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Bloc profile: the UK, Canada & Australia at COP28

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By James Balzer

· 10 min read

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) has now begun, with climate action more necessary than ever before. Already, the planet has experienced an instance of exceeding 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the 1.5-degree target established in COP20 is all but doomed

Prevalent topics at COP28 will include the move to nature-positive thinking, accelerating net zero targets, loss & damage, adaptation financing and decarbonising global trade, to name a few focus areas. 

COP28 has three primary objectives

  1. A response plan to the global stocktake
  2. A framework for adaptation and financial support
  3. Phasing out or phasing down fossil fuels

Let’s take a look at three different countries’ climate profiles: the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. How are they tracking in achieving their climate targets in light of COP28? 

United Kingdom 

The United Kingdom (UK) has traditionally shown strong leadership on climate, but recent withdrawals from progressive climate policymaking threaten the UK’s global climate leadership. 

As of September 14, 2023, a group of 26 Members of Parliament has thrown their support behind a motion in anticipation of COP28, pushing the UK government to champion an ambitious political deal in response to the global stocktake. This motion advocates for the alignment to existing climate finance commitments, supports the operationalisation of the loss and damage fund and beckons for a decisive "phase-out" of fossil fuels.

Additionally, after COP27, the UK has also reported on its commitment to triple contributions to adaptation finance by 2025 based on 2019 levels. There is also active engagement with the transitional committee regarding loss & damage financing, and the UK’s funding structure for loss & damage is still being negotiated. Additionally, the UK has committed £5 million in funding for the Santiago Network, providing technical support to address climate-related risks, and the launch of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, allocating £150 million for conservation in the Congo Basin and £65 million for the Nature, People, and Climate Investment Fund.

The UK's climate approach is rooted in the legally binding Climate Change Act 2008, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. However, recent policy missteps, such as inadequate subsidies in the offshore wind auction, pose threats to renewable energy plans and may stifle the 2030 offshore wind targets. 

Despite these positive commitments, recent policy reversals and delays have instigated concerns about the UK's climate leadership, resulting in a downgrade of its climate action rating to "Insufficient" by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT). Prime Minister Sunak's announcement in September 2023 to withdraw from climate policies such as the 2030 phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars, or the 2035 phase-out of gas boilers, has raised significant apprehension and concern from climate activists and scientists. 

Furthermore, the UK has demonstrated increasing support for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea, and energy efficiency policies and programs are slowing down. 

As a result, less than 20% of the required emission reductions to meet the UK's climate targets are supported by policies with proven mechanisms and sufficient funding. The emissions estimate for 2030 under contemporary policies has increased by 16-19% over the course of the past year. The overall CAT rating has plummeted to "Insufficient," signaling a considerable decline in the UK's global standing.

Therefore, the UK is at a critical juncture in its climate leadership journey, necessitating immediate corrective actions. Addressing policy reversals, expediting climate policy development and regaining international credibility should be their priorities, particularly in light of COP28. 

However, on the foreign policy front, the UK has announced new partnerships with developing countries to enhance their economic resilience in the aftermath of climate impacts. For example, the UK Export Finance (UKEF) will collaborate with 12 partner countries in Africa and the Caribbean, enabling them to defer debt repayments in the event of climate catastrophes, like hurricanes or floods. This initiative underscores the UK's commitment to supporting global climate resilience efforts and will likely be a significant aspect of its climate diplomacy.


The conclusion of COP27 signified a significant stride, with participating countries reaching an agreement to establish a groundbreaking ‘loss and damage’ fund to assist nations vulnerable to the severe impacts of climate disasters, such as drought, heat and sea level rise. The upcoming COP28 will further reinforce negotiations and discussions regarding the fund's financing sources, eligibility criteria for accessing it, and the mechanisms for equitable and equitable distribution. 

Canada, positioned as the 10th largest global emitter of greenhouse gasses, holds a pivotal role in climate finance, where it could exhibit leadership at COP28. Canada's historical contribution to global emissions places a substantial burden on its emissions reduction efforts, especially through the lens of climate justice. 

Despite Canada's efforts, persistent challenges emerge in meeting climate targets, particularly given that Canada’s warming is at twice the global rate. The contentious issues of Alberta's oil sands exploitation and government support for pipelines, contributing to Canada's status as the largest emitter in the oil and gas sector, remain points of controversy. While emissions are decreasing, a substantial gap persists between existing policies and Canada’s climate targets, creating concerns about compatibility with the 1.5°C goal and the 2°C goal.

Despite strong policy updates, Canada's overall Climate Action Tracker (CAT) rating remains "Highly insufficient”, indicating misalignment with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit. This is despite introducing the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan and strengthened climate policies, such as A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. Instead, the CAT deems them insufficient to achieve the 2030 target and believes its targets are only consistent with a global 4°C temperature increase.

The 2022 Canadian Environment Commissioner's report underscores 30 years of inadequate progress in meeting emission reduction targets and underscores the urgency of coherent, comprehensive climate action. The Commissioner highlights policy contradictions, such as the Trans Mountain pipeline purchase, underscoring the need for swift action to avert another decade of climate inaction.

While Canada demonstrates a declining trend in emissions, achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 remains a formidable challenge. Reliance on Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) prompts scrutiny of the veracity of its targets. The CAT's "Highly Insufficient" rating for Canada's climate target, policies, and climate finance highlights the misalignment with the 1.5°C limit. 

Looking to the future, Canada has an intriguing opportunity to export hydrogen to Europe through a proposed transatlantic supply corridor. The Hydrogen Alliance suggests shipping ammonia from Alberta to Europe as an innovative alternative for hydrogen transportation. While regulatory challenges need addressing, the project is deemed to carry minimal financial and market risks.

In international climate finance endeavours, Canada has participated quite substantially, co-chairing a group with Germany advocating for developed countries to fulfill the global commitment of providing $100 billion annually in assisting less affluent countries to adapt to climate change. While the initial 2020 target was missed, recent estimates from the OECD suggest that the benchmark was reached in 2022.

Furthermore, Canada demonstrates the capacity to work closely with its North American neighbours. This includes through the Declaration of North America, which claims to “recognize the critical nature of taking rapid and coordinated measures to tackle the climate crisis and respond to its consequences”. 


Traditionally, Australia has been a major climate laggard, with its former Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) only being to reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. 

However, Australia underwent a noteworthy transformation in its climate policies following the May 2022 election, resulting in a much stronger 2030 climate target. The newly elected government, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, quickly revised its NDC in June 2022, committing to a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. This positive development led to an upgrade in Australia's overall rating from "Highly Insufficient" to "Insufficient" according to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT).

The Powering Australia Plan is a key initiative, allocating $23 billion to modernise and expand Australia's electricity grid, enhancing energy efficiency and supporting electrification. The plan includes Rewiring the Nation (RWN), which provides concessional loans for transmission infrastructure projects to upgrade the energy grid. This also aims to increase the renewables share in the National Electricity Market (NEM) to 82% by 2030. Furthermore, Australia’s $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart program, supports large-scale renewable hydrogen projects through competitive contracts. In addition, The National Reconstruction Fund (NRF), is allocating up to $3 billion, and targets clean energy investments, including wind turbine manufacturing, battery and solar panel supply chains, hydrogen electrolyzers, and more. 

While the upgraded Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target indicates progress, Australia needs to adopt more ambitious climate policies to align with the 1.5°C warming limit. There are still concerns regarding support for new fossil fuel projects, particularly in the gas and coal sectors, promotes doubts about meeting the new NDC and achieving significant emissions reductions. There is a perceived misalignment between the government's actions and climate targets, emphasizing the need to shift away from a "gas-led" approach.

Australia's overall CAT rating, though improved, remains "Insufficient" concerning its fair share of global climate action. To improve its CAT rating, the government needs to adopt 2030 domestic emissions reductions of at least 57%, or at least 60% below 2005 emission levels for a 1.5°C-compatible target.

Australia has robust engagements with Pacific island nations in mitigating and adapting to climate change. This includes the $31.4 million Australia Pacific Climate Partnership, which is enabling Australia to integrate climate change and disaster resilience across all sectors of our development assistance program. Among other things, its work supports the understanding of climate change related health impacts to bring sustained improvements in population health; analyse climate change projections and their impacts on key sectors such as agriculture and tourism, in addition to building sustainable and resilient infrastructure. 

Other examples include the $7.5 million Climate Finance Access Network (CFAN), which embeds climate finance experts in 8 Pacific island countries to unlock climate finance for the greater Pacific region in Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Likewise, the Australian government administers the $7.9 million Governance for Resilient Development in the Pacific (Gov4Res) for Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the Republic of Marshall Islands. Gov4Res supports decision-making processes and governance systems towards resilient development.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

James Balzer is an Australian climate and sustainability policy practitioner, with experience in the Australian Federal Government and the New South Wales Government. He has experience in climate and sustainability policy across think tanks, NGOs and social enterprises in Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.

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