Hosting COP28[1]  in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a contentious decision for some. There is criticism around the conflict of interest, given the importance of fossil fuels for the region. But the acceleration of the energy transition is not possible without the major fossil-fuel players.

COP president Sultan Al Jaber has highlighted that a phase down of fossil fuels is critical (notably not a phase out) and plans to announce a new fossil fuel Global Decarbonization Alliance for the energy sector. He also calls on all parties to join a pledge to triple the capacity of renewables by 2030 and to double the rate of energy-efficiency improvements.

In October, 131 businesses with over $1 trillion in revenue signed a letter to governments, demanding a phase out of fossil fuels to be agreed at COP28. The recently published UN Production Gap report highlights that countries plan to produce 110% more fossil fuels by 2030 than what is needed for 1.5°C alignment.

The spotlight will therefore be on the fossil-fuel industry, where credible action plans are desperately needed. In particular, the role and scope of carbon capture and storage in credible transition plans will be a key point of debate.

But what other progress has been made since COP27?

  • 1.     Ambition gap

    According to Climate Action Tracker, we are on track for a 2.4°C increase in temperatures, based on formal nationally determined contributions (NDCs). These reflect targets that countries have set to contribute to the Paris Agreement. COP27 called for parties to strengthen their climate pledges in 2023. But only the European Union and eight additional countries have done so, including the UAE as host country, with little impact on the overall goal. The next formal set of NDCs are due in the first quarter of 2025. These must reflect increased ambition and respond to the findings of the UN global stocktake which assesses progress towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals and is due to conclude at COP28.

    The stocktake synthesis report published in September suggests that we have little chance of limiting the increase in temperatures to 1.5°C without drastic change. At COP28, we need to see a step-up in ambition, based on the stocktake findings, and then cement this into formal NDC updates – a final chance to correct course for 2030.

  • 1.     Credibility gap

    Emissions are still on the rise and reached a new high in 2022. Targets need to be translated into binding policies to incentivize decarbonization at the pace and scale needed. For example, policies may include the effective use of carbon prices and the removal of inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies. According to the International Monetary Fund, global fossil-fuel subsidies amounted to $7 trillion in 2022, a $2 trillion increase since 2020.

    On the upside, the continued growth in clean technologies offers hope as it drives down the cost of low-carbon technology. According to the latest IEA World Energy Outlook, investment in clean technology has increased by 40% since 2020. The share of technologies needed for net zero that are not yet available on the market has fallen from 50% in 2021 to 35% in 2023.


  1. COP28 refers to the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.