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COP28: Triple renewables sign-ups, a ‘no science’ fossils row and floating solar

Pledges to triple renewable power capacity and the first payments to a new “loss and damage fund” marked a brisk beginning to the COP28 climate summit, although climate campaigners were quick to point out the weaknesses in what has come so far.

Hosts the United Arab Emirates joined Germany, the UK, the US, Japan and the EU in stumping up $420 million to kickstart the loss and damage fund agreed at COP27 one year ago, with more pledges expected before the end of the summit.

The funds are intended to help poorer countries deal with the consequences of climate change.

Then, on Saturday, representatives of 118 nations signed up to a commitment to triple global renewables capacity by 2030, seen as a key step on the pathway set out in the COP21 Paris agreement.

Francesco la Camera, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) said the pact “unequivocally confirms the central role that renewables play in addressing climate urgency”.

Both steps, while broadly welcomed, came in for criticism.

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“Rich countries should take responsibility in filling up the fund in the scale of hundreds of billions of dollars with new and predictable resources that is additional to existing official development assistance commitments,” posted Joab Okanda, a pan-Africa senior advocacy adviser at charity Christian Aid.

“What we have witnessed today, with some historical polluters even pledging amounts that are smaller than what it cost them to set up their (COP28) Pavilion is unacceptable, embarrassing and a slap on the face of those on the frontline of the climate crisis”.

Similarly, while renewable energy industry leaders have welcomed the willingness of nations, companies and institutions to sign up to the pledge to triple renewables capacity and double energy efficiency, many have also called for these pledges to be moved from the voluntary field and become part of a final agreement to be signed by all countries at COP28.

The multilateral nature of the agreement signed on Saturday was underlined by the failure of either China or India to sign the pledge, even though both have made similar commitments on renewables — either unilaterally or bilaterally.

The problem, it seems, was the wording of the pledge that called for a parallel phasing down of unabated coal power.

“Commitments must translate into concrete actions considering varied national circumstances. The forthcoming round of nationally determined contributions in 2025 represent a prime opportunity to make a transformative leap forward,” said La Camera.

‘No science’

Underlying tensions continued to rumble over visions of an energy transition that allows a pivotal role for decarbonised fossil fuels as opposed to phasing them out entirely.

It emerged that COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber told a climate change panel in November that there is “no science” to show that phasing out fossil fuels is necessary to limit global warming, although he did seem to agree that phasing ‘down’ fossil fuels would be necessary.

As the sparks flew about what was – or was not – said, the UAE was able to roll out its latest raft of investments in the clean energy space.

These included a cooperation agreement to bolster development of Kazakhstan’s renewables sector, including a 1-gigawatt wind power project, plus an agreement by Masdar to collaborate with Indonesia’s state-owned utility company on a floating solar power plant in West Java, that will start at 145 megawatts but could go to 500 MW.

On Friday, Reuters reported that the UAE is launching a $30 billion climate fund, called Alterra, that aims to attract $250 billion of investment by the end of the decade.

The fund will aim to “steer private markets towards climate investments and focus on transforming emerging markets and developing economies” where the COP presidency said higher perceived risks had deterred traditional investment.

Financing is key

A UN-sponsored expert group found that bilateral climate finance from developed donor nations needs to increase to $60 billion by 2025 and $90 billion by 2030, while climate finance from private sources needs to be 15 times higher than current levels to deliver on climate mitigation goals.

In other financing moves, the UK’s credit agency said it had joined those of Denmark, Canada and Sweden to launch a Net Zero Export Credit Agencies Alliance, with ECAs from the UAE, Kazakhstan and Spain joining the alliance as affiliates.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are also using the COP28 event to announce new instruments and an overall increase in climate-related funding and debt relief.

(This article was first published by Upstream’s sister publication Recharge.)

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