Source: Business Desk
Despite negative headlines and ongoing disagreements, the just-concluded international climate change negotiations were a step forward, executive director of the BusinessNZ Energy Council Tina Schirr said. The meeting in Dubai, known as Cop28, has concluded with the headline outcome being that most countries agreed to “transition away from fossil fuels” and “accelerating action in this critical decade”. It is the first time in 28 years of climate change talks that such a consensus has been reached. However, this still left many unsatisfied as there was no clear path to phasing out the production and use of oil and gas. Schirr said despite negative reactions, it was “good progress”. She attended part of the meeting but is now back in New Zealand. “To even get there to put fossil fuel in a text is quite substantial.” The fact it happened in Dubai, amid the oil-rich countries, was a sign of how far the debate has progressed. “I know there was a lot of debate that the language should be a bit harsher. But personally, I found it was a huge step forward.” The agreement on the direction trend was part of a global stocktake that also calls on countries to contribute to the global tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements, about 2% to 4% per year globally – not individually – by the end of the decade.
Accentuate the positive
This move on renewable energy had followed years of talks and that it was now generally agreed was “huge”. Underneath this was a lot of detail and specifics about development and collaboration. The business breakout sessions were even more positive. NZ developments were discussed as future possibilities were moving faster than Schirr had previously believed to be the case. New low-emission fuels, including in the aviation sector, were developing rapidly. “It comes up here [NZ] as a possibility … a future opportunity, but in the rest of the world, it’s already in the making. And they’ve shuffled away from, ‘hey, let’s do a pilot’ to almost ‘how do we scale this faster’ because the demand is high.” The stocktake is part of the Paris Agreement in which countries, including NZ, agreed to ratchet up ambition and regularly increase their pledges under nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that outline emissions reduction targets.
Schirr said NZ, like other countries, would have to make an NDC with increased ambition. This would be difficult for NZ and others with ambitious promises. It was already clear that NZ could not meet commitments it had pledged to make by 2030. This would mean buying international carbon credits. “The interesting question is, because we won’t be the only country that might struggle to get there, is where are you actually going to buy credits from on the international market as it was going to be a tough task to find countries performing in a way that you can benefit from their offsets.” There had also been no progress on agreeing on how international carbon markets might work with negotiations deferred. While much of the focus is on the internationally agreed text from the meeting, Cop28 is also the venue for negotiating and agreeing on a host of multilateral agreements and pledges between different groups of countries and major companies. For instance, some countries in the renewables debate emphasise the greater use of nuclear power. A declaration was backed by 22 countries, including the United States, France and Britain, for the “global aspirational goal” to triple nuclear energy and encouraged financial institutions to include nuclear energy in lending policies. Most of the debate about food and agriculture issues was about the perennial global problem of food security. The headline of the declaration in this regard was a commitment to include agriculture and food systems into countries’ NDCs and other national plans before the convening of Cop30 in 2025. Much of the debate was on reducing fossil fuel use in food production while ensuring countries could still feed their people. Schirr said there was agreement on collaboration to find ways to reduce methane and other emissions from agriculture. Another sign of where corporations were, in some cases, moving faster than countries. One of the commitments from companies including Danone, Nestlé and Kraft Heinz was to report and reduce their methane emissions.