Sustainability: COP28

Keep up with COP28: WCAS, Health Day and Finance Day

Image of light spreading through a tree
In this article

The main event

World Climate Action Summit

A special session of the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS), led by Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy, Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Prime Minister of Samoa and Anthony J. Blinken, Secretary of State for the United States of America, saw the announcement of the declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action.

  • The declaration aims to protect the lives and livelihoods of farmers who live on the frontlines of climate change and was signed by 130 countries. These countries represent 'more than 5.7 billion people, 70 percent of the food we eat, nearly 500 million farmers and 76 percent of total emissions from the global food system'.[i]

Health Day

This weekend saw the inaugural ‘Health Day’ at COP, titled Health/Relief, Recovery and Peace. The creation of a dedicated day signals growing recognition and understanding of the ways in which climate change is affecting human health.

  • 123 countries signed the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health, agreeing to 'place health at the heart of climate action'. The agreement sets out a commitment to include health in National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).[ii]
  • USD 1 billion in new financing commitments has been put forward to support the climate and health goals. The philanthropists, donors and multilateral development banks (MDBs) have endorsed 9 new guiding principles addressing investment in health concerns and 'climate-washing'.[iii]
  • The UAE's Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace was also signed by 74 countries and 40 international organisations - it sets out commitments to increase investment in communities affected by conflict.

Finance Day

Following a busy weekend at COP, world leaders departed and bank chiefs arrived for Finance Day. Both private and public bankers descended on Dubai to discuss how the climate transition will be financed.

  • Leading the day was a joint framework ensuring the integrity of voluntary carbon markets covering standards on both the demand and supply sides.[iv]
  • COP28 announced that $57 billion has been pledged in climate finance commitments so far this conference, including funding vehicles set up at the Business & Philanthropy Forum and the Innovate for Climate Tech platform.[v]
  • The headline pledge among the commitments is the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge which was endorsed by 119 countries and is set to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity and double energy savings efforts.[vi]

In the news 

Remaining unphased

The need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels is expected to dominate discussions at COP, with countries taking different stances. While some world leaders have called for a commitment to ‘phase out’ fossil fuels, others are not prepared to go so far, pointing to the need to continue their economic development and maintain energy security.

  • The Wall Street Journal reports 'sharp divisions' on the issue of phasing out fossil fuels, and the argument from developing nations that 'the U.S., Europe and other wealthy countries haven’t cut their emissions as promised over the past 20 years'.[vii]
  • The draft deal reportedly has three options for countries to consider: an ‘orderly and just’ phasing out, ‘accelerating efforts’ towards phasing out, or not mentioning the issue at all.[viii]

Record breakers

The conversation has grown more urgent as many outlets have published a story on research finding that emissions from fossil fuels are set to hit a new record in 2023.

  • The report from the Global Carbon Project predicts that global carbon emissions in 2023 would be 36.8 billion metric tons, a rise of 1.1% on the year before.[ix]

New loss and damage fund

The early announcement of the operationalisation of a Loss and Damage fund for countries vulnerable to climate change was hailed as a piece of significant progress last week. Yet it has not been greeted with such enthusiasm in all quarters.

  • South Africa’s Mail & Guardian ran an opinion piece arguing that richer nations 'give with one hand, take with the other'. It says that much of the climate aid apparently targeted at developing countries is spent on agencies and organisations based in Europe or the US, creating a risk that this new mechanism will not direct money where it is needed most.[x]

Other voices 

IMF, WTO, and European Commission make case for carbon pricing

The IMF Managing Director (Kristalina Georgieva), European Commission President (Ursula von der Leyen), and WTO Director-General (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) have written a joint piece in the Financial Times, calling for greater co-operation on international carbon pricing. They write that COP28 must deliver a 'robust benchmark' to facilitate international co-operation on carbon pricing, which would adapt to 'countries moving at different speeds'.

  • No more business as usual: the case for carbon pricing.[xi]

Rockefeller Foundation pilots early coal retirement using carbon credits

A group led by the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation has launched a pilot scheme at COP28 to use carbon credits to retire a coal power plant early in the Philippines. The first project of its kind, the pilot aims to retire the South Luzon Thermal Energy Corporation Plant by as early as 2030, ahead of its current retirement date in the 2040s.

  • Rockefeller Foundation at COP28 backs early coal retirement using carbon credits.[xii]

Bill Gates: “We won’t meet our highest aspirations”

Speaking to Bloomberg TV at COP28, Bill Gates has said that keeping warming to 2C “isn’t that likely,” although recognises that “climate progress is moving ahead.” He said that if the world manages to stay below 3C “a lot of the ill effects” won’t happen. He cited nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, and green steel as among new climate-friendly developments that he is particularly excited about.

  • Bill Gates says Chances of Meeting 2C Warming Goal Fading Fast.[xiii]


i. - COP28 presidency puts food systems transformation on global climate agenda as more than 130 world leaders endorse food and agriculture declaration - 01.12.23
ii. - Over 120 countries back COP28 UAE Climate and Health Declaration delivering breakthrough moment for health in climate talks - 02.12.23
iii. - 41 funders, partners endorse new guiding principles for financing climate and health solutions to protect health - 02.12.23
iv. - US commodity regular proposes plan to boost scrutiny of carbon credit markets - 04.12.23
v. and vi. - COP28 mobilizes over $57 billion in first four days, setting the pace for a new era in climate action - 04.12.23
vii. - Rift Over Fossil Fuels to Dominate COP28 - 01.12.23
viii. - Fossil fuel phase-out among options on COP28 table - 05.12.23
ix. - Global Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels to Hit Record Peak in 2023 - 05.12.23
x. - Loss and damage climate fund: Rich countries give with one hand, take with the other - 04.12.23
xi. - No more business as usual: the case for carbon pricing - 03.12.23
xii. - Rockefeller Foundation at COP28 backs early coal retirement using carbon credits - 04.12.23
xiii. - Bill Gates Says Chances of Meeting 2C Warming Goal Fading Fast - 03.12.23