Energy Announcements and Outcomes of COP28
The 28th Annual United Nations Framework for Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December saw intense discussions about the future of energy in Africa, Europe and around the globe. Especially the third day of events, 2 December, saw several commitments related to the energy transition, renewables, and Sustainable Development Goal 7.
Launched by the COP28 presidency, the Global Decarbonization Accelerator (GDA) refers to a set of five different initiatives to speed up the energy transition and reduce global emissions. The three key pillars of the plan are rapidly scaling the energy system of tomorrow, decarbonising the energy system of today, and targeting methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases. The GDA acts as a roadmap for system wide change, as it addresses energy supply and demand globally. The GDA was shaped through input from key stakeholders such as international organisations, governments, policy makers, and NGOs from various industrial sectors. Here are the five initiatives:
1) The most notable initiative included in the GDA is the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, vowing to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in April 2023 that the EU would propose global targets for renewables and energy efficiency at COP28. On 2 December, she was accompanied by over 100 world leaders at the launch of this pledge. With the support and signatures from 116 countries, achieving net-zero emissions from the energy sector by 2050 and tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 is within reach. For the European Union, this pledge means to phase out the usage of fossil fuels and turning to green and clean energy, and for Africa it means leapfrogging fossil fuels and strengthening the continent’s energy infrastructure with renewable energy solutions.
2) The UAE Hydrogen Declaration of Intent or the Declaration of Intent on the Mutual Recognition of Certification Schemes for Renewable and Low-Carbon Hydrogen and Hydrogen Derivatives. The potential of clean hydrogen for decarbonising industries and transportation is enormous, and expanding recognition of that potential is the first step in finding its place in the global market. Out of the 35 signatures on this initiative, eight are from African countries, including Ghana, Namibia and Nigeria, and ten are from Europe.
3) Launched by the COP28 Presidency and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter (OGDC)targets specifically the oil and gas sectors and is dedicated to speeding up climate action and achieving high-
4) Separately the Industrial Transition Accelerator (ITA), aims to accelerate decarbonisation across heavy emitting sectors and encourages collaboration across stakeholders to unlock investment and scale up implementation of emissions-reduction projects.
5) The Global Cooling Pledge from the United Arab Emirates, targets cooling related emissions, with hopes to reduce them by 68% by 2050, increase access to sustainable cooling by 2030, and increase average efficiency of new air conditioners by 50% around the globe. For areas of the world that suffer from extreme heat spurred by climate change, implementation of policies that adhere to the standards outlined in this pledge is vital.
Batteries, Nuclear Energy, and Expanding Grid Infrastructure
Several African countries formally expressed interest in joining a pioneering Battery Energy Storage Systems Consortium. Known as BESS, Battery Energy Storage Systems are used to store and distribute energy in the form of electricity. At its most basic level, a BESS consists of one or more batteries that store electrical energy for use at a later time. This stored energy can then be drawn upon when needed to meet various demands for power across different applications. A BESS Consortium could revolutionise Africa’s energy landscape and be the key to continent-wide energy access. Through collaboration and meeting individual energy storage commitments, this consortium can provide a roadmap to achieving 400GW of renewable energy by 2030.
In alignment with the 2015 Paris Agreement goal to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, the Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy was announced by President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron and United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. At its core, the declaration prioritises collaboration to reach this new capacity by 2050 and encourages shareholders of international finance institutions to include nuclear energy in energy lending policies. Recognising the potential of nuclear energy, signatories to the Declaration are committing to take both international and domestic action to ensure the responsible operation of nuclear power plants and mobilising investments into nuclear power. Among the 26 endorsing countries are many from Africa and Europe, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ghana, Hungary, Moldova, Morocco, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Ukraine.
The Utilities for Net Zero Alliance (UNEZA), with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) as the Secretariat, aims to accelerate the investment in grid infrastructure to keep the globe on a net-zero pathway. Leaders of the electricity and clean energy industry have together formed a vehicle for implementation. Their plan as a new alliance involves capital mobilisation, supply chain de-risking, capabilities and talent building, and facilitating policy and regulatory support. The implementing parties hope to accelerate the adoption of renewables and build necessary infrastructure while offering a platform to address supply chain bottlenecks, support the flow of capital to the power sector transformation in the Global South, and engage with policymakers and regulators. The Alliance includes Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA), one of the largest listed integrated utilities in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Bui Power Authority, DEWA, DLO Energy, Enel, Engie, Etihad Water and Electricity, Hitachi Energy, Iberdrola, Jinko Power, Masdar, National Grid, RWE, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Tenaga, Uniper and Xlinks.
On 13 December, COP28 closed, after running over time, with a final declaration that for the first time takes a stance towards phasing out fossil fuels. The above listed announcements and pledges mark a strong step forward in the direction of a global energy transition and the beginning of the transition away from fossil fuels. After being blocked for many years, this shift was a result in part due to the EU’s alliance with developing nations. However, the deal was met with mixed reception: praises of the historic decision were intermingled with critiques that what was agreed upon was still not enough. Despite the criticism, the strides made in the two weeks of intense negotiations and discussions still preserves the promises made in COPs past and according to many inspires further negotiations, dialogue, and collaborations – all necessary to move closer to the vision of a just and sustainable energy future.