What You Need to Know.

  • After two days of intense negotiations, world leaders adopted a draft decision that sets out international climate priorities in response to the findings of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The decision covers several thematic areas, including mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change, financing and means of implementation and support for climate projects, and loss and damage funding for climate-vulnerable nations.  The text of the draft decision can be found on the UNFCCC’s website here.
  • The most highly scrutinized and heavily debated aspect of the agreement was the path forward on the use of fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions from which, the decision notes, have “unequivocally caused global warming of about 1.1 °C.”  Recognizing the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 °C pathways, the decision calls on Parties to contribute to the following efforts related to the energy transition and fossil fuel use:
    • Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030;
    • Accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power;
    • Accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emission energy systems, utilizing zero- and low-carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century;
    • Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science;”
    • Accelerating zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production;
    • Accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030;
    • Accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on a range of pathways, including through development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low-emission vehicles; and
    • Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible;
  • While coal has been mentioned in previous COP decisions, the language on “transitioning away from fossil fuels” represents the first time that countries have agreed to language that explicitly curtails all fossil fuels in the nearly three-decades-long history of the UN climate summit.  Though hailed by COP28 President Al Jaber and other world leaders as a “historic package to accelerate climate action,” the decision, and how it was adopted, was not without its critics.
    • UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell pushed the world to strive for more action.  “COP 28 also needed to signal a hard stop to humanity’s core climate problem—fossil fuels and their planet-burning pollution.  Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.”
    • Anne Rasmussen, lead delegate for Samoa, complained that delegates of the small island nation nations weren’t even in the room when President Al Jaber announced the deal was done.  Garnering the longest applause of the session, Rasmussen declared that “the course correction that is needed has not been secured” and that the deal could “potentially take us backward rather than forward.”

Why This Matters for Businesses.

  • Though the priorities identified in the draft decision send a strong signal to Parties—and global businesses—on how they should shape and structure their energy transition strategies, implementation of these priorities is voluntary and will differ based on each country’s means and national circumstances.
  • With COP28 concluded, the work falls once again to national policymakers to implement laws and regulations that operationalize these climate priorities.  Businesses, particularly those operating in multiple jurisdictions, should closely monitor this process to assess the impact on their industries and identify opportunities to actively engage with and shape national and international climate change policies, while also seeking to implement the most efficient and cost-effective decarbonization strategies.
  • COP29 will be held in Azerbaijan from November 11 to 22, 2024.  In addition to operationalizing the climate financing and means of implementation announcements made at COP28, a large focus will be on the findings of the first biennial transparency reports, in which countries will submit inventories of their greenhouse gas emissions.  As with the Global Stocktake, the findings of these reports will likely shape the discussions and negotiations at COP29 and continued efforts to accelerate the “transition[] away from fossil fuels in energy systems.”
  • As Executive Secretary Stiell said in his closing statement, “UN Climate Change is now creaking under the weight of mandated processes and workstreams.”  Over the next several months, global leaders, activists, and businesses will need to sort through the outcomes of the two-week-long conference in Dubai.  The draft decision on the outcomes of the Global Stocktake, the COP28 Presidency’s website, and the UNFCCC Summary of Global Climate Action at COP28 each provide helpful starting places for businesses to begin digesting COP28.  Here are some highlights:
    • Over 85,000 delegates, including 154 Heads of States and Government, were estimated to have attended COP28, making the conference the largest in UNFCCC COP history.
    • Nations, businesses, and philanthropic organizations committed over $85 billion to climate action, including $792 million to the loss and damage fund and $3.5 billion to the Green Climate Fund.
    • Over 170 declarations, pledges, and commitments were made at COP28, including: the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, which commits countries to work together to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 (endorsed by 130 countries); the Global Methane Pledge, which commits countries to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 (endorsed by 155 countries); and the Energy Transition Accelerator, which creates a new, high-integrity carbon market for purchasing carbon credits in developing and emerging economies.

Covington Commentary.

“As described by the IPCC in its latest report, human-caused climate change impacts are being felt worldwide.  The outcomes of COP28 demonstrate the importance of these and similar climate conferences as fora for world leaders, activists, and business leaders to focus the attention of the world on the increasingly urgent need for policy and investment proactivity to address the impacts of climate change.  Coming at the end of what was the hottest year on record, COP28 represents an important step in this global response.  But keeping alive the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels will require increased and sustained commitment and engagement from the public sector, the private sector, and civil society.

Dan Feldman, Partner, Co-Chair of the ESG Practice and Business & Human Rights Practice

More News and Developments.

Covington’s multidisciplinary COP28 delegation includes leaders of Covington’s ESG, Environment, Energy, Project Development and Finance, Corporate, and Public Policy practices, as well as our unique Carbon Management and Climate Mitigation (CM2) initiative. Our comprehensive and integrated global team is ready to assist clients as they prepare for COP28, engage with key stakeholders while there, and then strategize about and successfully implement ESG corporate policies aligned with COP28 goals.  Follow our Climate Hub for Businesses to stay up to date with the latest developments from COP28.

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Photo of Carol Browner Carol Browner

Carol M. Browner brings nearly four decades of experience advising on environmental and energy policies affecting global energy, environmental, public health, and business matters.

She provides counsel to industry leaders in the energy, transportation, and consumer product sectors on regulatory matters, environmental impact…

Carol M. Browner brings nearly four decades of experience advising on environmental and energy policies affecting global energy, environmental, public health, and business matters.

She provides counsel to industry leaders in the energy, transportation, and consumer product sectors on regulatory matters, environmental impact issues, corporate sustainability approaches, and strategic partnership development to advance clean energy, ESG, and other business priorities.

Carol joins the firm after serving as Senior Counselor in the Sustainability practice of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm.

Carol served as Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, where she oversaw the coordination of environmental, energy, climate, transport, and related policy across the U.S. federal government. During her tenure, the White House secured the largest investment ever in clean energy and established the national car policy that included both new automobile fuel efficiency standards and first ever greenhouse gas reduction standards.

Carol is the longest serving Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As Administrator, she adopted the most stringent air pollution standards in U.S. history; set the first fine particle clean air standard; and spearheaded the reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act as well as the Food Quality Protection Act. Carol was known for working with both environmentalists and industry to set science-based public health protections while providing businesses important flexibilities in how to meet those standards. She worked across the agency to ensure a focus on protecting vulnerable populations and promote environmental equity.

Additionally, Carol serves on a number of boards of directors advising on environmental and energy issues, including as Chair of the Board of the League of Conservation Voters, as Chair of the Sustainability Committee of the Board of Directors for Bunge Limited, and as a Board Member of Innovyze.

Photo of Jayni Hein Jayni Hein

Jayni F. Hein co-chairs the firm’s Carbon Management and Climate Mitigation industry group.

Jayni joins the firm after serving as Senior Director for Clean Energy, Infrastructure & the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

During…

Jayni F. Hein co-chairs the firm’s Carbon Management and Climate Mitigation industry group.

Jayni joins the firm after serving as Senior Director for Clean Energy, Infrastructure & the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

During her tenure at CEQ, she oversaw the Biden Administration’s ambitious environmental and clean energy agenda, leading work on low carbon projects and climate disclosure, and advancing the successful implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (2021) and Inflation Reduction Act (2022).

Jayni has extensive experience advising clients on NEPA, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act issues, as well as energy development on public lands. As the former senior political appointee spearheading work to revise NEPA regulations and issue guidance on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, Jayni offers clients first-hand experience with infrastructure projects that require federal and state permits and authorization. She helps clients identify new funding opportunities and successfully advance clean energy and other infrastructure projects, including onshore and offshore wind, solar, hydrogen, transmission, semiconductor, and carbon, capture, sequestration, and utilization (CCUS) projects.

In addition, leveraging her government experience, Jayni advises companies and investors on ESG compliance and strategy in light of increased scrutiny of corporate climate and net-zero commitments. She advises clients on the legal and policy issues relating to ESG and climate-related regulatory requirements, investor demands, global reporting frameworks, and strategic business opportunities.

Clients benefit from her ability to creatively troubleshoot issues, establish relationships across government, and engage policymakers, industry, non-profit organizations, and other key stakeholders in constructive conversations around climate change, environmental justice, and corporate decarbonization goals.

Prior to CEQ, Jayni led energy and climate work at think tanks at NYU Law and Berkeley Law.

Photo of Daniel Feldman Daniel Feldman

Drawing on his prior positions in government service spanning multiple Administrations, former Ambassador Dan Feldman’s practice focuses on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) counseling, business and human rights (BHR), global public policy, as well as broader international regulatory compliance. He is a member…

Drawing on his prior positions in government service spanning multiple Administrations, former Ambassador Dan Feldman’s practice focuses on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) counseling, business and human rights (BHR), global public policy, as well as broader international regulatory compliance. He is a member of the firm’s Global Problem Solving initiative.

As Chief of Staff and Counselor to Secretary John Kerry when he was appointed the first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) by President Biden, Dan helped drive the U.S. government’s international climate agenda, coordinating high level interagency policy-making, engaging with corporate stakeholders, and contributing to key bilateral and multilateral climate discussions, including last year’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate and the landmark UN Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

Previously, Dan served as deputy and then U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. Department of State in the Obama Administration, as Director of Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs at the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration, and as Counsel and Communications Adviser to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He also has served as a senior foreign policy and national security advisor to a number of Democratic presidential and Congressional campaigns.

Dan has extensive experience counseling multinational corporations on mitigating risk and maximizing opportunities in the development and implementation of their ESG and sustainability strategies, with a particular background in advising on BHR matters. He was one of the first attorneys in the U.S. to develop a practice in corporate social responsibility, and has been cited by Chambers for his BHR expertise. He assists clients in strategizing about their engagements with a range of key stakeholders, including Members of Congress, executive branch officials, foreign government officials and Embassy representatives, multilateral institutions, trade and industry associations, non-governmental organizations, opinion leaders, and journalists.

Photo of Thomas Reilly Thomas Reilly

Ambassador Thomas Reilly, Covington’s Head of UK Public Policy and a key member of the firm’s Global Problem Solving Group and Brexit Task Force, draws on over 20 years of diplomatic and commercial roles to advise clients on their strategic business objectives.

Ambassador…

Ambassador Thomas Reilly, Covington’s Head of UK Public Policy and a key member of the firm’s Global Problem Solving Group and Brexit Task Force, draws on over 20 years of diplomatic and commercial roles to advise clients on their strategic business objectives.

Ambassador Reilly was most recently British Ambassador to Morocco between 2017 and 2020, and prior to this, the Senior Advisor on International Government Relations & Regulatory Affairs and Head of Government Relations at Royal Dutch Shell between 2012 and 2017. His former roles with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office included British Ambassador Morocco & Mauritania (2017-2018), Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Egypt (2010-2012), Deputy Head of the Climate Change & Energy Department (2007-2009), and Deputy Head of the Counter Terrorism Department (2005-2007). He has lived or worked in a number of countries including Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Argentina.

At Covington, Ambassador Reilly works closely with our global team of lawyers and investigators as well as over 100 former diplomats and senior government officials, with significant depth of experience in dealing with the types of complex problems that involve both legal and governmental institutions.

Ambassador Reilly started his career as a solicitor specialising in EU and commercial law but no longer practices as a solicitor.

Photo of Kevin Poloncarz Kevin Poloncarz

Kevin Poloncarz represents a broad range of clients on policy, regulatory, litigation, commercial, and enforcement matters involving air quality, climate change, and clean energy. He co-chairs the firm’s Environmental Practice Group and Energy Industry Group.

Mr. Poloncarz is ranked by Chambers USA among…

Kevin Poloncarz represents a broad range of clients on policy, regulatory, litigation, commercial, and enforcement matters involving air quality, climate change, and clean energy. He co-chairs the firm’s Environmental Practice Group and Energy Industry Group.

Mr. Poloncarz is ranked by Chambers USA among the nation’s leading climate change attorneys and California’s leading environmental lawyers, with sources describing him as “a phenomenal” and “tremendous lawyer.” He was named an “Energy & Environmental Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal in 2017 and was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers in 2018.

He has extensive experience with California’s Cap-and-Trade Program, Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), and is recognized as a leading advisor on carbon markets. He also assists energy-sector clients in obtaining and defending state and federal approvals for major projects throughout California.

Mr. Poloncarz also assists clients with the development and execution of legislative and policy strategies supporting decarbonization, including carbon capture and sequestration, low-carbon fuels, advanced transportation and energy storage, and is a registered lobbyist in California and Oregon.

Photo of W. Andrew Jack W. Andrew Jack

Andrew Jack has a diverse corporate and securities practice with clients principally in the energy, industrial manufacturing, technology and sports and entertainment industries. He regularly represents corporations, board committees, and other forms of enterprises in mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, financing activities, securities…

Andrew Jack has a diverse corporate and securities practice with clients principally in the energy, industrial manufacturing, technology and sports and entertainment industries. He regularly represents corporations, board committees, and other forms of enterprises in mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, financing activities, securities law compliance, corporate governance counseling, and executive compensation arrangements. Mr. Jack also co-chairs the firm’s Energy Industry Group.

Photo of Paul Mertenskötter Paul Mertenskötter

Paul Mertenskötter is an associate in the firm’s Brussels office and a member of the Public Policy and International Trade practice groups. He advises multinational companies, governments, and other clients on a range of matters related to public policy, international trade, and new…

Paul Mertenskötter is an associate in the firm’s Brussels office and a member of the Public Policy and International Trade practice groups. He advises multinational companies, governments, and other clients on a range of matters related to public policy, international trade, and new technologies. Mr. Mertenskötter’s practice encompasses advising clients on the European Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy, including on the Payment Services Directive (PSD 2).

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Mertenskötter clerked at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and was a Fellow at the Institute for International Law and Justice at NYU Law School. His work has been published with Oxford University Press and the Cornell Law Review.

Martin Levy

Martin Levy is an associate in the firm’s Washington’s office. He is a member of the Environmental and Energy Regulatory practice, focusing on low-carbon and renewable energy incentives, carbon markets, environmental marketing claims, and other corporate climate change initiatives. He advises power generators…

Martin Levy is an associate in the firm’s Washington’s office. He is a member of the Environmental and Energy Regulatory practice, focusing on low-carbon and renewable energy incentives, carbon markets, environmental marketing claims, and other corporate climate change initiatives. He advises power generators, technology companies, and financial institutions on how to better align their business practices with “net zero” commitments. Before joining Covington, Martin was a vetting attorney with the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition, a law clerk at the Eastern District of New York, and an undergraduate environmental law instructor at Boston College.

Bradford McGann

Bradford McGann is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office, where he provides strategic advice to clients as a member of the firm’s Environmental and Energy Practice Group, the Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) Practice, and the Carbon Management and Climate Mitigation…

Bradford McGann is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office, where he provides strategic advice to clients as a member of the firm’s Environmental and Energy Practice Group, the Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) Practice, and the Carbon Management and Climate Mitigation industry group. Bradford’s work focuses on helping clients understand and navigate multijurisdictional climate-related financial disclosure requirements. He also provides regulatory compliance support for clients engaged in carbon-reduction, renewable-energy, and net-zero efforts. His pro bono practice focuses on issues of immigration and international human rights.