News and Insights

A look ahead to COP28 – exploring sustainability challenges

November 23, 2023

Ahead of the global climate conference COP28, Nusa Urbancic, CEO of Changing Markets Foundation, a FINN client, explores the urgent need for governments and companies to reduce methane emissions.

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time. For this reason, climate conferences are of crucial importance to deliver proper leadership, finance for mitigation, and a commitment to phase out fossil fuels.

While renewable energy continues to progress, this will mean nothing if fossil fuel expansion continues. With current levels of warming (around 1.2˚C), we are already seeing a rise in frequency and severity of floods, wildfires, droughts, and desertification.

Food and sustainability

This will especially affect our ability to produce sufficient and nutritious food in a world that is already struggling with malnutrition. It is therefore crucial that food is higher on the agenda of COP28.

The COP28 UAE Presidency, represented by Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment, urged governments to sign a Leaders Declaration which will commit them to integrate food and agriculture into the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans.

This will set the general direction of travel and will hopefully reference sustainable consumption. We also expect the Food and Agriculture Organisation to produce a roadmap on how to stay on 1.5˚C trajectory on food, a move that will hopefully become helpful guidance for the sector.

Currently, over 150 governments are signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, and scientists have emphasised the importance of cutting methane emissions, as one of the most important actions we can take to prevent temperature overshoot. However, despite the recommendation of a 45% reduction, governments have only signed up to 30%, with the biggest emphasis on energy and waste sectors.

Yet, the biggest anthropogenic methane emitter is agriculture. Ramping up methane mitigation, as outlined by the science, will therefore also require action by big meat and dairy producers.

Corporate sustainability

Companies must commit to net zero targets with integrity and scientific rigour. This is why last year, the UN launched a special High Level Expert report, Integrity Matters, which aimed to increase the standard for net zero targets and prevent corporate greenwashing.

Describing why this report was needed, The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said that the criteria for net-zero commitments can have ‘loopholes wide enough to drive a diesel truck through’, and demanded zero tolerance on net zero greenwashing. Guterres also called for companies and voluntary initiatives to update their guidelines ahead of COP28. Challenging greenwashing is an essential first step to ensure that we get real climate action. We have to lift the veil of empty green promises first and then ensure that companies are actually investing in true climate solutions, as we will also need substantial amounts of private funding to get solutions off the ground.

With this in mind, it is of utmost importance that the media and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) continue to scrutinise the quality of net zero commitments, as well as applaud them, when these are robust and genuine. As the climate crisis continues and environmental disasters rage across the globe, it is essential that governments, big business, and individuals alike align their actions with their beliefs and goals, and work toward a future that is safe for all.

TAGS: Sustainability & ESG