What happened at COP28 and where does it leave the world’s climate?

Here’s your essential guide to what happened at COP28 in Dubai – and what it means for the world’s climate and people.


COP28, the latest fortnight of global climate talks, this time hosted in Dubai, is now over.

It was attended by representatives from all the world’s governments, and quite a few global corporations. Sultan al-Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and chair of renewable energy company Masdar, led proceedings.

So what does this latest climate conference mean for the world? What’s been achieved? What’s been decided in terms of fossil fuels, moving to renewable energy – and paying for costly and unequal climate impacts? 

Here’s everything you need to know.

The ‘Global Stocktake’ at COP28: calling an end to the fossil fuel era 

At the core of this year’s annual climate conference was something called the “Global Stocktake”. This is what makes COP28 unique from the other COPs so far. 

The Global Stocktake is intended as a thorough record of progress countries are making towards Paris Agreement targets. Countries committed at Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, and ideally 1.5ºC. 

The work on the stocktake began two years ago. Assessments conclude that with current efforts, the temperature will rise by up to 2.9ºC by 2100.

Discussions at COP28 have centred around the response to the Global Stocktake. The final agreement contains a number of loopholes. These include support for gas as a so-called “transition fuel” and support for technologies that are dangerous distractions, like nuclear. 

But it also sends a powerful signal about the end of oil, gas and coal. The final deal requires countries to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner” by 2050 – with accelerated action this decade.

It also commits to massively scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency this decade. This is vital progress, and provides a strong statement to hold our political leaders to account on over the next year and beyond.   

Climate finance and paying for loss and damage

Climate change is a very unequal problem. The countries least to blame for the crisis are feeling its impacts first and worst. The Pacific Island nations, for example, have barely added any greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, but they’re most at risk from sea-level rises and storm surges.

Climate finance generally refers to the responsibility of rich historically polluting countries, like the UK, to help poorer countries adapt to climate change. It’s also money to help these countries switch their own energy systems and be compensated for climate losses and damages. 

Progress on providing the promised £100 billion-a-year for the world’s developing countries to deal with the climate crisis is still slow. The promise has still not been met – despite the deadline being three years ago. 

Loss and damage and finance was discussed at COP28. But the final agreement failed to recognise the duty of developed countries to fill the new loss and damage fund that was agreed at the last climate conference in Egypt. 

Much more campaigning is still needed over the next year to make this happen as soon as possible.  

“COP28 gave us a clear set of promises that our politicians have committed to, meaning many opportunities for campaigning over the next year and beyond. So it's game on from here!”
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A just transition to renewable energy

The words “fossil fuel phaseout” were not included in the final agreement. But it does agree to a “transition away from fossil fuels”.

The agreement to “transition away from fossil fuels” is tied to needing to align with the science around containing global warming to 1.5ºC. This means that, in effect, a fossil fuel phaseout is necessary – and that all new fossil fuel developments must stop immediately.

The final agreement also called on the parties to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency by 2030. 

While there are still some important loopholes to address, this package of measures for cutting emissions is a powerful milestone.

As a way forward to tackle climate change, increasing renewables is fairly uncontroversial. But different countries are starting from very different points. 

Richer countries, and those with big oil industries, like the UK, need to move fastest in delivering the fossil fuel phaseout, while focusing on a fair and equitable transition that properly protects workers. 

Poorer countries also need massive extra public funding and support with technology so they can deliver the transition too. So any climate finance falling short will make meeting this goal more difficult.

Why the UK must lead by example

The UK is up there with the US and China with being most responsible for the global climate crisis. When historic emissions are taken into account, the UK is the fourth-largest emitter in the world.

What the UK does at home is noticed on the world stage. The hypocrisy of the UK’s current policy to “max out” every last drop of oil and gas in the North Sea and open a new coal mine was mentioned a number of times throughout the two weeks in Dubai.  As a result, some developing countries see this as a reason to not trust what the UK says. 

It’s critical that the UK sets a better example through its policies at home in order to build more trust and ambition when it comes to agreeing more global action to cut emissions in the future.

In the end, the outcome of COP28 was not the historical deal that the world needed. It has many loopholes and shortcomings.

But it’s given us the most powerful signal we’ve had yet from global leaders that the fossil fuel era will come to an end. This gives cause for hope. 

Most importantly, we now have a clear set of promises that our politicians have committed to act on. This gives us huge opportunities for campaigning over the next year and beyond. 

What matters now is that these pledges to end fossil fuels and ramp up renewables are turned into action. So it’s game on from here! 

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