had an immeasurable effect on countless hearts, minds, and capitalist power brokers. IP’s tireless work profoundly affects biodiversity protection, interspecies justice, and marine conservation, helping to value existing biodiversity for cultural provisions and reducing extinction rates. The Wisdom Keepers argue that we must transcend extractive value systems and re-discover regenerative values to stop the Sixth Mass Extinction and accelerate the just transition to a world free of fossil fuels. This realignment of values is in conjunction with the outcomes of COP28 that call for the “Beginning of the End” of the Fossil Fuel Era (UNFCCC).
Water is Life, so Flow like Water
Upholding Indigenous Rights, as stated by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), means respecting Indigenous lands, cultures, traditions, and systems of environmental governance along with many additional sovereign rights to protect IP ways of existing (UNDRIP). A strong proponent of transitioning away from destructive neo-colonial systems and towards climate-resilient holistic systems involves recognizing the inherent rights of Nature. The Māori people of Aotearoa, New Zealand, have successfully led the charge to grant rivers legal personhood. Now, Māori and many IPs are doing the same for the rights of whales, the ocean as a living entity, and the rights of Nature as a whole under international policy frameworks and legally binding justice systems. Although extremely heterogeneous, many Indigenous cultures share a common sentiment about the importance of Nature that has been passed down for generations: Water is life or Mní Wičóni (the resounding message from Standing Rock).
The Wisdom Keepers describe water as a living being delivering ever-flowing power, purpose, and knowledge. Different Indigenous cultures worldwide recognize water beyond being a necessary resource and instead as a living vessel bringing life in all forms. This is highly resonant for many reasons:
- Water has provided medicine and life with every sip we take.
- The sounds of the ocean and water have helped to heal deep wounds from colonialism.
- The most abundant source of water on the planet – the ocean – connects us through voyaging canoe cultures and provides a primary source of protein for billions.
- Water flows through our cells (making up most of our human bodies) and covers most of the planet.
Wisdom-keeping cultures share a crucial message through many unique and profound stories: Water is the origin of all life forms, and the ocean keeps us alive.
Ending the Fossil Fuel Era, Shifting towards a Regenerative Future
Throughout my experiences at COP28, it is clear that the climate crisis is a values crisis. Fossil fuel combustion is mixing up many different timescales that have altered the trajectory of humanity in irreversible ways. The idea of burning millions of years of biological material – in an instant – is a power imbalance that has led to current climate catastrophes and war. Human abuse of the biological time-space reality has generated a ruined and scorched landscape. However, the pervasive effects of fossil fuels extraction and the characterization of oil bubbling up from the ground, emerging from the depths of the Earth, are radically transformed by a more powerful force. The power of Nature in the form of a river, ocean, and blue carbon ecosystems can bring back hope and stability by rejuvenating life in a post-apocalyptic world. Humanity can chart a better path forward by following the pristine path of water, a vessel for hope and regeneration.
Protecting sacred water sources – rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls, oceans, etc. – is critical to upholding Indigenous Rights. An Indigenous-led resurgence for planetary well being includes bringing back ancient environmental wisdom and community-led governance structures into a hyper-modernized world. In the U.S., Colossal is beginning to forge partnerships with Indigenous communities in Alaska and North Dakota, to help them strategically map out their de-extinction efforts. This proactive approach ensures that Colossal is well-prepared for rewilding when the time comes. Such collaboration will play a crucial role in raising awareness about de-extinction as a groundbreaking conservation technique and a climate solution. Wisdom Keepers are actively helping to restore the health of humanity and Mother Earth by helping to lead the resurgence and educate countless people in the process. Despite lining through the Sixth Mass Extinction, we will persevere through the continuous fires and floods, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of destruction.
Paddling Forwards Together.
Framing Nature as an essential piece of Indigenous identity and the collective genetic composition of the human race has been paramount to my understanding of environmental stewardship. Nature is a sacred wild-scape that lives within our hearts and minds. We are nature. Nature also forms a home for biodiversity and the self-proclaimed top predator of the food chain – the human race – so putting Nature first is paramount to our species’ survival.
Before and throughout COP28, the Indigenous Peoples Caucus (IPC) tirelessly represented the 476 million Indigenous people worldwide across 90 countries (Amnesty). With boundless energy, charisma, and ferocity, the IPC relentlessly ensured that IP informed the outcomes of the final text on Loss and Damage, the Global Stocktake, and Article 6, calling for a total phase-out of fossil fuels. Although the most robust language forcing an immediate just transition was not adopted, over 200 countries agreed to reduce global consumption and transition away from fossil fuels, signaling the slow death of the oil age. This is an incredible step forward for Mother Earth. However, we need to rapidly decarbonize the world and increase ambition and action if we are going to ensure the wellbeing of humanity for future generations.
This sacred identity that We are Nature, characterized by Indigenous Wisdom Keepers’s stories from river communities in India to the holy Amazon headwaters to traditional nature doctors of Germany, clearly depicts how we have evolved from Nature and continue to shape it as an apex species. These culturally informed stories share similar values and have a resounding message of hope and possibility. By learning from centuries-old knowledge systems and healing broken relationships with Nature, we can move beyond plaguing the planet and paddle forward for climate justice together.
About The Authors
Zainab Bie, a 20-year-old climate action advocate and economics policy researcher hailing from India, is on a relentless mission to combat the climate crisis through strategic policy changes. Her journey is defined by an unwavering commitment to economic and public policy, climate action, and sustainable development.
Bodhi is a UN-recognized, award-winning GenZ ocean-climate “Solutionist” dedicated to improving the interconnectedness between ocean health and human health. He is the Founder & CEO of Inner Light, empowering a generation to build resilience from the inside out for people and planetary wellbeing.
*Nature is capitalized to recognized its’ inherent rights as per UN Rights of Nature report cited
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