COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during the Summit on Methane and other Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases on day three of the COP28 UN Climate Conference at Expo City in Dubai on December 2, 2023. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: “Please, let us move forward and not turn back,” Pope Francis said in a speech to COP28 in Dubai, delivered by the Vatican’s second-highest officer, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. “May the year 2024 mark this breakthrough,” he added.

A breakthrough came on Saturday in the form of pledges by 117 governments to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030. That’s a shot in the arm for efforts to wean countries away from fossil fuels.

As it happened: Over 120 countries pledge clean energy boost, health declaration on Day 3 of COP28

The UAE, the European Union and the United States led the pledges to eliminate CO2-emitting fossil fuels from the world’s energy system by 2050. There was support from India and China, but both were non-committal on reducing fossil fuel use.

Other efforts to decarbonise the energy sector included expanding nuclear power, slashing methane emissions, and cutting private finance for coal power. “This can and will help transition the world away from unabated coal,” COP28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber said.

Coal curbs and nuclear thrust

Coal addiction came under more scrutiny amid moves to eliminate the most CO2-emitting fossil fuel, with France at the vanguard to deter private funding for such projects.

In a thrust towards green energy, more than 20 nations signed a declaration to triple nuclear power capacity by 2050. US climate envoy John Kerry said: “You can’t get to net-zero 2050 without some nuclear, just as you can’t get there without some use of carbon capture, utilisation and storage.”

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry delivers opening remarks for the 'A New Energy Paradigm' panel at Business and Philanthropy Forum, during the COP28 UN Climate Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on December 2, 2023.

Decarbonisation spread to the private sector as the UAE and Saudi Arabia launched the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter. Nearly 50 oil and gas companies, representing more than 40 per cent of global oil production, signed the charter to cut operational emissions by 2050.


Al Jaber said: “The launch of the OGDC is a great first step…We need the entire industry to keep 1.5C within reach and set even stronger ambitions for decarbonisation.”

Slashing the methane menace

Global efforts to slash methane emissions received a boost from the US administration, which unveiled final rules on oil and gas industry releases of the greenhouse gas. The move is expected to prevent 1.5 billion metric tons of gas emissions and promises significant economic and public health benefits.

Several entities said they have raised $1 billion in grants to help countries reduce their dependence on methane. The Global Methane Pledge, a voluntary agreement by over 150 countries, aims to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. The World Bank joined in with an 18-month blueprint for methane reduction.

Energy transition and moves to cut emissions gained further impetus as Al Jaber unveiled the Global Decarbonisation Accelerator. The series of initiatives will focus on rapidly scaling tomorrow’s energy system, decarbonising today’s energy system, and targeting methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

How climate impacts health

Away from fossil fuels and the methane menace, health was in the spotlight at the UN climate summit. More than 120 countries supported the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health. The COP28 Presidency and the World Health Organisation announced the initiative to protect people’s health from the fallout of climate challenges.

The declaration comes as annual deaths from polluted air touched almost nine million, and as 189 million people are exposed to extreme weather-related events each year, according to Reuters.

Climate finance continues to gain momentum on the third day of the UN summit. Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation, announced a $1 billion for climate and health with commitments from the Green Climate Fund, the Asian Development Bank Global Funds, and the Rockefeller Foundation. These initiatives will help invest in public health measures to protect people from climate risks.

Climate finance gains pace

The US pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries invest in clean energy. Vice-President Kamala Harris said at COP28: “Today, we are demonstrating through action how the world can and must meet this crisis. There is still so much more work to do.”

In the Energy segment of the summit, the US announced $568 million in concessional lending for clean energy manufacturing and the UAE contributed $100 million to the World Bank Trust Fund to support global flaring and methane reduction partnership

More climate debates took place at the G77 and China Leaders Summit. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed a Climate Solidarity Pact where big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions, and developed countries mobilise resources to help emerging economies rein in emissions.