COP28: Now it is the EU’s responsibility to deliver on justice, align with science and phase out fossil fuels

COP28| Climate action| Energy transition| Europe in transition| Financing the transition| Global transition

Tuesday,  13 December 2023 – A whirlwind COP28 has drawn to a close, leaving a trail of paradoxes in its wake. On one side, this COP exposed the undeniable influence of fossil fuel lobbies on the COP Presidency and many governments, including several European ones, as a new report revealed that at least 2400 lobbyists were in Dubai to promote fossil fuels — almost a 400% increase from last year. On the other side, the need for a global phase out of fossil fuels took center stage in negotiations and a global civil society united in the call for a fair, fast, full, funded and feminist phase out of all fossil fuels.

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe Director Chiara Martinelli said:

While the COP28 outcome signals a consensus to move away from fossil fuels in the future, it falls short in providing the fair scale, clarity and speed we truly need to tackle the climate emergency. 

We need to highlight that this is coming out of a COP28 that witnessed huge pressure from fossil fuel interests, resisted by civil society and many governments. Once again, this looked like nothing but a ‘David against Goliath’ fight.

In the final text, we can surely recognise the EU’s position for COP28 supporting fossil fuel phase out. In the face of the call from the Pacific Islands and the most climate-vulnerable countries, we need a much bigger demonstration of solidarity through partnership and finance, and concrete commitments to support the energy transition as well as adaptation in those regions of the world. Next year’s negotiations on the future level of climate finance will, therefore, be a critical litmus test for a truly global course correction. The EU and other developed countries will have to be fully prepared.

Now, the big responsibility lies on the EU to translate this COP28 outcome into ambitious work at home and specifically into the update of the European Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). While we move into updating 2030 climate targets and defining 2040 targets, the EU has to align with science and ensure there is no space for fossil fuels in the energy system. We expect concrete deadlines for Europe at the soonest: phase out from coal by 2030, from gas by 2035 and from oil by 2040.

A pivotal question echoing through the entire process was the challenge of funding climate mitigation (with a focus on the just energy transition at this COP), adaptation, and loss and damage, particularly to support climate vulnerable countries. The civil society’s call throughout COP28 has been for actions from industrialised economies and major historic emitters to transcend mere declarations and to deliver, and for climate finance commitments to be translated into actionable steps. The European Union kicked off the conference with a number of pledges to support the set-up of the Loss and Damage Fund in the millions, but not the billions needed to capitalise it adequately – and this year commitments to the Adaptation Fund and on action to scale up adaptation finance were seriously lacking despite the EU’s claim in its COP28 position to want to be at the forefront of increasing it.

The EU has been pushing hard to get strong language on fossil fuel phase out and for substance on the mitigation work programme. However, the EU could have gone further in building reassurance for support to developing countries in the Global South.

Fossil Fuels Phase Out and Mitigation

In the last 24 hours, many countries pushed strongly for a better outcome compared to the one which lay on the table. To still achieve the global goal of holding climate warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, rapidly and fully phasing out of fossil fuels, which are at the root of the climate crisis, is indispensable. While the final agreement does not name this pathway explicitly, it reflects the required emission pathways of reducing emissions globally by 43% by 2030 and by 60% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels. Industrialised countries and historic emitters must take the lead. 

It also calls on countries to promote key actions to get to this, including tripling renewable energies and doubling energy efficiency by 2030. Unfortunately, it also gives space to false solutions such as nuclear or carbon capture and storage which, for the EU in particular, can not provide a strong contribution to the pathway we need to go. 

Complementing the Global Stocktake (GST) decision, the Parties agreed on the next steps of the Mitigation Work Programme which, however, lacks clear signals on the speed and action needed in moving away from fossil fuels. This needs to become centre stage for future negotiations. In Article 6, the trading of emission reductions between countries, no agreement was reached, which is a better solution than accepting weak environmental and social safeguards.

Climate Finance

One of the most contentious issues at COP28 was climate finance, with new and additional  contributions from developed countries on top of development assistance budgets essential to enable and support climate action in developing countries. Climate finance underpins climate justice and enhanced ambition across the rest of the agenda – on mitigation and NDCs, fossil fuel phaseout, just transition and energy access, an ambitious Global Goal on Adaptation and supporting countries and communities hit by loss and damage. 

Developed countries have so far failed to deliver on their commitment to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020 through 2025 for mitigation and adaptation. Developed parties needed to use COP28 to demonstrate reassurance on this and to inform stronger future climate finance delivery. However this was seriously lacking,  and while the EU did report a substantial increase in its collective climate finance in 2022 ahead of the negotiations, it then did little to move the developed country bloc on climate finance and secure stronger outcomes across the negotiations. The Global Stocktake (GST) urges developed country Parties to fully deliver, with urgency, on the USD 100 billion per year goal throughout to 2025; which CAN Europe interprets as developed countries needing to make up the shortfalls in delivery in the first years of the goal in full. There is a serious shortfall in adaptation finance in particular despite the growing and urgent needs of the most vulnerable countries and communities, and grants-based public finance is essential. COP28 should have delivered a clear roadmap and progress on the COP26 commitment to double adaptation finance on 2019 levels by 2025 and towards the commitment to achieve a balance in mitigation and adaptation finance, which CAN Europe interprets as at least 50% of the total. However, neither in the climate finance decisions nor the Global Goal on Adaptation was this delivered. 

Another important aspect was negotiations on the New Collective Quantified Goal, the successor of the $100 billion target. Negotiations have been slow and unproductive, and rather than banking progress parties could only agree on a procedural outcome on the process in 2024, which puts immense pressure on COP29 when the goal should be finalised. In discussions on the substance and design of the new goal, the EU behaved poorly by opposing the inclusion of a loss and damage sub-target. Developed countries have also been reluctant to commit to higher and more specific numbers, and have tried to shift the burden to other sources and actors. They also failed to anchor in stronger aspects in the GST text. Attention is now turned towards COP29, where the new climate finance goal must be designed with sub-goals for mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage, bolstered by a strong core of public finance.

The Loss and Damage Fund

The first few days of COP28 saw a number of funding pledges to get the Loss and Damage Fund up and running. The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, despite significant weaknesses in its design, coupled with initial pledges in the region of USD 655 million, including USD 300-400 million from the EU collectively, represented a positive step. However, contributions from developed countries remain a drop in the ocean and were largely taken from existing climate finance and development budgets which should be serving mitigation, adaptation, and human development. 

As well as pledges of public finance grants in the billions, the fund will require new sustainable sources of funding in the form of revenues from equitable taxes and levies to make big polluters pay. Importantly, the GST highlights the need for innovative sources of climate finance including taxation. COP also saw the launch of a new taskforce on international taxation led by France and Kenya, with welcomed including taxes on fossil fuels, aviation, maritime and financial transactions. However, since this sits outside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or any UN process, it will be important for this initiative and any other to reflect principles of equity and tax justice and support the parallel efforts to set up a UN convention on tax.

Regarding the weaknesses in the design of the new Loss and Damage Fund, in the Global Stocktake, the parties acknowledge the significant gaps, including finance, in responding to economic and non-economic loss and damage and introduce the requirement for a regular synthesis report on loss and damage for consideration by the Warsaw International Mechanism. It will be important that this leads to developed countries scaling up contributions in line with needs: the EU and its member states must prepare multi-year pledges at a scale of billions of USD for the next COP.  References to human rights and gender-responsive approaches on loss and damage were removed from the final GST text: the EU must also ensure the next steps in setting up governance of the fund are robust on human rights and complaints mechanisms for communities.

Global Goal for Adaptation (GGA)

The Global Goal on Adaptation framework now provides an orientation to the Parties on how to advance towards the goal. However, despite a two-year work program and eight workshops behind it, the GGA framework lacks really tangible global targets and sufficient or effective commitments to means of implementation – first and foremost finance – and a collective commitment to making a sustainable future happen. At least the GST urges developed country Parties to prepare a report on the doubling of their collective provision to developing countries from 2019 to 2025, but this falls short of the required roadmap. It also introduces a high-level ministerial dialogue by COP29 on adaptation finance. Parties should also consider the GGA and GST in the deliberations on the new collective quantified goal. However these processes are relatively weak but must now be exploited in full to address adaptation finance gaps, and we expect the EU to engage fully and urgently take corrective action in its own contributions as well as leveraging action from other contributors.



Notes to Editors:

Reactions from CAN Europe members


Jani Savolainen:, +358 504667831

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