Article

Lessons from COP28: Are COPs Enough to Solve the Climate Crisis?

During COP28, significant steps were taken to emphasize the importance of phasing out fossil fuels. Despite this, we are far from where we need to be in terms of financing the transition, providing loss and damage, and taking concrete actions to reduce our dependence on coal, oil, and gas. Looking back at our conversations during COP28, we can see a clear need for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a legally binding mechanism complementary to the Paris Agreement, that will provide a clear plan to fast, effectively, and equitably transition away from fossil fuels. As 2024 continues, this is what we hope to see going into COP29.
In the interim between COP28 and COP29, we can see that the phase-out of fossil fuels is on the table now, but a lot is still missing in order to put the world on track for staying below the 1.5°C target. We need to see equitable financing policies, where wealthy nations transition away from fossil fuels faster and provide poorer nations with funding and technology for a fast enough transition away from the fossil energy they need for basic services and livelihoods.
During COP28, we partnered with We Don’t Have Time on a series of discussions about why we need a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to implement the needed just transition. During the climate negotiations, four new nations called for such a treaty, putting the total number of supporting countries at 12. The first of those twelve countries to join the call for a Treaty was Vanuatu, and we had the pleasure of hosting Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu, for the first of our nine discussions.
“Vanuatu has always been very frustrated with the whole COP process,” said Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu.
“Vanuatu has always been very frustrated with the whole COP process,” said Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu.


Nations Call for a Treaty

“Vanuatu has always been very frustrated by the whole COP process. We are not moving fast enough to deal with the source of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, and we all know that it’s fossil fuels,” said Regenvanu, emphasizing that other initiatives aside from the UNFCCC are needed, and that a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is one such initiative.
This sentiment was mirrored by the nation of Colombia, which was the first Latin American country and the largest producer of coal and gas to join the growing bloc of nations spearheading the push for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty during COP28, and where it was clear that they were asking for support from other nations and the international community to help them transition away from fossil fuels. During the 4th day of COP28, our Strategic Advisor for Global Partnerships, Harjeet Singh, emphasized that the Colombia endorsement means that the current international system doesn’t deliver and that they need more support to make the transition.
“That’s a big, powerful message, and the fact is that this system is not ready. That is why we need to start negotiating a treaty, and we cannot spend 5-10 years on it, we have to do it absolutely quickly to make sure that countries like Colombia are supported,” said Harjeet Singh.
Colombia is “ready to make the transition” but needs more support than the current international system can provide, according to Harjeet Singh, Strategic Advisor: Global Partnerships of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Colombia is “ready to make the transition” but needs more support than the current international system can provide, according to Harjeet Singh, Strategic Advisor: Global Partnerships of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.


Why Do We Need a Treaty?

As more and more nations call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, you might wonder what makes the Treaty any different from the current UNFCCC multilateral process. For the last day of COP28, we gathered some experts on the subject to discuss what the next steps are for a fast and fair transition.
On the panel, Rebecca Byrnes, Deputy Director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, focused on what the UNFCCC process can actually accomplish. “The UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement are incredibly important in setting the foundation for climate action,” she said. “It set the north star of 1.5°C and, we hope, coming from this COP there will be a strong signal that countries must phase out fossil fuels equitably.”
But, Rebecca continued, the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement aren’t able to “negotiate the plan for that”. Complementary initiatives are needed that help countries understand and set targets for phasing out fossil fuels, and for wealthy fossil fuel countries to “provide support to those countries that are incredibly dependent on fossil fuels for their lives and livelihoods to be able to transition.” A treaty that complements the Paris Agreement can be a tool to accomplish this, where the decisions are not consensus-based but rather based on a system where those who take the necessary actions are favored compared to those who do not.
The final day panel of Anabella Rosemberg, Ayisha Siddiqa, Rajiv Joshi and Rebecca Byrnes discussed how a future system with a treaty complementing the Paris Agreement may look.
The final day panel of Anabella Rosemberg, Ayisha Siddiqa, Rajiv Joshi and Rebecca Byrnes discussed how a future system with a treaty complementing the Paris Agreement may look.

Joining Rebecca on the panel were Anabella Rosemberg, Senior Advisor on Just Transition, Climate Action Network International; Rajiv Joshi, Associate Dean for Climate Action, The Climate School at Columbia University; and Ayisha Siddiqa, Environmental & Human Rights Defender and Climate Advisor to the UN General Secretary. To add to Rebecca’s points, Anabella Rosemberg reiterated that we should expect minimum standards from the UN processes, but that progress needs to be made elsewhere as well, with rules and agreements being made through trade initiatives and other spaces.
Rajiv Joshi and Ayisha Siddiqa mentioned the legal actions that are being taken, paving the road to regulation around climate impact and emphasizing that the voluntary approaches that have been used so far have not moved fast enough to halve emissions by 2030. By raising legal cases against climate-intensive nations and companies, the right rules and incentives can be developed to reach our goal in time. Watch the full panel discussion below.
https://youtu.be/8W8USx2IZGA?t=4630


Moving into 2024, we hope to see the countries that already endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty work via their own diplomatic channels to build a core group that can open a negotiation mandate for a Treaty, either through the UN General Assembly or through a standalone process. With the support of all the people who are already backing the Treaty proposal, including 104 cities and subnational governments, 3,000 academics, and 101 Nobel laureates since the first call for a Treaty in 2015, we believe that this process can increase the pace of the transition and put the voices of vulnerable communities at the center of the conversation.
To learn more about our takeaways from COP28, read our COP28 explainer, and learn how to support the movement:


  • Sarah Chabane

    1 w

    COPs are important in setting the agenda, but the process needs to be improved so it's representative of small nations, Indigenous communities, women, farmers and more. On top of improving this process we also need to create spaces of discussion and action and civil society has a role to play in this!

    4
    • George Kariuki

      1 w

      COP28 was a step in the right direction, but we NEED more to tackle the climate crisis. The current system isn't working fast enough. We need legally binding regulations & support for developing countries. Time to hold major polluters accountable.

      3
      • Christina Carlmark

        1 w

        It is important but not enough. Very important work you do with this Treaty!

        3
        • Lucinda Ramsay

          1 w

          Go plant based to make the biggest single impact a person can make. Don't wait for big organisations governments they are dominated by lobbyists and populists- lead by example and change your lifestyle if enough people change then demand and supply will change- economies will change.🌍 governments and organisations have to push back against lobbyists.

          7
          • Marine Stephan

            1 w

            We cannot only rely on the UN to fight the climate crisis. We need other spaces and processes (like the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty) that allow bold decisions to be taken, solutions to be shared and cooperation

            1
            • Adam Wallin

              1 w

              I believe, as Rebecca said, that it's important that we have the UN process to set a baseline and bring everyone to the table, but we don't have time to wait for a consensus process to solve the whole problem, we need to move outside of the COPs as well. A Fossil Fuel Treaty could help that along a lot faster.

              7
              Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
              Post youtube preview with preloading
              youtube overlay

              Write or agree to climate reviews to make businesses and world leaders act. It’s easy and it works.

              Write a climate review

              Voice your opinion on how businesses and organizations impact the climate.
              0 trees planted

              One tree is planted for every climate review written to an organization that is Open for Climate Dialogue™.

              Download the app

              We plant a tree for every new user.

              AppleAndroid