COP28 closes with historic agreements, but significant shifts still needed

Monash University

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) drew to a close with landmark progress in the areas of energy and loss and damage.

Over the past couple of weeks, delegates from close to 200 nations came together to deliberate, negotiate and forge critical agreements aimed at addressing the urgent challenges posed by climate change.

Throughout COP28, impassioned discussions and collaborations took centre stage, highlighting the shared determination to reduce emissions, adapt to the impacts of climate change and secure a sustainable future for generations to come.

History was made by the nearly 200 countries which attend UN climate summits, at the final plenary session held on Wednesday in Dubai, where a landmark agreement was reached to “transition away from fossil fuels, a pledge to triple renewable energy and a commitment to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by mid-century.”

In addition, COP28 achieved the following key outcomes across the four pillars set by the COP28 presidency:

  1. Fast-tracking a just and equitable energy transition
  2. Fixing climate finance
  3. Focusing on people, lives and livelihoods
  4. Underpinning everything with full inclusivity

Whilst COP28 failed to agree on phasing out fossil fuels completely, which would have been a significant and momentous multilateral step towards achieving the Paris agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it was the first time in three decades of COP climate summits where nations agreed on a concerted move away from “fossil fuels” including oil, gas and coal which currently account for almost 80 per cent of global energy needs.

A further breakthrough was the progress made on Loss and Damage which remains a contentious issue at COP. An agreement was reached to establish a “loss and damage” fund enabling richer industrialised nations to compensate poorer nations for the visceral effects of climate change on their cultures and livelihoods. The creation of this fund and its deployment will be one of the biggest achievements for COP talks and it’s encouraging to see the Loss and Damage Fund being progressed albeit slowly, after initially being suggested by Vanuatu in 1991 and supported further by COP27 held in Egypt last year. It is widely recognised that the pledges so far are short by several orders of magnitude however.

Dr Susie Ho, Director of the Monash Innovation Guarantee, said COP28 has achieved a number of goals although there is still much work to do, and Monash was proud to have participated at this landmark event for climate change.

“It is encouraging that countries have recognised we need to transition away from fossil fuels towards clean energy – however we need stronger commitments globally. It’s heartening to see the momentum building towards change and collective attention on climate action globally with increasing youth activism. It is also crucial that community representatives from those at the frontline of the crisis, including our most vulnerable nations and Indigenous communities, are heard,” said Dr Ho.

“Monash University was proud to host a number of key youth-led events at the Monash pavilion including the launch of ‘Youth Day’ which had wide participation from over 40 countries and leading youth and government organisations.

“The official launch of the national youth statements from Australia, Tuvalu, PNG, Samoa, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and India led by Monash and SDSN was a key highlight,” added Dr Ho.

Dr Matthew French, Senior Director Research Missions and Impact, co-led the Monash COP28 delegation, which was the only Australian university to host a pavilion in the Official UNFCCC Blue Zone.

“We’ve witnessed unprecedented collaboration and commitment from our government, industry, non-profit and community partners worldwide. More than 10,000 people engaged at the Monash pavilion, however our work doesn’t end here. We have learnt so much at COP28 and it’s enabled us to strengthen and expand our partnerships across the region to accelerate our collective efforts. It’s time for immediate action and continued collaboration to build off the momentum of COP28” said Dr French.

Monash University hosted a pavilion in the high profile UNFCCC managed Blue Zone at COP28. The pavilion served as a collaborative space for Monash’s experts, scholars and students, alongside partners from the Asia Pacific and beyond, to converge, deliberate and advance climate action solutions.

Monash’s COP28 delegation included staff and students who shared their climate action expertise and knowledge whilst strengthening partnerships across the key themes: Just energy transitions; Climate and health; Antarctica and oceans; Indigenous wisdom; and Education and youth.

Monash University is dedicated to addressing the pressing global challenge of climate change and has also made it a core focus as reflected in the Impact 2030 strategy.

As COP28 draws to a close, the focus shifts to the critical next steps. All sectors are urged to swiftly implement their commitments, leverage innovative technologies, and engage in ongoing dialogue to further strengthen global climate action.

“COP28 has brought about historic change harkening the possible end of fossil fuels. However to be effective agreements need to be implemented successfully and there is a part for all of us to play in that. We are all reminded that climate change is not a problem to be solved only by the UN or governments. Ultimately it is up to all of us to take action and adapt our lifestyle so that we help in safeguarding our planet and our home for future generations,” added Dr French.

Australia’s bid to host the COP31 climate summit in 2026 will be decided at a later date, as the Albanese government and its Pacific island partners vie with Turkey for the right to bring the conference Down Under.

/Public Release.