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New Atlanticist November 30, 2023

Expert analysis: The successes and shortcomings in the fight against climate change at COP28

By Atlantic Council experts

This year, the world has seen a slate of devastating weather events—and geopolitical tensions that have raised global concern about access to reliable energy. Did global leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, respond with enough to meet this moment?

Experts from across the Atlantic Council, from on the ground in Dubai and elsewhere around the world, analyzed how global leaders responded to climate change’s greatest challenges and offered expert insight on the biggest developments in everything from climate finance to the energy transition to the global stocktake.

Get a sense of whether negotiators have proven COP’s value, courtesy of our experts below.

Check out all our COP28 programming here.


DECEMBER 15 | 10:02 PM GMT+4

COP28’s legacy will be measured by emissions reduction, not ‘historic’ text

By Landon Derentz

The final declaration from COP28, “the UAE Consensus,” is transformational in its reflections on fossil energy’s role in contributing to climate change, but with time this climate conference won’t simply be remembered for “landmark” text. If all goes to plan, the COP28 Presidency’s efforts to foster an inclusive platform for promoting private and public actions that reduce global emissions will be its legacy.

The “success” of COP28 was never going to be measured by unrealistic expectations around “phasing out” fossil fuels—a benchmark promoted by the European Union and small island nations severely at risk of global temperature rise. Despite over $3.5 trillion in financing for renewable energy over the past decade, oil, gas, and coal remain stubbornly anchored in the global energy mix, representing around 80 percent of energy consumed. The high reliance on conventional energy resources for their economic growth and political stability unequivocally placed China, India, and Saudi Arabia at the vanguard of a block of countries opposed to any negotiated outcomes at COP28 that locked in a “phaseout” or “phasedown” of specific energy sources.

Behind the scenes, however, the feverish and ultimately successful push for a diplomatic compromise temporarily overshadowed what COP28 has already accomplished.

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Dec 15, 2023

COP28’s legacy will be measured by emissions reduction, not ‘historic’ text

By Landon Derentz

The COP28 final declaration is transformational in its reflections on fossil energy’s role in climate change. The conference’s real legacy, however, will be the efforts undertaken to foster the inclusive platform necessary to promote private and public actions and reduce global emissions.

Climate Change & Climate Action Energy & Environment

DECEMBER 15 | 9:58 PM GMT+4

The takeaway from COP28: Gas and nuclear are part of the energy transition

By Ana Palacio

Standing at the epicenter of the United Nations Climate Conference in Dubai, also known as COP28, it was clear that this year’s event was qualitatively different from previous ones. What started in Berlin in 1995—convened by Angela Merkel, then the German environmental minister, as a private meeting of experts seeking to draw the attention of leaders and the media to the increase in global average temperatures—has become a prominent and massive gathering. Over the course of two weeks, more than 150 heads of state and government walked the halls of Expo City Dubai, compared to 112 who attended COP27 last year in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. There were also reportedly more than 90,000 participants at COP28, compared to less than 50,000 at COP27.

With the increase in size, COP’s center of gravity shifted away from the formal management structure of the convention. Instead, the focus was on disparate and scattered initiatives in which nonstate actors—including from the private sector—play a prominent role. There are several ways to interpret this conference: a holy pilgrimage for those who are devoutly green, a new Davos attended by executives of the same corporate giants who frequent the World Economic Forum gathering in Switzerland, a photocall of politicians from around the world, a theater with armies of lobbyists, a mix of consultants and media. “Inclusion” was an oft-repeated theme this year. And although it may seem provocative, the meeting’s most notable decision may have been to include the oil and gas sector, which had been previously sidelined—a decision that spotlighted a larger confrontation at COP28 between ideology and pragmatism.

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New Atlanticist

Dec 15, 2023

The takeaway from COP28: Gas and nuclear are part of the energy transition

By Ana Palacio

The concept of a “transition” in the energy transition is too often lost: specifically, the idea that it will extend over time and require overlap.

Climate Change & Climate Action Energy & Environment

DECEMBER 14 | 1:48 AM GMT+4

The final report card for COP28

After fourteen days in the desert, it ended with a “beginning.” On Wednesday, the 2023 United Nations Climate Conference in Dubai, also known as COP28, concluded with nearly two hundred countries agreeing to “transition” away from fossil fuels. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell called the decision the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era. But the agreement text was only one of many outcomes from the conference, including the activation of the loss and damage fund and pledges to abate methane emissions and triple renewable energy. Atlantic Council experts who were on the ground in Dubai share their insights on the agreement and the road ahead.

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Fast Thinking

Dec 13, 2023

The final report card for COP28

By Atlantic Council

Atlantic Council experts who were on the ground in Dubai share their insights on the agreement and the road ahead.

Africa Climate Change & Climate Action

DECEMBER 13 | 11:43 PM GMT+4

Don’t chalk this conference’s success up to text alone

By Reed Blakemore

COP28 finally came to a (late) conclusion today, following a frenetic race to the finish. 

The final agreement managed to address nearly all of the key items on the COP28 agenda—the loss and damage fund, tripling renewable energy deployment, and global carbon markets with varying levels of strength. But debate over whether this COP was a success or failure will gravitate toward the agreement’s treatment of fossil fuels. 

Despite early optimism from the climate community earlier in the week that “phasedown” in some form or fashion might be an ultimate landing spot, the final text on Wednesday, settled on “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems.” That language reveals not only how hard it is to find consensus on the oil and gas industry’s role in climate action; it also shows the complexity of interests that are often misunderstood by climate observers and played out over successive drafts leading up to the final agreement. On one hand, major oil-producing delegations at the COP have been unwilling to accept sweeping or overly broad language that undercuts their still-transitioning economies. Relatedly, many developing economies (particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa) see a phasedown or phase out, in the absence of financing for alternative energy sources, as an unfair deal. They make this point by criticizing how Western countries built their own economies by consuming fossil fuels for decades (and at the same time that many Western countries still produce and use fossil fuels themselves). Meanwhile, small island nations have been adamant that fossil fuels cannot be omitted from COP text, whether this one or in the future. 

The result is a bit of a word salad that may not meet the expectations many in the climate community brought to Dubai. But expecting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to address the tricky issue of fossil fuel emissions in one fell swoop may actually be unhelpful for efforts to drive multilateral climate action. 

Indeed, the treatment of fossil fuels and their role in global emissions is an urgent area of attention—and it will remain so for COPs to come. But when evaluating the success of this gathering in Dubai, don’t put too much faith in the power of the COP’s signaling abilities through its text. Unlike loss and damage funds or carbon market rules, for which multilateral structures or mechanisms are created through UNFCCC agreement, it’s harder to draw a straight line between strong phaseout language in the text and the drawdown of a resource that remains an intrinsic part of the global economy. This perhaps is what made the alternative phrasing to a “phase out” proposed over the weekend—which listed several options for countries to cut emissions including upping renewable energy capacity—an imperfect but more thoughtful way to use the signaling power of the COP. (This wording, for example, is similar to what was used in the Sunnylands agreement in November between the United States and China). The final COP28 agreement, though also imperfect, is an important starting point to build from.

Regardless, the increasing utility of the COP to build an inclusive ecosystem that effectively integrates industry, civil society, and policy is something to celebrate. Numerous accomplishments—from nuclear energy commitments to a new renewables fund—highlight COP’s value as a necessary platform to align action and commitment. 

Bringing the oil and gas industry into this platform is a tricky but necessary part of that process, and an area in which this COP will leave a legacy even outside of the official text. The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) establishment of Global Decarbonization Accelerator and its Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter provided that, and while it needs to both grow in participation and ambition, it can be a space where the UAE can push for shared action even once its COP presidency concludes. Holding the oil and gas industry accountable for their role in the climate crisis begins with bringing that industry into the fold, in order to hold it accountable for providing solutions rather than  for existing. This COP managed to do that.

What remains to be seen, however, are the tricky bits of climate action. Major tasks ahead for the UNFCCC include effectively de-risking private investment in clean energy projects; establishing clarity on how to allocate “shared pools” of funding for resiliency efforts, such as the loss and damage fund; and navigating the nuance of a trade system that is evolving rapidly in response to energy transition. Arguably, these are just as (if not more) “make or break” for the energy transition and climate action than the language chosen to articulate the future role of fossil fuels. 

The ink may still be drying on the final agreement, but much more work remains.

Reed Blakemore is director for research and programs with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.

DECEMBER 13 | 10:43 PM GMT+4

COP28 gave nuclear power a seat at the table

By Jennifer T. Gordon

From the start, it was clear that this COP could justifiably be called “the nuclear COP.” COP28 kicked off with the pledge of more than twenty countries to triple nuclear energy by 2050, which was soon followed by an industry pledge. Additionally, the US Export-Import Bank (EXIM) and the US Department of State announced a “suite of EXIM financial tools” to jump-start small modular reactor deployments around the world. The United States, Japan, Canada, France, and the UK pledged to mobilize at least $4.2 billion in government-led investments to “enhance uranium enrichment and conversion capacity over the next three years.”

Perhaps just as important as the specific announcements on nuclear energy at COP28 was the unprecedented centrality of nuclear energy in conversations at the conference. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Institute hosted a pavilion in the Blue Zone called “Atoms4Climate,” while the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and World Nuclear Association hosted Net Zero Nuclear pavilions in the Blue Zone and Green Zone, along with a two-day Net Zero Nuclear Summit in downtown Dubai. Nuclear energy was present in all these platforms, and conversations around nuclear energy took place in spaces that were dedicated to the energy transition writ large (for example, at the Global Decarbonization Accelerator Connect pavilion, run by the Atlantic Council). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Draft Decision on the Outcome of the Global Stocktake included nuclear energy in its list of “zero- and low-emission technologies,” a move that the IAEA praised for making history.

The importance of nuclear energy becoming part of the climate conversation goes far beyond rhetoric. As countries move to unlock financing for technologies that are considered green, the inclusion or exclusion of nuclear energy could determine whether the industry succeeds or fails. For example, Canada’s inclusion of nuclear energy in its Green Bonds framework is enabling greater funding for nuclear and faster deployment of nuclear technologies. As a zero-emission energy source, nuclear deserves a seat at the table at the world’s premier climate conference, and COP28 was a watershed moment for the inclusion of nuclear in the climate discussion.

Jennifer T. Gordon is the director for the Nuclear Energy Policy Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

Note: The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation is a sponsor of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum. More information on Forum sponsors can be found here.


DECEMBER 12 | 11:45 PM GMT+4

Watch how final negotiations balance energy opportunity with climate insecurity risks

By Thammy Evans

As COP28 draws to a close, the usual frantic bargaining is taking place. This year’s conference has seen several innovations and firsts that show an evolving global and societal response to the climate crisis at hand. More than ever before, themes beyond climate change are attracting more focus, which was seen in announcements such as the launch of the Alliance of Champions For Food Systems Transformation. The day 11 Majlis organized by the United Arab Emirates aimed to bring a more inclusive feel to the negotiations, while the conference’s many official gatherings have earned this COP the name “Conference of Partners.” The findings of the global stocktake, although still not finalized and released, is a first attempt at a comprehensive, transparent inventory of climate action, but gaps remain.

A look at the themes of each COP across the years is a stocktake in itself that shows how negotiations have developed and the topics that have made it into negotiations over time. To date, much of the negotiations (on topics such as food, agriculture, oceans, tourism, health, finance, gender equality, indigenous peoples, youth, nature, land use, urbanization, fashion, adaptation, and loss and damage) have been attempts to make progress on climate mitigation via indirect sectors and to create a means to make it up to developing countries that are suffering the most from climate change. But much of the negotiations have also fallen short on the real elephant in the climate-mitigation room: fossil fuels.

This conference, however, marks the first time the term “fossil fuels” made it into the end-of-COP deal—or at least the draft text of it. Inclusion of the term “fossil fuels” is a sign of how much traction climate science has finally made. It is also recognition that discussions around climate security have adequately—and powerfully—conveyed the risks at stake. If the term “fossil fuels” remains in the final text, and depending on how it is mentioned, it could be a win for the COP28 president, Sultan al-Jaber, who has advocated for the need to have buy-in from all parties and partners, even (and especially) the oil industry.

Efforts to turn global focus toward turning the tap off for fossil fuels (i.e. a complete phase out), on ecosystem and economic regeneration and on a policy switch to regenerative capitalism (rather than merely mitigation, resilience, and adaptation) have not yet succeeded. Some sectors in many developed countries, with a sense of optimism for technological determinism, argue that technological innovations will somehow help achieve climate goals, just in time to keep hard-to-abate sectors alive for just that bit longer. But climate modeling simulators don’t show any scenario in which global warming can be kept to 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees Celsius by keeping fossil fuels alive (by supporting fossil fuel infrastructure and production) while offsetting by innovation scale up, offsetting, or abatement by 2100, or even by 2050.

It is true that a gradual phase down will keep certain transition challenges more tolerable, especially for those countries whose economies have yet to put a realistic economic transition diversification plan in place. But the lack of a fast enough phase out plan will exacerbate physical climate insecurity risks for the 3.5 billion deemed already to live in climate hot spots. The resulting increased risk of violent conflict, forced migration, and death will raise humanitarian disasters to a level unseen, keeping government institutions, emergency services, and the option of last resort—the armed forces—ever more occupied with responses to climate hazards. As the COP28 negotiations draw to a close, watch this balance of energy opportunities and insecurity risks.

Thammy Evans is a nonresident senior fellow of the GeoTech Center of the Atlantic Council. She is also a senior research fellow of the Climate Change & (In)Security Project, a collaboration between the Reuben College of Oxford University and the UK Army’s Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research. Her co-authored chapter entitled Ecological Security: The New Military Operational Priority for Humanitarian and Disaster Response, was published in Climate Change, Conflict, and (In)Security: Hot War on December 1.

DECEMBER 12 | 8:14 PM GMT+4

Will the findings of the global stocktake unite or divide the world?

By Lama El Hatow

One of the most pivotal items being discussed at COP28 is the global stocktake, a “report card” of the world’s progress on climate action and a key indicator of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Two years ago, countries began assessing their progress on climate targets, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and submitted their findings to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change. According to the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap report, with current NDCs and climate targets, the world has little chance of keeping below the 1.5-degree-Celsius warming limit and could see temperatures rise by 2.9 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the end of the century.

Under a three-degree warming scenario, the Amazon rainforest could dry out and ice sheets would melt at exponential rates. To meet the 1.5-degree warming threshold, countries will need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 42 percent by 2030, the UN says. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the world is slated to reach 1.4 degrees Celsius of warming above preindustrial levels in what remains of this year, making it the hottest year on record. “Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low,” the World Meteorological Organization’s secretary general warned. Scientists have said that next year could be worse, with an El Niño weather pattern that is expected to cause temperatures to rise.

COP28’s success depends on the global stocktake’s ability to push countries to implement three changes.

First, drastically cutting emissions and having countries increase the ambition of their NDCs, including by committing to reduce emissions by 43 percent by 2030 and by 60 percent by 2035, as recommended by the UN.

Second, a complete phaseout of unabated fossil fuels with a clear timeframe that keeps global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Going forward, countries should set their ambitions even higher than this recommendation by phasing out all fossil fuel use: “abated” fossil fuel, achieved with the help of carbon capture and storage, can take away from the real action that needs to be done. All countries must also commit to triple renewables, double energy efficiency, and make clean energy available to all by 2030.

Third, increasing climate finance to ensure that the Global South doesn’t struggle to reach climate targets and that developing countries are not devastatingly impacted by climate-related disasters they did not cause or only minorly fueled. As negotiations on the way forward come to a close, it is important that countries are acutely aware of the consequences of their shortcomings and the need to ensure climate justice for all.

Lama El Hatow is a nonresident fellow with the empowerME Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. She is also a professor and program coordinator at Johns Hopkins University in the Environmental Science and Policy and Energy, Policy, and Climate departments.


DECEMBER 11 | 5:41 PM GMT+4

The Inflation Reduction Act set off waves still felt at COP28

By Charles Hendry

The introduction of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States has transformed European thinking about the industries Europe needs if it is to achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of the century.

Political leaders in Europe and elsewhere had long been encouraging the United States to do more to tackle climate change and bring forward the industries needed to do so. But when the IRA was announced, the initial reaction in European capitals was one of shock. The IRA was criticized as being unfair in subsiding companies to invest in the United States and making it more difficult for Europe to compete.

As time has progressed, harsh words have changed into measures that would also attract investment into the United Kingdom and the European Union. Governments realized that their only response was to raise their game and make Europe as attractive a place to invest in low-carbon industries as the United States. Game on!

The mistake in those early reactions was that it suggested that this is a battle between the United States and Europe. But the reality is that if both are to deliver the changes that are needed, and do so in the timeframe needed, then this needs to be the United States and Europe—and China and other countries across the world. This is not a zero-sum game in which if one country does well, then other countries have to do badly. It is one where we all need to win.

The same is true of Chinese dominance of supply chains. The West needs to secure more of those supply chains, as businesses want their supplies closer to them and as they look to have stricter control over manufacturing processes, environmental sustainability, and transparency. Sometimes that is seen as a threat to Chinese industries, but the reality is that China will need the output from those factories to supply its own fast-growing clean industries.

The mood of businesses present at COP28 has been one of realizing ambition, a sense that more can be done, that the necessary funding is there, that the right skills can be developed, and that companies can do all this faster than previously thought. In every panel I took part in, business representatives said that they are ready to deliver on the ambition.

There will be much debate about government policies to reach the United Nations Climate Change Conference commitments, but there has seemed to be little debate at COP28 about the enthusiasm of the business community to rise to the challenge. Sixteen months on from the signing of the IRA, the United States and Europe and countries around the world are starting to realize that they have to deliver together.

Charles Hendry is a distinguished fellow of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center. Previously, he was a Conservative member of the UK Parliament for Wealden from 2001 to 2015, the minister of state for energy from May 2010 to September 2012, and the Conservative Party’s spokesperson on energy issues from 2005 to 2010.

DECEMBER 11 | 9:25 AM GMT+4

COP28 is talking about how to finance Africa’s green transition. Green banking is a big part of that.

By Jean-Paul Mvogo

On the ground at COP28, the issue of climate finance, particularly in Africa, has been a big topic of discussion. This is due in part to the magnitude and urgency of the issue. Even with the commitments made here in Dubai and earlier, the amount Africa needs to face climate change—three hundred billion dollars per year, at least—is around ten times the amount of disbursements and pledges made to African countries so far for this purpose.

Beyond the amount of financing needed, the discussions at COP28 have also focused on the topic of the green financial architecture—that is, the logistics to bring green financial services and products closer to African households, businesses, and communities. A major question is how to provide climate insurance to the millions of African farmers, including farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, who could lose 5-17 percent of their crop yields by 2050 due to climate change and who live on the fringes of traditional financing circuits. Another concern is how to finance the upgrade of African businesses to greener standards, when today only 18 percent of their financing needs are covered. There is in addition the question of how to provide greener transport, energy, and housing solutions to the hundreds of millions of young, urban workers, who earn their living on a daily basis and do not have collateral.

If the need for deployment of climate finance for all is self-evident in countries with developed financial systems, these questions highlight the importance of green financial architecture for Africa to achieve a successful green and inclusive transition. Hence the decision of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center to launch a reflection on that topic in a new report that I wrote and presented at COP28.


Dec 5, 2023

How green banking can unlock climate solutions in Africa

By Jean-Paul Mvogo

In order to succeed in its transition to a green and inclusive economy, Africa must ramp up its green banking ecosystems and mobilize resources needed to finance climate mitigation and adaptation while also addressing deforestation, pollution and biodiversity loss.

Africa Economy & Business

This report explains how green financial systems can turn Africa into a champion of the green economy by mobilizing its ecosystems. Africa’s ecosystems are among the most efficient carbon sinks on the planet. African countries represent an exceptional renewable energy technical potential that accounts for a little less than half of worldwide capacity. And the continent contains large deposits of numerous critical minerals essential to the green revolution.

The report presents cooperative models for creating alliances of financial intermediaries able to mobilize their respective advantages to efficiently deliver green financial services to the “last mile”—to local communities and small businesses, for example. It also emphasizes issues that the international community must quickly address to resolutely engage Africa in the transition to a green and inclusive economy that would be a benefit to all as a source of stability.

To unblock the African green intermediation pipeline, the report advocates finding solutions to the difficulties faced by African financial actors when they wish to access international green funds. The dysfunctions of African carbon markets, which hinder the rise of pan-African green finance engineering initiatives, also call for resolute action. Finally, the report pleads for curbing the debt bottleneck that prevents African countries from devoting more resources to capacity building and training, which are needed to structure countries’ green ecosystems and attract more private investment. Indeed, private investment represents just 14 percent of green financing in Africa, highlighting a strong growth potential.

With the end of COP28 nearing, these issues, and the report’s twenty-one recommendations, deserve more attention. As COP28 attendee said to me, action, in addition to discussions, is needed to prevent the international community from heading toward “a climatic and societal hell” and allow the construction of a more desirable alternative.

Jean-Paul Mvogo is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.


DECEMBER 10 | 8:15 PM GMT 4

For the global stocktake and beyond, accessible and trusted data are the foundations for progress

By Lloyd Whitman and Raul Brens Jr.

Negotiations on the highly anticipated COP28 global stocktake have already started for the nearly two hundred countries gathered at the climate change conference. This stocktake, the first in a five-year cycle, will determine how far the world has come in trying to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and where it has come up short. To quote the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), “It means looking at everything related to where the world stands on climate action and support, identifying the gaps, and working together to agree on solutions pathways (to 2030 and beyond).”

During the first week of COP28, a theme heard again and again across discussions on climate science, mitigation, and adaptation is the importance of data and the challenges to making accurate, comprehensive, and trusted data easily accessible to all stakeholders. While the Enhanced Transparency Framework is the foundation for the UNFCC’s data collection and reporting, there is a rapidly growing array of public and private sector resources being devoted to data collection, sharing, and use, including artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled applications.

The power of data was vividly illustrated at COP28 in a presentation by former US Vice President Al Gore and Gavin McCormick, co-founder of the Climate TRACE coalition. They revealed how comprehensive data on sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can provide actionable insights into how to target emissions reductions more effectively. This global-scale monitoring system uses satellites and other remote sensing methods, combined with ground-truth measurements and AI, to provide an open and accessible global inventory of emissions.

The data from Climate TRACE also demonstrate the importance of space for providing critical climate-related data—the topic of a discussion at COP28 moderated by one of the authors. The panel was hosted in the Blue Zone by the World Green Economy Organization and titled “Space for Sustainability: Contribution of Space-Based Capabilities to Sustainability Research and Climate Science.” It featured Aarti Holla Maini, director of the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs; Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi, director general of the UAE Space Agency; Andrew Zolli, chief impact officer at Planet; and David Roth, director of international public policy at Amazon. This discussion made clear that whether looking inward at the Earth, outward at other planets and beyond, or providing global network connectivity, space should not be an afterthought and, instead, should be embedded into climate policy making.

These are just two of a multitude of conversations at COP28 on the importance of trusted and accessible data for the entire climate ecosystem. Some of the other data-related projects and resources discussed include:

  • partnership between UNFCCC and Microsoft to use AI and advanced data technology to track global carbon emissions and assess progress under the Paris Agreement.
  • A partnership between the UAE Space Agency and Planet Labs to use satellite data to construct a loss and damage atlas to inform the Loss and Damage Fund first announced at COP27.
  • A tool developed by Google to forecast life-threatening floods up to seven days in advance using publicly available data sources and AI.
  • A centralized and open source private sector climate data repository co-developed by France and Bloomberg enabling investors and regulators to track and compare climate commitments for hundreds of companies.
  • The full launch of the Methane Alert and Response System, a satellite detection and notification tool to accelerate data gathering and notification to countries of this potent GHG.
  • The Global Renewals Watch, a longitudinal atlas observing solar and wind renewable resources on Earth and how they are growing to better inform the transition to clean energy.

A diverse set of data collection methods are important to accurately assess emissions across different sectors, but data sources also offer opportunities beyond tracking emissions. Data collection methods across different areas are crucial to our growing understanding of holistic impacts of climate change, including that of deforestationbiodiversity loss, and impact assessments of natural resources such as melting ice caps, oceans, and water systems. It is key to transparency in government and business commitments related to sustainability and to reveal “greenwashing.” To ensure a global benefit and ease of utility across data sets, it is important to underscore robust data and reporting standards. Data need to be trustworthy, accessible, and interoperable to ensure access and ultimately action. Standardized reporting can breathe transparency into a system mired with distrust, and it can facilitate global collaboration, allowing for an acceleration of insights and ideas on how to address climate change.

The effective use of climate-related data requires global collaboration and cross-sector engagement, even where geopolitical tensions hinder other bilateral activities. The democratization of data will be a requirement to ensure that data sets are not only available but also accessible in usable formats for those who need it the most across sectors and countries. The effort will require the involvement of governments, international organizations, the private sector, philanthropic foundations, and civil society. They must work together to build capacity for knowledge-sharing and facilitate the strategic deployment of resources necessary to optimize the use of cross-functional data. A multi-stakeholder approach is the best way to prioritize and implement the most effective and economical solutions.

As the negotiations for the global stocktake move closer to the finish line, it is important to highlight one thing everyone should agree on: Accessible and trusted data are the foundations for progress on decisive climate action and achieving a sustainable future.

Lloyd Whitman is the senior director at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center.

Raul Brens Jr. is the deputy director and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center.

Note: Amazon is a sponsor of the Atlantic Council’s work at COP28.

DECEMBER 10 | 12:29 PM GMT+4

Is carbon capture and storage a solution to emissions—or is it a ‘carbon bomb’?

By Lama El Hatow

To meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world will need to cut fossil fuel production by an estimated 40 percent within this decade, according to the International Energy Agency. In an effort to reach the Paris Agreement goal, several countries—including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, and the United States—have proposed the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to abate carbon emissions from fossil fuels and heavy industry, and store them back in the ground, either offshore or on land. 

However, several groups have criticized the technology and its implications on the wider project of achieving climate goals. A report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), for example, states that the oceans are already plagued with ocean acidification and pollution from offshore oil and gas installations, and the seabed should hence not be turned into a storage site for carbon dioxide (CO2) waste. In addition, the CIEL report mentions that CCS projects have repeatedly fallen short of capture targets and encountered financial and technical hurdles, raising doubts about their feasibility and safety. Offshore CCS experience has been limited so far to only two projects in Norway, both of which encountered unpredicted problems, raising questions about the technology’s risks.  

Similarly, another report by Climate Analytics states that a reliance on CCS could be dangerous for the planet, since its impacts and ramifications are still not well known or studied. The report argues that for the world to achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, a near-complete phaseout of fossil fuels is needed by the middle of the century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, too, has stated that a fossil fuel phaseout is necessary to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit target, but that a small amount of CCS can be utilized in this pathway with capture rates of 95 percent. The Climate Analytics report suggests, however, that if carbon capture rates only reach 50 percent rather than 95 percent, and upstream methane emissions are reduced to low levels, this outcome would pump 86 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, equivalent to more than double the global CO2 emissions in 2023. The report calls this a “carbon bomb.”

Some scientists and climate experts have raised concerns that the use of CCS to abate fossil fuels would reduce pressure to completely phase them out, shifting the focus instead to “phasing down” their use. The concern is that, as a result of CCS, both emissions mitigation efforts and an energy transition to renewables would be slowed considerably, and that the technology would therefore in effect promote the expansion of oil and gas projects globally instead of limiting them. The Climate Analytics report, for example, states that CCS is “heavily promoted by the oil and gas industry to create the illusion we can keep expanding fossil fuels with dismal capture rates to count as climate action.” 

Here at COP28, as countries are reportedly discussing the wording of an “abated” versus “unabated” fossil fuel phaseout in the text, the consequences of allowing a technology with unknown risks to make its way into the calls for “climate action” remain a concern. 

Lama El Hatow is a nonresident fellow with the empowerME Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. She is also a professor and program coordinator at Johns Hopkins University in the Environmental Science and Policy and Energy, Policy, and Climate departments.


DECEMBER 9 | 11:47 PM GMT+4

Getting private capital off the sidelines for the Global South

By Racha Helwa and Hezha Barzani

Check out this untapped opportunity: Africa has 60 percent of the world’s best solar resources, but only 1 percent of installed solar capacity. That lack of commitment from the private sector is due to perceived and real investment risks, stemming from concerns about weaker institutions in these countries.

But for the world to meet its energy-transition objectives, the private sector must increase its investments fourfold, according to the Independent High-Level Expert Group on Climate Finance.

One mechanism available to help minimize those investment risks—whether real or not—is the global suite of multilateral development banks. These banks can take on this challenge by offering insurance or guarantees to investors, or through other means. But, as discussed in a GDA Connect event we hosted today, those de-risking instruments appear insufficient to many investors.

That’s why there’s so much chatter about sovereign wealth funds and green funds. They are equally crucial when it comes to attracting investments for renewables in Africa, parts of the Middle East, and other countries facing similar challenges. It could be argued that, out of the variety of funding initiatives and deals to take place here at COP28, the Alterra fund is the one most likely to have an immediate and significant impact on climate action.

At the GDA Connect event, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi unpacked the new $30 billion climate-focused fund, highlighting that it aims to mobilize an additional $250 billion globally by 2030 and increase investment flows to the Global South. What’s important here is that the fund could radically alter the dynamics and pace of the energy transition in Africa and the Middle East, helping to sustain momentum over time.

But with much more financing needed—in the trillions, not the billions—it will take additional bold initiatives to push the energy transition in the Global South to where it needs to go.

Racha Helwa is the director of the empowerME Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Hezha Barzani is an assistant director at the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative.

DECEMBER 9 | 10:38 PM GMT+4

COP28 turns out the private sector to solve the climate crisis

By Frederick Kempe

This entry is part of the “Inflection Points Today” newsletter. To receive more quick-hit insight on a world in transition, subscribe here.

There are different theories about how this city, the most populous in the United Arab Emirates, got its name. My favorite is that it came from an Arab proverb that says “Daba Dubai,” meaning, “They came with a lot of money.”

Dubai was established in the eighteenth century as a fishing village, where a good living could be made from trade and pearl diving. By the time the COP28 climate conference kicked off here, it had become one of the world’s richest cities, with the world’s tallest building and more five-star hotels than any city except London, the result of oil revenue, tourism, real estate, and sovereign investment.

Dubai was host to climate action over the past week, gathering almost one hundred thousand people from nearly two hundred countries. The public and private sectors drew closer than ever before to a consensus that addressing the perils of a warming planet was both a matter of urgency and business opportunity.

That does not fix the problem, but there is no solution without vast amounts of private-sector financing and investments in climate solutions from renewables to nuclear energy, and from decarbonization to green tech.

Many climate activists opposed opening the doors to industry, particularly those producing fossil fuels, but the result has been a flurry of unprecedented agreements that, if executed and sustained, have the potential for tens of billions of new dollars to address the climate crisis.

For example, there is the $700 million in loss and damage support for the Global South. There is also the $30 billion “Alterra” fund, launched by the United Arab Emirates—and with private-sector giants Blackrock, Brookfield, and TPG—whose aim is to generate $250 billion of capital by 2030 for climate investments in the Global South.

Some fifty oil and gas companies, including Saudi Aramco and twenty-nine national oil companies, agreed to reduce their emissions to zero by 2050 and to reduce methane emissions to zero by 2030. At other points of the convening, countries joined together in agreeing to triple renewables, also by 2030, and to triple emissions-free nuclear energy by 2050. Achieving both goals will require the participation of the private sector.

Negotiators are squabbling over the text of the final COP28 agreement. Politico reports that a draft it has seen has expanded to twenty-seven pages and includes five different options on how to manage disputes over “phasing down” or “phasing out” fossil fuels. The battle could get ugly before the conference closes Tuesday.

Whatever the outcome, veterans of the UN climate process believe this year’s sharply increased level of private-sector engagement could be the game changer to address challenges beyond the capacity of governments alone. Says Jorge Gastelumendi, a veteran of sixteen COPs who runs the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center: “After twenty-eight COPs, we have finally seen the private sector arrive in the climate space with full force and commitment. Without them, we will not be able to solve the climate crisis.”

DECEMBER 9 | 3:55 PM GMT+4

Ukraine’s path to victory and European integration is paved through war-insured decarbonization investments 

By Olga Khakova

Ukraine’s COP28 pavilion hosts sobering evidence that Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country has included an environmental assault on Ukraine’s nutrient-rich soil, interconnected watershed systems, and diverse wildlife, in addition to Russian forces’ attacks on civilians and their communities. But Ukraine’s COP28 pavilion is also a stage for showcasing the country’s resilience, innovation, and resolve to decarbonize, despite ongoing Russian attacks. Allies from around the world stopped by to demonstrate their support, including US climate envoy John Kerry and European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson. Victoria Hallum, New Zealand’s deputy secretary of multilateral and legal affairs, and Marco Vinicio Ochoa, Guatemala’s vice minister of natural resources and climate, also stopped by the site. Continued engagement from international partners will be critical to rebuilding the country and transforming its energy systems toward net-zero emissions. 

Ukraine is already making strides to cut carbon emissions and strengthen energy security, from local small-scale initiatives to record developments. One of the news-making announcements at the Ukrainian COP28 pavilion was the signing of a memorandum of understanding between DTEK, Ukraine’s biggest private energy company, and Vestas, a company with more than a hundred gigawatts of wind turbine installation and service under its belt. They agreed to expand the Mykolaiv wind farm in southern Ukraine into the biggest wind project in Eastern Europe. Cities across Ukraine are also doing their part to meet climate targets. In the North, Nizhyn (which was covered in a death blanket of Russian rockets at the onset of the Russia’s February 2022 invasion) is now installing photovoltaic cells and storage at local utilities and maternity wards, as well as ramping up heat pump integration ahead of the winter. 

But to reach momentum and scale, Ukraine will need war risk insurance for Ukrainian and foreign investors and project developers. Initial efforts are on the way through the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency; the US International Development Finance Corporation; and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; as well as national insurance solutions from Poland, Germany, and France for protecting exports and investments in Ukraine. However, a comprehensive war risk mechanism is missing for clean energy projects that could be accessible to global companies of all sizes seeking to invest in the transformation of Ukraine’s energy system. Such mechanisms could be partially funded through state guarantees combined with support by allied governments and bolstered by engagement from private sector insurance companies and reinsurance schemes. 

Ukraine is showcasing unwavering commitment to decarbonization even in the midst of war. Sufficient war risk insurance would unlock private sector investments in the clean energy economy. Moreover, these efforts will contribute to defeating Russia, to Ukraine’s economic development, and to closer integration with European energy systems.

Olga Khakova is the deputy director for European energy security at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

DECEMBER 9 | 9:50 AM GMT+4

COP28 is different from every other COP. Here’s why.

By David L. Goldwyn 

After twenty-eight official gatherings, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has evolved to the Conference of the Partners. Whatever the result of the final communique, the more lasting contributions will come from what is happening outside the tent. The real tests of this COP boiled down to a handful of crux issues: whether meaningful reductions in methane emissions would be accomplished, whether real money would be committed to promote the energy transition in the Global South, and whether credible pathways to net-zero emissions would be charted given the dismal results of the global stocktake. The Emirati leadership of COP28 has largely met this test. 

First, the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter (OGDC) has done what governments could not: gotten 40 percent of global oil production committed to measurement and verification of their greenhouse gas emissions and near-zeroing of methane emissions, complete with public reporting and transparency guarantees. While the OGDC has not really deepened the commitments of the international oil companies that have signed on, it has greatly broadened these commitments to many more companies, especially national oil companies. If the OGDC proves a transformative effort, those companies that do not participate will miss out on the opportunity to have their environmental, social, and governance qualifications significantly improved. 

Second, the announcement of the United Arab Emirates’ Alterra Fund commits thirty billion dollars to hard-to-finance projects in the Global South. This is nowhere close to closing the universally acknowledged climate finance gap between the needs of developing countries and emerging markets to meet their climate goals and the current financing for these needs. Theoretically, the Alterra Fund could spur as much as $250 billion in investments by 2030 to close this gap—a force multiplier by any definition. Moreover, these funds are likely to be more flexible and credible than the commitments of governments and some other private institutions thus far, as well as more effective than the sclerotic Global Environment Fund

But the greatest legacy accomplishment may be to transform the COP process itself. For years, COPs have been caught within unrealistic and polarized debates, such as how fast net-zero emissions can be achieved, how fast renewables can be scaled up, and what role (if any) fossil fuels should play in a decarbonizing world. It seems that COP28 has, for the first time, brought a wide breadth of fuels and technology types to front-and-center roles: nuclear energy, various “colors” of hydrogen, carbon sequestration and carbon removal (as well as more ambitious renewables pledges). Even US climate envoy John Kerry is speaking positively for the first time about the need for carbon management—strongly implying that governments are recognizing that all of these strategies will play a role in reaching net-zero emissions. 

While some stakeholders will be understandably skeptical of this “all of the above—and more” approach, it is a welcome recognition of the heterogenous pathways most countries (especially emerging economies) will take to reach net-zero emissions. This historic presence of diverse investors, technology companies, and even oil and gas companies that will develop and deploy these tools is what makes this (and hopefully future COPs) a gathering for partners, not just a gathering for parties. All of this, to be sure, is just a first step—but it is a hopeful one.

David L. Goldwyn served as special envoy for international energy under President Barack Obama and assistant secretary of energy for international relations under President Bill Clinton. He is chair of the Atlantic Council’s Energy Advisory Group and a nonresident senior fellow with the Council’s Global Energy Center.

DECEMBER 9 | 9:30 AM GMT+4

AI is generating a lot of attention at COP28—and predictions about the climate’s future

By Lama El Hatow

Here on the ground, there’s been a lot of chatter about the role technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), plays in the climate crisis. One event at the Technology for Innovation Hub highlighted how 4 percent of global emissions come from the tech industry, which can be attributed mostly to data centers and devices (such as smartphones and computers). For countries to meet climate goals, tech leaders will need to find efficient ways to reduce these emissions.

But tech can also be used in various applications to assist in solving the climate crisis. AI could be especially useful, for example, for monitoring irrigation, offering insights into how to conserve water. AI could also help map the ocean environment and aquatic ecosystems to assess how warming seas are impacting aquatic life. 

There’s more: For example, a new chatbot called ChatNetZero can help determine whether decarbonization plans designed by corporations, governments, and other institutions are credible. Scientists have been calling for sustainability reporting and corporate transparency in climate data, which often has been met with opposition due to claims of privacy and security concerns—AI may offer a way to satisfy the needs for transparency and security. Google’s DeepMind, an AI research lab, has recently uncovered 380,000 new stable materials, which have the potential to be used to power electric-vehicle batteries, superconductors, and supercomputers. 

AI, with the help of data from sensors, can also help cities predict water leakages in city distribution networks in cities to avoid water losses, which account for an average of 20 percent of water losses globally in the networks. 

AI, with its predictive capabilities, could be a resourceful tool in fighting climate change. But the question is how to get it to everyone. As participants have been able to glean at the Technology for Innovation Hub, organized by the COP28 Presidency, there is an urgent need to strengthen the Global South’s climate-tech ecosystems, democratize access to knowledge and capacity building, and spur climate-tech innovation. There is hope: For example, showcased at the Hub, four Palestinian startups have overcome hurdles, such as lack of access to funding and support systems, even under the dire conditions of war.

Lama El Hatow is a nonresident fellow with the empowerME Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. She is also a professor and program coordinator at Johns Hopkins University in the Environmental Science and Policy and Energy, Policy, and Climate departments.


DECEMBER 8 | 2:35 PM GMT+4

What the Global South needs for a just energy transition

By Katherine Walla

Achieving a just energy transition for the Global South may require a complete reversal in the way the world has operated for centuries.

According to Caribbean Development Bank President Hyginus Leon, who spoke at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum in Dubai on Thursday, the Global North has long benefitted from being the destination for flows of goods, money, and people from the south. “Now,” he explained, “you need a reversal” to “generate equity” and “allow the Global South to grow.”

Herbert Krapa, Ghana’s deputy minister of energy, explained that despite African countries being the source of both fossil fuels and vast critical mineral deposits—both crucial for meeting energy demand—the continent hasn’t been able to leverage them for its own development. “A just transition,” he explained, will require “taking advantage of these resources.”

But for the sake of the climate, he added, it will also require “significant financing” for renewable energy.

Read more highlights from this discussion

New Atlanticist

Dec 8, 2023

What the Global South needs for a just energy transition

By Katherine Walla

Achieving a just energy transition for the Global South may require a complete reversal in the way the world has operated for centuries.

Africa Climate Change & Climate Action

DECEMBER 8 | 12:22 PM GMT+4

The White House’s Amos Hochstein on ensuring energy security amid global crises

By Daniel Hojnacki

Energy security is “not just something we talk about in the context of Russia and Europe on gas,” said Amos Hochstein, senior advisor to the US president for energy and investment, on Thursday. Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum in Dubai, he explained that the priority of energy security “has to be the same when it comes to EVs [electric vehicles], lithium, solar panels, and wind turbines.”

Hochstein, who was formerly the US assistant secretary of state for energy resources, discussed the United States’ vision for the future of energy security, the importance of building supply chain resilience as part of the energy transition, and the path forward for regional integration in the Middle East.

Atlantic Council CEO and President Frederick Kempe asked Hochstein whether he thought the United Nations climate change conference known as COP28 in Dubai was divisive or inclusive for its large number of participants, including members of the oil and gas industries. “It’s okay to have disagreements,” Hochstein said. “I don’t think that we should expect that if somebody came here and didn’t agree, then that’s a failure. I think it’s a success that we’re having a conversation.”

Read more highlights from this discussion

New Atlanticist

Dec 7, 2023

The White House’s Amos Hochstein on ensuring energy security amid global crises

By Daniel Hojnacki

At the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum in Dubai, Hochstein discussed the United States’ vision for the future of energy security.

Economy & Business Resilience & Society

DECEMBER 7 | 9:48 PM GMT+4

Global consensus on climate action is harder amid geopolitical strife

By William Tobin

 At COP28, hundreds of countries have gathered to work together to address the climate crisis. Seeing them, here on the ground, one might momentarily forget about much of today’s geopolitical friction and global fragmentation.

But for the sake of the planet and humanity, we must not forget that reality: Meaningful progress on climate goals will only be feasible by accounting for our global context and important issues such as economic and national security.

To achieve the financial infrastructure, investment environment, and supply-chain resilience required to achieve net-zero emissions—all hard to come by with geopolitical friction—it will be important to quickly and widely deploy the full suite of decarbonization technologies that are available: from solar and wind to carbon capture, utilization, and storage. That was a big takeaway from the second day of our Global Energy Forum in Dubai today. On that stage, the White House’s Amos Hochstein argued that such a vast deployment will require both cooperation and economic competition—the latter achieved by better trade systems—ultimately lowering prices and fostering resilience.

There’s more to the context that must be considered, too. High interest rates and persistent inflation around the world are creating headwinds, slowing the deployment of (capital-intensive) clean energy tools. As financial experts and leaders from the Global South explained today at the Forum, counteracting those headwinds—and expanding access to affordable and reliable energy—will require more climate finance.  

There is reason for optimism. Every COP is rightly branded as a moment with existential consequences, and COP28 was widely anticipated as the last best chance for action in key areas such as reducing methane emissions, spurring political momentum for the deployment of carbon-management technologies, improving energy finance, and more. There has been progress across these areas, such as the UAE’s launch of a thirty-billion-dollar fund (which aims to, in part, incentivize further investment into the Global South) or through the launch of the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter, which has significant potential for emissions reduction (equal to that of the global aviation sector), but does not address emissions from fossil fuel end use.

With war in Ukraine, the Middle East, and Sudan, and with tense relations between countries such as the United States and China, it is clear that consensus among the 198 parties at COP will be elusive. Against this frayed backdrop, the urgency to employ inclusive, science-based climate solutions is higher than ever.

William Tobin is an assistant director at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, where he focuses on international energy and climate policy.

DECEMBER 7 | 6:32 AM GMT+4

Faith at COP, or faith in COP?

By Lama El Hatow

For the first time ever, the COP presidency launched a Faith Pavilion this year. This decision signals the responsibility of religious leaders to promote efforts to care for the environment through their faiths. Although absent from COP28 for health reasons, Pope Francis helped set the tone for the Faith Pavilion in a message inaugurating it, stating that “climate change is a religious problem.” Additionally, representatives from various faiths produced the “Interfaith Statement for COP28,” in November, which expressed their shared concern over escalating climate impacts, as well as a joint commitment to address the crisis.

The Faith Pavilion aims to bring together religious leaders, officials, and scientists to discuss the role of faith communities and religious institutions in addressing the climate crisis. Several side events in the Faith Pavilion have demonstrated how various religions, including Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, enforce the notion of being “stewards of the earth.” Other panels looking into faith-based communities globally, including into indigenous communities, spoke about the spiritual connections to nature as humans’ teacher, and humans as nature’s protector. These panels also expressed the idea that nature should have a voice, and that including nature as a stakeholder with legal and legitimate claims is imperative for equity.

The application of these beliefs can have practical consequences; several countries and their lower courts have passed laws ascribing legal rights to nature or individual lands and bodies of water, including Mexico, New Zealand, and India. Ecuador enshrined the rights of nature, or Pachamama (a goddess worshipped by indigenous peoples of the Andes) in its constitution. Other countries are calling for this to be done internationally. Giving nature legal rights internationally would open greater possibilities for holding actors responsible for devastating the environment through pollution from fossil fuels and suing perpetrators for ecocide and crimes against nature.

Religious leaders have also weighed in on some of the most important issues in ongoing climate negotiations. For instance, a group of Catholic nongovernmental organizations came together to create a joint statement calling on leaders of all faiths across the world to show their support for action on loss and damage. The statement stressed the moral case for action on loss damage, drawing on church teaching, scriptures, and ancient wisdom.

This first-ever inclusion of faith at COP in this way is a positive step toward inclusion of all impacted communities and helps provide a voice to the environment through faith and through the communities that aim to preserve it. However, one must pose the question: Have people turned to faith to save them, as they lose faith in the COP process and their governments to do so?

Lama El Hatow is a nonresident fellow with the empowerME Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. She is also a professor and program coordinator at Johns Hopkins University in the Environmental Science and Policy and Energy, Policy, and Climate departments.

DECEMBER 7 | 4:56 AM GMT+4

City-led solutions have power—but they need funding

By Katherine Walla

Over the course of the first days of COP28, the Local Climate Action Summit took place and the leaders approved plans to operationalize the loss and damage fund—including a commitment to allocate some of the resources to subnational governments.

Those two events are exciting for cities; but they “will never be able to effectively tackle climate change without proper access to finance,” argued Mauricio Rodas, senior advisor for city diplomacy and heat at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center and former mayor of Quito, Ecuador.

“Now, we need to make sure that cities will be participating in the discussions and decisions about how to make the loss and damage fund operational,” Rodas said.

Get up to speed on the role of mayors and city leaders

Katherine Walla is the associate director of editorial at the Atlantic Council.

DECEMBER 7 | 1:26 AM GMT+4

Fusion is the future (these energy experts mean it this time)

By Frederick Kempe

This entry is part of the “Inflection Points Today” newsletter. To receive more quick-hit insight on a world in transition, subscribe here.

Charles de Gaulle is reported to have wryly said, “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be.” Energy tech geeks have long said the same about fusion—a miraculously clean and safe potential energy source whose breakthrough was always an unchanged thirty years in the future.

But here at the eighth annual Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum (at COP28 in Dubai this year), I witnessed that longstanding claim change in real time as John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, declared that fusion’s time had come, when the dangerously warming world needs it most.

He announced what he called a US International Engagement Plan for Fusion Energy, which he said would involve thirty-five nations and would focus on research and development, the supply chain and future marketplace, regulation, workforce issues, and public engagement.

“There is potential in fusion to revolutionize our world,” Kerry said, adding, “We are edging ever closer to a fusion-powered reality.” Though no one was willing to set an exact time frame for that, the panel of experts that followed Kerry’s remarks shared his optimism that the time for “the holy grail” of clean energy—as Commonwealth Fusion Systems CEO Bob Mumgaard called it—was growing closer.

As I understand it, fusion (the melding of two or more atomic nuclei to create energy) powers the sun and other stars, so the theory is that earthly scientists and investors ought to be able to replicate that with heat, pressure, lasers, and magnets, producing massive energy. “We are really entering a new era,” said Costas Samaras, who champions this work in the Biden White House; according to him, the private sector has spent six billion dollars trying to take fusion from the lab to the world.

One former fusion skeptic, former US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, told the Global Energy Forum that he has been “blown away by the progress.” At the very least, he said smiling, “I believe the word ‘fusion’ was pronounced from a stage at COP for the first time.”

Frederick Kempe is the president and chief executive officer of the Atlantic Council.


DECEMBER 6 | 10:50 PM GMT +4

Why COP28 is right to prioritize global methane and flaring reduction

By William Tobin

COP28 has yielded major announcements on lowering methane emissions, particularly from the oil and gas sector. The attention placed on methane at this COP is prudent, because methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and abating it is cost-effective with current technologies and business models. There is a clear pathway and a necessity to take action now.

Listen below and here for more on methane, then read this recently published report.

William Tobin is an assistant director at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, where he focuses on international energy and climate policy.

DECEMBER 6 | 9:03 PM GMT +4

Climate change and national security can’t be disentangled

By Jonathan Panikoff

It was fitting that both COP27 last year—and now COP28—were hosted in the Middle East. The region is likely to be hit harder by climate change and its impacts than potentially any other across the world. Since 2000, on average, Middle East temperatures have risen by 1.5 degrees Celsius, twice the global increase of 0.7 degrees Celsius. And given the region’s initially hotter and drier climate, in parallel with dwindling water access and rising sea levels, that rise in temperature reflects that the mean global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius that COP has long highlighted and is fighting to avoid has already hit the Middle East.

Threats to security in the Middle East are often thought of first in the context of Iran or terrorists such as Hamas, Hezbollah, or Shia groups in Iraq and Syria. That is unlikely to change, yet climate change is also coming into the spotlight as a significant.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative joined with Abu Dhabi-based Trends Research and Advisory for our third annual conference, but this iteration was unique. Held in the Green Zone of COP28, this year’s conference was entitled “Sustainable Security: The Soft and Hard Implications of Climate.” The resounding theme that panelists kept coming back to was the fundamental link between climate and the future of US and allies’ national security.

Over the two days of panels and insights from keynote speakers, the impact of global warming on the military, war fighting, operational capabilities, and broader strategic national security was abundant. Sessions that started broad, by addressing political and strategic issues challenging international climate action, and those that delved into the future of climate-financing and the energy transition, all led back to the same result: a need to fundamentally recognize climate change as a broad strategic threat, not just an environmental one.

Changes in weather patterns that are creating stronger, more frequent, and more dangerous hurricanes and storms are a threat to both facilities and operations in the Middle East. The erosion of coastlines is a threat to both US and allied naval facilities. And climate change could drive changes to great power competition with China as Indo-Pacific tensions rise over potentially climate-related changes to fishing stocks, river basins shared by China and a variety of southeast Asian countries, and the requirement for greater humanitarian assistance due to increasing numbers of weather-related natural disasters; assistance that will be fiercely competed for and required by Middle East states as well.

As a result, while US national security is directly impacted by climate change, so too is the economic and national security of Middle East allies who will have to confront rising temperatures and, by extension, dwindling resources, such as storms and drought that create unstable food supply chains, something that Middle East leaders are quite cognizant from recent history can lead to political consequences and even revolutions.

The insights from our conference broadened our understanding of the impact of climate change on national security, but also enabled us to contribute to strengthening efforts aimed at elevating for policymakers the need for sustainable security.

Jonathan Panikoff is the director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Program. 

DECEMBER 6 | 2:01 PM GMT+4

Empowering women leaders can open a gateway to cooling solutions

By Katherine Walla

As countries and cities hurriedly search for cooling solutions to protect their populations amid extreme heat, North Dhaka, Bangladesh, is employing a tree planting program in neighborhoods of predominantly informal settlements.

Bushra Afreen, chief heat officer of North Dhaka at the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, explained that these areas are densely populated, often hosting climate migrants. “These people are already very vulnerable; they have limited resources [and] limited access to shade, income, and trees.”

“Women,” Afreen continued, “are the most vulnerable in these communities; they are on the frontlines of their families when facing extreme heat because they are taking care of everybody else and then themselves.”

“So, I wanted to make them the front line of the solution,” Afreen said. North Dhaka worked with women, she explained, to decide which trees to plant and where to plant them—and to find ways to motivate the community to grow and protect the trees.”

“In doing so,” she said, “we opened a gateway to more cooling solutions and more strategies that will eventually be implemented.”

Dive into how North Dhaka is cooling its community.

Katherine Walla is the associate director of editorial at the Atlantic Council.

DECEMBER 6 | 1:01 PM GMT+4

The loss and damage fund is a step forward, but far short of what climate justice demands

By Lama El Hatow

On the first day of COP28, the parties agreed to operationalize a loss and damage fund, with initial pledged contributions reaching $725 million as of December 5. While the decision to operationalize the fund was historic, it remains to be seen whether this plan, hurriedly agreed to on the first day of the conference, will provide the necessary support to the affected communities it is meant to help. There is much to be done going forward, including holding polluters accountable and establishing a mechanism for reliable long-term funding that meets the scale of loss and damage that must be addressed.

Much of the language in the decision was watered down by developed countries to escape their responsibility for historical emissions. Going forward, it is essential that polluters be held accountable. There were no references to equity or to Common but Differentiated Responsibilities in the decision. The decision also places developed countries—those most responsible for the emissions changing the climate—in control of almost 50 percent of the fund’s board. Moreover, the pledges for developed countries’ contributions to the fund are “voluntary” rather than obligatory, as the fund only “urges” developed countries to contribute. This raises serious questions about how the fund will be replenished once the initial contributions are disbursed. 

Even if developed countries meet their voluntary commitments to the fund, however, it must be noted that the millions pledged for loss and damage so far are a mere drop in the bucket. Billions are needed globally to ensure climate justice to vulnerable communities facing the most severe loss and damage. A report from the International Institute for Environment and Development estimates that up to $580 billion will be needed to help countries facing extreme weather by 2030. Developing countries have argued that the new fund should provide at least one hundred billion dollars annually by 2030. To raise funds more commensurate with the scale of the problem and help ensure this financing can be replenished, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley proposed taxing polluting industries as a source for the fund. She has estimated that her proposed tax rates would provide two hundred billion dollars from oil and gas profits, seventy billion dollars from the value of international shipping, and forty to billion dollars from the international air travel industry annually for the fund. She has also argued that a financial transaction tax could help build resilience in frontline communities.

The fund’s operationalization is a step toward progress, but still falls short of promoting climate justice and placing human rights at the forefront of the climate debate. 

Lama El Hatow is a nonresident fellow with the empowerME Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. She is also a professor and program coordinator at Johns Hopkins University in the Environmental Science and Policy and Energy, Policy, and Climate departments.

DECEMBER 6 | 11:27 AM GMT +4

John Kerry unveils a ‘critical’ new US strategy to expand fusion energy

By Katherine Walla

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on Tuesday announced a new strategy for international cooperation on the development of nuclear fusion, which he said would be—alongside other energy sources, such as wind, solar, and nuclear fission—”a critical piece of our energy future.” The strategy, Kerry explained at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum at COP28, focuses on research and development, supply-chain improvements, regulation, workforce development, and education.

If “all of our countries are threatened, and they are, [and if] all life is threatened, and it is, then we need to pull ourselves together with every strength we have,” Kerry said. “We cannot realize this grand ambition—perhaps not at all, but certainly not at the pace we need to—doing it alone.”

The need for alternative fuels such as fusion is apparent because “science clearly tells us, without any question whatsoever, that the cause of this crisis… [is] emissions. It’s the way we burn fossil fuels,” Kerry said.

Kerry noted that “we’ve had a little debate in the last few days about what the evidence shows or doesn’t show,” a reference to controversies during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai over what role oil and gas will play in the global energy future.

“We have two options,” Kerry explained. “Either capture the emissions or don’t burn [fossil fuels].”

Kerry explained that the evidence of warming across the planet makes it “clear” that the world needs to “move faster” to limit global temperature rise. “We need to figure out what we’re going to do at a critical pace,” Kerry warned.

Read more highlights from Kerry’s remarks

New Atlanticist

Dec 6, 2023

John Kerry unveils a ‘critical’ new US strategy to expand fusion energy

By Katherine Walla

“We need to pull ourselves together with every strength we have,” Kerry said on the first day of the Global Energy Forum.

Africa Climate Change & Climate Action

DECEMBER 6 | 9:35 AM GMT+4

How countries are gearing up to cool the planet down

By Katherine Walla

On Tuesday, sixty-three countries signed a pledge to raise the level of ambition on cooling, as the planet’s temperature continues to rise, and heatwaves become more frequent.

The pledge commits countries to cutting cooling-related emissions and improving access to cooling for people across the globe.

“Cooling is not a luxury. It is a life-saving necessity,” explained Owen Gow, associate director of the Extreme Heat Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center. 

When expanding access to cooling, countries will need to ensure that it is “sustainable and efficient cooling,” Gow added. “If we increase access to cooling, we need to make sure that it doesn’t accelerate climate change at the same time.”

Eleni Myrivili, global chief heat officer with UN-Habitat and Arsht-Rock, noted that the pledge incorporates subnational governments as well “to make sure the type of cooling they do in their cities is sustainable and efficient.”

Get up to speed on the Global Cooling Pledge.

Katherine Walla is the associate director of editorial at the Atlantic Council. 

DECEMBER 6 | 5:52 AM GMT+4

The declaration on climate-smart agriculture is a crucial—but underfunded—step forward

By Raul Brens Jr.

While everyone was fixed on the loss and damage breakthrough, few headlines mentioned a global commitment, signed just a day later, to address global food systems and their impact on the climate. Over 130 world leaders signed the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action; the leaders represent countries that, altogether, are responsible for 76 percent of global food systems emissions. Also announced: a $2.5 billion fund to support food security while the climate-change fight continues.

That there isn’t more attention on this declaration is surprising, considering that the agri-food system counts for a third of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. But it is worth noting: The declaration is only the latest sign that the topic of food systems, and the role they play in the climate crisis, is becoming more and more prominent at COPs.

In addition, the declaration has managed to unite countries despite geopolitical tensions today, showcasing global solidarity around the health of the planet and the wellbeing of future generations. For example, the United States and China are signatories—however, some key significant emitters, such as India, have not signed on, indicating that challenges remain in ensuring broader alignment.

Succeeding in the commitment to future-proof the food system will require countries to focus on climate-smart agriculture techniques that improve crop and land resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming—all while increasing agricultural output. Climate-smart agriculture harnesses technologies ranging from Earth observation satellite systems (to monitor crop conditions) to genome editing tools that help develop resilient crop varieties.

Deploying these climate-smart technologies raises challenges around access and cost, especially for low- and middle-income countries. The signatories must work together to ensure that technology is shared and developed fairly and collaboratively. It is especially important that developed and developing nations join in this work, to achieve truly sustainable and resilient global food systems.

But the declaration may need to reassess one thing: its funding. While $2.5 billion is a noteworthy start, it doesn’t accurately match the scale of the challenge the world faces in reforming global food systems—especially if the sum winds up being spread over several years. In comparison, a United States and United Arab Emirates joint initiative called Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) has mobilized over eight billion dollars in investment across fifty-five partner countries.

The declaration represents a crucial step forward in global climate efforts. However, the journey ahead demands sustained commitments and increasing financial investment to truly realize the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Raul Brens Jr. is the deputy director and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center.


DECEMBER 5 | 5:14 PM GMT+4

A familiar concern—but with new urgency

By Jorge Gastelumendi

COP28, with its many pledges and announcements, certainly has plenty that is new. But there’s also a sentiment here on the ground that is rather familiar: Concern about the fact that public finance is not even close to covering worldwide needs for adaptation funding.

Reaching the levels of financing necessary to do so will require “unlocking global capital markets.” Putting all those technical terms aside, what it really comes down to is having policies that support the development of adaptation and resilience markets and having policymakers and private finance leaders that talk to each other. Bringing together these actors will drive transformative collaboration.

Yesterday, with our partners, the Adrienne Arsht–Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center launched the first-ever Call for Collaboration, calling upon policymakers and the banking, investment, and insurance sectors to work together to improve the investment environment and, in so doing, mobilize more private finance. It is backed by five governments from developed and developing countries; on top of that, leaders and thinkers from private finance, academia, and over thirty governments helped shape this call.

Like many issues related to the changing climate, adaptation and resilience funding requires all hands on deck. Fortunately, with all the momentum on this issue that I’ve seen here in Dubai, there has never been a better moment to collaborate and advance urgent action on this front.

And here’s a sneak peek at next year’s COP: We will mobilize even more players in the climate finance space—private finance actors, regulators, policymakers, and philanthropic organizations (who launched a Call to Action at this COP for accelerating climate adaptation). Their participation will be needed to create public policies that support adaptation finance and set much-needed standards.

Jorge Gastelumendi is the interim director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht–Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center.

Get up to speed on the Call for Collaboration


DECEMBER 4 | 11:12 PM GMT+4

Trade is starting to have its say in the COP process—at last

By Reed Blakemore

If you want a “watch this space” recommendation coming out of COP28, look no further than Monday’s theme, “Trade Day”—the first time a COP thematic day has been devoted to the role of trade in the energy transition. Smatterings of urgently needed conversations on critical minerals and decarbonizing trade value chains have begun to find their place this year.

These “operating system” features of a Paris-aligned world are going to demand more attention. Yet outside of these issues being highlighted through panels and discussion (an important start), the inaugural Trade Day yielded few real action items.

It’s still the early days of the conference, but the trade space must be front and center, as World Trade Organization President Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Saturday at COP28. Global trade is directly responsible for 20 to 30 percent of global CO2 emissions (strictly as a reflection of international freight), while embodied carbon in widely traded goods (specifically energy-intensive trade-exposed goods) remains a huge challenge for industry to curb. Reaching climate targets requires the development of a new resource base to build clean energy technologies, demanding that markets in which those resources are traded mature. International carbon markets, meanwhile, remain a long-awaited, but unfulfilled ambition of the Paris Agreement.

The challenge, however, is that the economic opportunities of the energy transition have overlaid a competitiveness agenda on top of the climate action imperative. Many in the United States and the European Union are wary of what China’s dominance in mineral supply chains means for economic and national security in a net-zero world. In the absence of global markets for carbon, countries are seeing carbon border adjustments (or similar mechanisms) as ways to nominally support low-carbon industries, but in doing so, they are throwing up barriers to trade. The opportunities inherent in the “global green economy” are creating a race for countries to lead in clean tech industries to seize both emerging labor and export markets, bringing an increasingly protectionist hue to energy policy.

Perhaps most critical is whether the lack of attention to these issues is complicating efforts of a “just and equitable energy transition.” Concerns that Europe’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, and the proliferation of other similar measures, might undercut the economic development of the Global South where many energy-intensive trade-exposed goods are manufactured, but decarbonization is still very much underway. Many mineral-rich nations are eager to shed the “resource-client” relationship with the Global North, yet they are concerned (if not frustrated) with the possibility that they will end up exporting cheap ores that are transformed and re-imported as expensive renewable energy technologies.

Simply put, whether the energy system is being transformed or built anew, geoeconomics matter. And even if it doesn’t take center stage at COPs to come, trade will have its say in the climate future.

Reed Blakemore is director for research and programs at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, where he is responsible for the center’s research, strategy, and program development.

On Tuesday, December 5, at 2:00 pm in Dubai (GMT+4) (5:00 am ET) check out “Remaking trade for a clean energy future,” a discussion on this topic live from the Green Zone at COP28.

DECEMBER 4 | 10:56 PM GMT+4

A big idea to address the biggest killer of the climate crisis

By Frederick Kempe

This entry is part of the “Inflection Points Today” newsletter. To receive more quick-hit insight on a world in transition, subscribe here.

Where former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton goes in Dubai this week, she draws a crowd.

People from all corners of the world packed the room, and it was standing room only at our COP28 Resilience Hub, where she held court as the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock) ambassador for heat, health, and gender.

“Extreme heat has to be viewed as one of the most dangerous results of the changing climate,” she said, recounting a trip to India, where she saw the harm done to livelihoods, particularly those of women working outdoors as farmers, street vendors, waste collectors, and salt pan and construction workers. “This is not just a health issue,” Clinton warned. “It’s an economic issue, a social issue, [and] a political issue.”

Working with Clinton and with Reema Nanavaty, director of the nearly three-million-member Self-Employed Women’s Association, the Atlantic Council has been implementing a parametric insurance program as a part of Arsht-Rock’s Extreme Heat Protection Initiative. This program protects women working in India’s informal sector from having to make an impossible choice: pausing their work during heat waves (to protect their health) or continuing to work and earn money, while putting their wellbeing at risk.

What has been winning the headlines here so far at this twenty-eighth United Nations Climate Change Conference has been the announcement on the first day of a landmark, $400-milllion loss and damage fund, a mechanism that provides financial assistance to the countries most affected by, but often least responsible for, the climate crisis. There has also been media attention on the hydrocarbon companies that have come to this conference in greater numbers than ever before—many with concrete commitments and plans to reduce emissions. 

With over seventy thousand delegates and observers at COP28, actions that aim to improve lives—such as insurance programs to support workers in the informal economy, many of them women—deserve notice. For these workers especially, “their lives and livelihoods are at stake,” said Eleni Myrivili, the global chief heat officer for United Nations-Habitat and Arsht-Rock.

Frederick Kempe is the president and chief executive officer of the Atlantic Council.

DECEMBER 4 | 10:10 PM GMT+4

Solar is surprisingly out of the spotlight at COP28, as Saudi Arabia and China show

By Joseph Webster

Until recently a star at climate-focused conferences, solar energy is being upstaged at COP28 in Dubai by other decarbonizing technologies: namely, nuclear energy and methane abatement. Deploying more nuclear energy and cutting methane emissions will help reduce carbon emissions, but the world should not lose sight of solar’s transformative potential. The global glut of solar panels and the Middle East’s lack of solar deployment presents an enormous opportunity to quickly achieve huge climate benefits. While government leaders at COP28 pledged to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030, it will be very difficult to reach this target without Middle Eastern participation, especially from Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy. 

Saudi Arabia is arguably one of the world’s best places to build solar, given its abundant solar irradiance, deep financial reserves, and significant land mass. Yet the country has traditionally been a laggard at deploying the technology. 

Saudi Arabia generated only 0.8 terawatt hours of solar electricity in 2022, about as much as the US state of Iowa. Saudi Arabia will not even approach its modest 2023 renewables capacity target of 27.3 gigawatts (GW) (20 GW of solar photovoltaics and 7 GW of wind), according to S&P Global, as less than 3 GW of renewables capacity were operational in August 2023. 

The obstacles to Saudi solar deployment appear to be political, not technical. While deploying solar in the desert is not without challenges, including distance from demand centers, transmission siting, and dust storms, these obstacles have not prevented desert projects from taking shape across the world—including in China. Earlier this year, the first phase of a massive solar project in the Tengger Desert started generating power.

If Saudi Arabia turned to solar, the kingdom and the world could reap immense benefits. Solar farms tend to require little water after installation, especially compared to other resources; renewables don’t produce air pollutants; and some studies show that utility-scale solar in the desert can increase precipitation and vegetation coverage. Finally, Saudi Arabia’s failure to deploy solar harms its own economic interests, as it could allow fuel oil to be exported rather than burned for the domestic power market. Astonishingly, fuel oil accounted for 39 percent of Saudi Arabia’s power mix in 2021. At the Green Initiative Forum at COP28, the Saudi Minister of Energy identified carbon capture technology and renewables, apparently in that order, as the kingdom’s net-zero priorities.

There is some movement. For example, Saudi Arabia is launching more utility-scale solar and is in advanced talks to open a solar factory. Still, the kingdom’s solar ambitions remain very limited. The region’s dawdling pace of solar deployment comes at a huge cost—most of all for itself, but also for the world.

Even more surprising is that the lack of buzz around solar at COP28 extends to major solar producers. Despite its own dominant position in solar value chains, China doesn’t appear to be advertising its solar exports at COP28 in Dubai. China’s pavilion at COP features the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, which has weak ties to solar project development. The pavilion at COP doesn’t prominently showcase China’s solar suppliers, and so far, the author hasn’t seen Chinese solar companies represented (although the convening is very large).

Joseph Webster is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, where he leads the center’s efforts on Chinese energy security, offshore wind, and hydrogen.


DECEMBER 3 | 11:24 PM GMT+4

This is the biggest COP ever—for more reasons than one

By Aubrey Hruby

On the fourth day of COP28, I can’t help but notice how big the convening has become. Over seventy thousand people (me included) have descended on Dubai for a week of meetings—official and unofficial—on climate and the future of finance. This is about a 40 percent increase from COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, and about an 80 percent increase from COP26 in Glasglow, Scotland. 

There’s some irony to the fact that so many people who gathered here to talk about global climate change and environmental damage arrived by plane (some even by private jet) and are now sitting in cars in heavy traffic and squinting through pollution in Dubai. On the ground, it has been suggested that countries—particularly big ones with large populations (and COP delegations)—should limit the number of representatives they bring so as to not overwhelm and disadvantage the smaller nations that cannot field such large teams. 

Another thing that is big about this COP: The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) announcement yesterday of a thirty-billion-dollar fund that will invest in climate-resilient infrastructure projects with a focus on the Global South. This will likely help offset criticism the UAE received in the leadup to the convening for planning to use COP as a platform to discuss future oil deals. But, importantly, the new fund overshadows the smaller commitments made by developed countries to help developing countries address the loss and damage caused by climate disasters 

In addition, at this COP, the list of topics is bigger. For example, more than twenty countries committed to triple nuclear energy production, and discussions about the future of critical mineral supply chains are currently underway, highlighting the critical role that African countries play in ensuring that green-energy industries are more resilient and diversified globally. 

In global climate discussions, the issues of justice and hypocrisy are at the forefront as those countries that have emitted the least greenhouse gases historically—particularly African nations—are suffering the most from the carbon-intensive growth that fueled wealth accumulation in developed markets. Calls to completely phase out fossil fuels fail to recognize the economic and social realities of many developing countries that have a dual imperative: They must grow green while somehow simultaneously reducing poverty through job creation and increasing reliable access to electricity for hundreds of millions of people. It’s a complex challenge that requires respect, reframing, and massive resources.

Aubrey Hruby is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and leader of the Center’s work on climate and energy issues. 

DECEMBER 3 | 10:41 PM GMT+4

Fifty oil and gas companies just announced plans to cut methane emissions. Can they do it? 

By William Tobin

At the opening of the COP28 conference, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said this was the “most significant COP since Paris,” referring to COP21, where 196 parties signed a legally binding treaty to address climate change and keep global warming levels to below 2 degrees Celsius.  

In order to keep the vision of Paris alive and reach net-zero by the middle of the century, COP28 is being viewed by many here in Dubai as the absolute last opportunity available to tackle one of the most potent contributors to global warming: methane, particularly from the oil and gas sector.  

Methane is responsible for at least 30 percent of global warming in the past two hundred years, and perhaps more. Cutting methane emissions from all sectors—including oil and gas, agriculture, and waste—could avoid over 0.2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2050. This is because methane is a short-lived climate pollutant, meaning its shelf life in the atmosphere is rather brief, but its warming impact is more than eighty times that of carbon dioxide in a twenty-year time span.  

Thankfully, methane emissions from oil and gas can be brough to near-zero with available technologies and business models—in fact, around 40 percent of reductions can be achieved at no net cost

The opening weekend of COP28 presents a moment for celebration, as perhaps the most impactful initiative in years of pledges has been launched: the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter (OGDC).  

While the value of such a charter may be counterintuitive, remember that emissions from oil and gas operations account for 15 percent of all emissions—more than all emissions from cars globally, for example—roughly half of which is methane. The OGDC, through its fifty signatories, covers 40 percent of global oil production, offering a window to make substantial, tangible, and verifiable greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The OGDC commits signatories to end routine flaring (wasteful combustion of methane gas) and achieve near-zero upstream methane emissions by 2030. Achieving these emissions reductions from charter signatories would be approximately equivalent to zeroing out emissions from aviation worldwide. Furthermore, the OGDC signatories have committed to being transparent through monitoring, reporting, and independent verification of emissions.  

The OGDC is no less significant in the substance of its commitments, however, versus its reach. Critically, the group of fifty signatories includes twenty-nine national oil companies. These entities control more than half of global oil production and a higher proportion of methane emissions. Through signing this pledge, the national oil companies are articulating a desire to play a constructive role in emissions mitigation, several for the first time. Having these companies at the table is a significant expansion in ambition within the sector. It paves a way to constructive engagement and sharing of best practices to realize the goal of bringing methane emissions to near-zero, as is required to reach net-zero by the middle of the century.   

Achieving net-zero emissions will require the deployment of vast amounts of renewable and clean electricity generation, the electrification of end uses, reform of land use, rapid increase in carbon capture and removal, increases in energy efficiency, and much more. However, in the short term, slashing methane emissions from oil and gas is a highly constructive deliverable, and this announcement at COP28 has shown a reason to be optimistic. However, as is always the case with ambitious plans, implementation is what matters most.  

William Tobin is an assistant director at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, where he focuses on international energy and climate policy. 

DECEMBER 3 | 8:28 PM GMT+4

A plan to triple nuclear energy was just announced. Here’s what to know. 

By Jennifer T. Gordon

With energy demand projected to triple by 2050, the recent pledge at COP28 by the United States and more than twenty countries to triple nuclear energy is a welcome development in the fight against climate change. Although nuclear energy only accounts for 10 percent of global electricity generation, it provides 30 percent of global low-carbon electricity. The amount of nuclear energy generation will have to increase in order to meet increased energy demand through clean, baseload power. Looking beyond the grid, nuclear energy has a crucial role to play in decarbonizing so-called “hard-to-abate sectors”—areas such as hydrogen production, desalination, process heat, mining, and shipping—in which it is particularly difficult to reduce emissions. 

Furthermore, the significance of this announcement occurring at COP28 cannot be underestimated. Previous COP meetings have tended to leave nuclear energy on the sidelines, and an announcement of this magnitude in the early days of the world’s premier climate conference can be interpreted as recognition of nuclear energy’s tremendous decarbonization benefits. This international recognition could help gain support in various countries for technology-neutral policies that incentivize the use of zero-carbon energy, with nuclear energy continuing to be included in legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States or the European Union’s Green Taxonomy. 

However, while the pledge to triple nuclear energy is a positive step, more needs to be done in order to deploy nuclear reactors globally and at scale. For example, the United States and like-minded countries will need to cooperate on financing to compete effectively against state-owned nuclear enterprises in Russia and China; regulatory collaboration is also key to minimizing time and costs. Ultimately, for the fight against climate change to succeed, more barriers to nuclear energy deployment must fall. 

Jennifer T. Gordon is the director for the Nuclear Energy Policy Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. She was a co-director of the Atlantic Council Task Force on US Nuclear Energy Leadership, and she currently runs the Atlantic Council’s Women in Energy and Climate Fellowship.

DECEMBER 3 | 5:17 PM GMT+4

Hillary Clinton, Reema Nanavaty, and Eleni Myrivili on gender-responsive solutions for extreme heat

By Daniel Hojnacki

“Extreme heat has to be viewed as one of the most dangerous results of the changing climate,” said former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday at a COP28 Resilience Hub discussion on the need for gender-responsive climate solutions to address extreme heat. The panel was hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock).

Clinton was joined by Reema Nanavaty, director of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a trade union promoting the rights of independently employed female workers in India. In February, the Clinton Global Initiative and SEWA, along with several other organizations, launched the Global Climate Resilience Fund to empower women to combat climate change and adapt to extreme heat. The panel was moderated by Eleni Myrivili, the global chief heat officer for United Nations-Habitat and Arsht-Rock.

Clinton said that as the world works to advance climate mitigation efforts, “we have to worry about what’s happening on the ground with so many people, in particular women.”

Read more highlights from this discussion

New Atlanticist

Dec 3, 2023

Hillary Clinton, Reema Nanavaty, and Eleni Myrivili on gender-responsive solutions for extreme heat

By Daniel Hojnacki

At an Atlantic Council event at COP28, the former US secretary of state discussed the importance of empowering women to develop innovations for extreme heat resilience.

Economy & Business Resilience & Society


DECEMBER 2 | 9:47 PM GMT+4

Africa’s priorities at COP28, from climate finance to a brand-new narrative

By Africa Center experts

On the first day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as COP28) in Dubai, global leaders reached a deal on where to house and how to fund loss and damage costs for the countries most vulnerable to climate change. It’s an important development for African stakeholders, who are concerned about the escalating impact of climate change on the continent. As African heads of state and government wrote in their Nairobi Declaration—adopted at the Africa Climate Summit in September—the continent is warming faster than the rest of the world, despite it being responsible for a small fraction of global carbon emissions. These changes will gravely impact the continent’s economies and societies.

But will COP28 give Africa the attention it deserves on other climate needs? Our experts, some of whom are headed to Dubai, outline what is at stake for Africa.

Read our experts’ responses


Dec 2, 2023

Africa’s priorities at COP28, from climate finance to a brand-new narrative

By the Africa Center

Our experts outline what is at stake for Africa at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai.

Africa Climate Change & Climate Action

DECEMBER 2 | 8:16 AM GMT+4

A landmark thirty-billion-dollar fund for global climate solutions

By Mahmoud Abouelnaga

On Friday, COP28 host, the United Arab Emirates, launched a thirty-billion-dollar climate fund to bridge the climate finance gap globally and facilitate climate investment flows into the Global South. The new climate fund will aim to stimulate $250 billion by 2030.

This thirty-billion-dollar private investment fund, Alterra, is now the world’s largest private investment fund dedicated to addressing the climate crisis. For comparison, it took the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF) almost ten years to mobilize less funding through the initial resource mobilization in 2014, the first replenishment in 2019, and the second replenishment in 2023.

Alterra will be split into a large fund of twenty-five billion dollars that will deploy capital globally with the aim to accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy by scaling climate investments, and a smaller fund of five billion dollars that can remove barriers and incentivize investment flows into the Global South.

This announcement came after countries agreed on the operationalization of the loss and damage fund to help the adversely vulnerable developing countries cope with climate impacts. While the $420 million loss and damage pledges gave a good signal for progress, they are not commensurate with the scale of the costly climate disasters borne by poor countries. Unlike the loss and damage pledges, the new private investment commitments are proportional to the needed scale to address the climate crisis.

Going forward, the new climate fund will need a rigorous and transparent climate impact framework to ensure that these investments are deployed at the needed speed and scale to align with global climate targets. This framework should establish clear criteria for these investments (such as emissions reductions, impacts on local communities, deployment of large-scale projects, and the reducing of costs of innovative climate solutions) to align with global climate targets.

Mahmoud Abouelnaga is a nonresident senior fellow at the GeoTech Center of the Atlantic Council and leads the carbon management portfolio at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).

Note: This piece was edited to provide more detail on the author’s recommended framework.


DECEMBER 1 | 10:12 PM GMT+4

Why India could play a pivotal role as climate mediator

By Rachel Rizzo and Théophile Pouget-Abadie

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepared for a historic visit to Washington, DC this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a journey in the other direction: He flew to Mumbai to celebrate Apple’s twenty-five-year presence in the South Asian nation. “I really feel that India is at a tipping point,” Cook declared, joining the ranks of business leaders and economists who have spent the last three decades forecasting that the twenty-first century will belong to India.

If it’s true that this is the “Indian century,” it is not just because the country is now the most populous on Earth and on track to become the world’s largest economy; it is because India will play a central role in the global energy transition.

India’s success in this area will be measured by a few obvious targets: its ability to bring down emissions domestically, the example it sets for how other nations of the Global South can undergo their own successful energy transitions, and India’s ability to partner with other nations on climate solutions.

But there may be another just as important, but less obvious, role for India to play: an unofficial mediator between the United States and China to ensure global international decarbonization targets remain in reach amid intensifying competition. The United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28—taking place only months after India hosted the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in New Delhi—is a good opportunity for India to begin to flex its climate muscles on the world stage.

Read more

New Atlanticist

Dec 1, 2023

Why India could play a pivotal role as climate mediator

By Rachel Rizzo, Théophile Pouget-Abadie

COP28 is a good opportunity for India to begin to flex its climate muscles on the world stage.

China Climate Change & Climate Action

DECEMBER 1 | 3:35 PM GMT+4

Can climate leaders maintain the momentum?

By Landon Derentz

After a year of painstaking negotiations and debate, COP28 kicked off with a breakthrough.

That’s because on day one of COP28—and only one year since countries agreed at COP27 to establish a “loss and damage” fund—countries raked together more than $425 million to help developing economies cope with the adverse effects of climate change. The United Arab Emirates and Germany, most notably, each pledged $100 million.

The news of the funding signals that real progress remains possible within the confines of the formal negotiation process. Yet, the fund remains well short of the hundreds of billions—not millions—of dollars that the United Nations estimates will be necessary to address the fallout of inevitable near-term climate disasters. It’s a stark reminder of why it is important to pursue all pathways to keep the global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

With that breakthrough behind us, all eyes should now turn to December 2. Saturday’s announcements are likely to be big: Don’t be surprised to see declarations on tripling the deployment of nuclear and renewable energy, progress on the formation of a global methane fund, and momentum in the establishment of an Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter. This charter will outline how over fifty oil and gas companies intend to spur climate action for the sector. It’s the best chance for the United Arab Emirates—which has faced skepticism about its ability to galvanize action to reduce the energy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions—to prove the veracity of its vision for COP28. That vision: Industry can breathe new life into the COP process by helping to catalyze action towards achieving national climate goals.

The next few days are an important litmus test for the United Arab Emirates’ credibility in hosting the climate conference.

Landon Derentz is senior director and Morningstar Chair for Global Energy Security at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.


NOVEMBER 30 | 8:12 PM GMT+4

An early deal brings signs of hope for COP28

By Sabrina Nagel

The first day of COP28 has opened with a historical deal: The parties agreed on the implementation of the loss and damage fund that was first announced last year at COP27. While parties agreed at COP27 to create the fund, it was unclear where the fund would be located and how much money developed countries would commit to it.

Now, with this new announcement, countries are beginning to commit to the fund. The United Arab Emirates and Germany each committed one hundred million dollars, while the United States and Japan have also contributed. The fund is central to climate justice for the countries that have contributed the least to climate change but are the most vulnerable to its effects.

Only weeks ago, negotiators and world leaders expected COP28 to be a difficult climate conference with uncertainty and disagreements about how the fund should be implemented and operationalized. Nevertheless, this early deal on the loss and damage fund will set the scene for hopeful negotiations as the week continues.

Sabrina Nagel is senior advisor for global policy and finance at the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center

NOVEMBER 30 | 7:45 PM GMT+4

Long-term climate financing remains elusive. A NATO-style spending target could help.

By Francis Shin and Théophile Pouget-Abadie

At the 2006 Riga summit, NATO leaders made a pledge to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. This moment marked a significant shift for the alliance, offering a way to both measure political will and ensure that existing and new members meaningfully contributed to the Alliance’s efforts. The target is remarkably simple: It essentially tracks members’ defense ministry budgets. Could the establishment of a spending target for the energy transition spark a similarly significant global shift?

Decarbonizing has emerged as one of most important tools for the European Union (EU) to ensure its long-term security and sovereignty: both to address the physical risks stemming from climate change and to reduce oil and gas dependencies, particularly on Russia. So far, European member states have committed insufficient funds to meet their decarbonization objectives. The European Commission estimates that an additional seven hundred billion euros of combined public and private investment is needed each year across the entire EU bloc to meet its energy transition targets and combat climate change.

Europe is currently far off track, with a spending gap equivalent to 0.73 percent of the EU’s GDP for non-transport investment and public spending, or about 101 billion euros. All but two EU countries (Lithuania and Czechia) have national spending gaps incapable of being filled by EU spending alone due to these members not having enough grants available to them. While the EU has set ambitious energy-transition goals through programs such as NextGenerationEU, the European Green Deal (and the associated Fit for 55 package), and the REPowerEU Plan, it now needs the means to finance them. 

To turn the tide, EU members and like-minded allies should set national-level climate spending targets, based on a percentage of their respective annual GDPs, to address these deficits. Within Europe, a climate spending target would put pressure on countries that have expressed reservations about joining in EU-level decarbonization goals. Poland, which retains the most reliance on coal for its energy needs, suggested that it would appeal against the Fit for 55 program, raising concern among other EU members on how staunchly committed Poland might be to cut carbon emissions.

Agora Energiewende and the European Commission concluded the overall annual GDP percentage investments required for hitting existing 2030 carbon emissions targets was 2.5 percent. That’s where discussions should start.

Of course, EU members’ needs will vary. Countries that haven’t spent as much on their energy transitions—or that are still reliant on fossil fuels—will need to spend more to address decarbonization deficits and improve electricity grids. And while some countries have already spent significant amounts and are closer to reaching their decarbonization goals, they should still seek to meet the 2.5 percent target, instead directing the funds to developing countries or international climate-change mitigation projects. This would express solidarity with fellow EU members as well as encourage decarbonization beyond Europe itself.

Francis Shin is a research assistant at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center. Théophile Pouget-Abadie is a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center and a policy fellow with the Jain Family Institute

NOVEMBER 30, 2023 | 6:27 PM GMT+4

Kicking off with a bang on loss and damage

What should climate watchers take away from day one of COP28? “Movement and progress,” Jorge Gastelumendi, interim director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, tells us from Dubai.

Before the first day closed, countries were able to reach a deal on a loss and damage startup fund, with both the United Arab Emirates and Germany pledging one hundred million dollars to offset disaster-induced costs in vulnerable countries.

It will also create an “open window” for insurance companies to support developing countries, Gastelumendi notes.

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NOVEMBER 30 | 10:37 AM GMT+4

COP28 is here. These are the Global South’s demands and expectations.

By Lama El Hatow

With the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as COP28) having started, the world is shifting its focus to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to assess how it will deal with the climate crisis, but with particular attention on the COP presidency…

The COP28 negotiations will prove to be challenging given all the demands and expectations on the table. In order to ensure that the needs of the Global South are met, the global community needs to unite to swiftly implement the recommended actions and the host country and the Emirati COP presidency need to display strong ambitions to address the climate crisis.

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Nov 30, 2023

COP28 is here. These are the Global South’s demands and expectations.

By Lama El Hatow

The COP28 negotiations will prove to be challenging given all the demands and expectations on the table in this COP.

Civil Society Energy & Environment

Further reading

Image: A person walks past a "#COP28" sign during The Changemaker Majlis, a one-day CEO-level thought leadership workshop focused on climate action, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 1, 2023. Photo via REUTERS/Amr Alfiky