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On the road to COP29: the key agenda topics

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By illuminem

· 10 min read

As the leading platform in sustainability data and information, illuminem is excited to launch Roadmap to COP29, a new series that will keep you updated on the most important developments leading up to this year’s conference.

1. Introduction

2023 was the hottest year in recorded climate history, surpassing all previous years by a significant margin. Rising temperatures, driven by the disruptive force of El Niño, have disproportionately impacted countries in the Global South, worsening pre-existing vulnerabilities and poverty levels.

The need for immediate and decisive action has never been more urgent. Building on the progress of COP28, COP29, set to take place in Baku in November, holds the potential for meaningful global action to tackle the pressing climate challenges ahead. 

illuminem brings to you the anticipated topics that will likely be covered during this year’s conference. 

2. The main takeaways of COP28

Before exploring what COP29 might have in store, we first need to look at the main achievements of COP28:

  • Operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund: The fund is designed to help climate-vulnerable countries deal with climate impacts that go beyond what people can adapt to. To date, industrialized countries have pledged US $655 million, with a further US$115 million in financing to mobilize additional funds for loss and damage.
  • Global stocktake: COP28 marked a significant milestone with the conclusion of the first-ever global stocktake, a vital mechanism enabling nations and stakeholders to collectively assess their advancements towards the objectives outlined in the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
  • The ‘Beginning of the end’ of the fossil fuel era: The landmark agreement reached at COP28 heralded the "beginning of the end" for the fossil fuel era, paving the way for a 'just, orderly, equitable and responsible energy transition'. The decision marks a historic moment, being the first time the term "fossil fuels" has been formally integrated into a COP outcome in the three-decade history of UN climate negotiations.

3. COP29: the COP of climate finance

Looking ahead to COP29, we can anticipate key themes based on the unresolved issues from COP28. While COP28 has successfully increased climate ambition, the majority of finance-related matters has been deferred to COP29.
The COP29 president Mukhtar Babayev has emphasized the importance of climate finance in the upcoming negotiations, highlighting its role as a key tool for translating ambition into action. COP29 objectives can broadly be delineated into three main areas: 

  • Mobilizing resources: Addressing the financial demands of developing nations mandates a substantial upsurge in both public and private climate financing
  • Ensuring equitable distribution: Distributing climate finance equitably among developing nations and accounting for their unique vulnerabilities and developmental requirements
  • Accessing finance: Accessing climate financing poses significant challenges for developing countries due to complex procedures and stringent eligibility criteria, underscoring the urgent need for simplified mechanisms to facilitate easier access

Below we offer a more detailed overview of the specific topics within these areas that will define this year's agenda.

3.1. New Collective Quantitative Goal (NCQG) 

Main object
The implementation of New Collective Qualitative Goal (NCQG) is poised to represent one of the main financial goals of this year’s COP29. This new measure, set to take effect from 2025, is tasked with considering the needs and priorities of developing countries, estimated at $5.8 trillion to $5.9 trillion until 2030. It replaces the unmet pledge made in 2009 for developed nations to provide $100 billion annually in climate finance to developing countries.

Why it matters for the planet
This tool is of key importance to the planet due to the crucial role played by climate finance in addressing climate change and supporting developing countries in their efforts to adapt to and mitigate its impacts. 

Key stakeholders
The players involved include representatives from developed and developing countries participating in COP29 negotiations. This includes technical experts, ministers, and high-level political figures who will engage in dialogues to develop a comprehensive framework for the NCQG.

Next steps
Negotiations leading up to COP29 will focus on delineating the elements of the NCQG, including targeted amounts, timeline, allocation priorities, measurement of progress, and other pertinent aspects.

3.2. Loss and Damage

Main object
As already mentioned, a focal point of COP28 was the initiation of the Loss and Damage Fund, aimed at assisting climate-vulnerable nations in dealing with climate impacts beyond their adaptive capacities. However, the contributions received so far are insufficient in the face of the projected $580 billion in climate-related damages by 2030. Efforts to enhance funding mechanisms and bridge the climate finance gap are anticipated to be a major focus of COP29.

Why it matters for the planet
Climate-vulnerable nations require support to cope with climate impacts. The inadequacy of current contributions compared to projected damages highlights the urgency of bolstering funding mechanisms.

Key stakeholders
Players involved include representatives from countries participating in COP negotiations, as well as stakeholders in climate finance and vulnerable nations.

Next steps
As preparations for COP29 progress, efforts to strengthen funding mechanisms and address the widening gap in climate finance are expected to be prioritized. These efforts will likely involve discussions, negotiations, and potential policy adjustments to enhance support for climate-vulnerable nations.

3.3. New Round of NDCs

Main object
COP28 highlighted the importance of future Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) not only in enhancing emission reduction efforts but also integrating strategies for adaptation and just transition. COP29 is projected to take it from here and propel the advancement of the next generation of NDCs which are scheduled for 2025. Discussions will likely focus on urging nations to enhance their commitments in light of the Global Stocktake. 

Why it matters for the planet
Strengthening NDCs and aligning them with ambitious climate goals are essential for accelerating emission reductions, promoting adaptation measures, and ensuring a just transition to a low-carbon economy

Key stakeholders
Participants include representatives from nations involved in COP negotiations, as well as stakeholders in climate policy and environmental advocacy.

Next steps
As COP29 approaches, efforts to strengthen NDCs and align them with ambitious climate goals will take center stage. During the Copenhagen Climate Ministerial on March 21-22, 2024, Al Jaber emphasized the upcoming round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as “a critical tool for correcting course.” Discussions and negotiations will likely revolve around encouraging nations to enhance their commitments, integrating adaptation and just transition measures into their NDCs, and ensuring that NDCs contribute effectively to global climate action. 

3.4. National Adaptation Plan 

Main object
The establishment of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) is set to become a focal point by 2025. Following discussions at COP28, consensus was reached on setting global time-bound targets on key themes like water and health. However, the lack of quantification and support provisions highlights the urgency of refining these targets and ensuring adequate support for developing nations. 

Why it matters for the planet
The establishment of NAPs and setting global targets are essential steps toward enhancing adaptation efforts globally. COP29's focus on operationalizing NAPs and addressing gaps in adaptation efforts is vital for building resilience to climate change impacts and promoting sustainable development.

Key stakeholders
Participants include representatives from nations involved in COP negotiations, as well as stakeholders in adaptation policy and development.

Next steps
Negotiations leading up to COP29 are expected to refine and operationalize these targets while addressing the critical need for effective adaptation efforts worldwide. Discussions will likely focus on quantifying targets, addressing support provisions for developing nations, and ensuring effective adaptation efforts worldwide. 

3.4. Oil and gas charter 

Main object
The Oil and Gas Charter was a major milestone at COP28. The charter issued a call to the oil and gas sector, urging them to achieve net-zero emissions for their operational activities by 2050. Additionally, it outlined commitments to reduce methane emissions to near-zero levels and eliminate routine flaring by 2030. However the charter's scope was marred by its exclusive focus on emissions from companies' own operations. The pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 does not include emissions from the sale of fuel oil and gas, which accounts for the majority of the industry's climate impact. 

Why it matters for the planet
Oil and gas industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and addressing its emissions comprehensively is crucial for mitigating climate change. While the charter represents progress, its limitations in addressing consumption emissions underscore the need for more comprehensive action to achieve global climate goals.  

Key stakeholders
Participants include representatives from the oil and gas industry, governments, and environmental organizations advocating for comprehensive climate action.

Next steps
Moving forward, there is a need to expand the scope of the oil and gas charter to include emissions from the sale of fuel oil and gas. Governments play a crucial role in mandating comprehensive action from the industry, ensuring that both production and consumption emissions are addressed.

3.5. Carbon Markets

Main object
COP28's conclusion without reaching a decision on regulations governing carbon markets. Key areas left unaddressed include: 

  • Authorization processes for emissions reductions intended for transfer to other countries
  • Procedures for reviewing confidential information in country reports 
  • Eligibility criteria for activities within carbon markets under Article 6, including methodologies and removals approved by the UN's Article 6.4 Supervisory Body 
  • How to set up a registry for carbon credits issued by the centralized U.N. crediting mechanism
  • Other themes left unaddressed include project assessment measures, permanence of removals, and safeguards

Why it matters for the planet
Carbon markets play a significant role in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Uncertainties surrounding regulations governing carbon markets hinder effective international carbon trading and can impede countries' ability to fulfill their NDCs. 

Key stakeholders
Participants include representatives from countries involved in COP negotiations, as well as stakeholders in carbon markets, environmental organizations, and regulatory bodies.

Next steps
COP29 will play a pivotal role in addressing the uncertainties surrounding carbon markets by devising measures to aid project assessment, focusing on risk evaluation regarding leakage, permanence of removals, and safeguards. Addressing these issues will enhance transparency and effectiveness in carbon trading, thereby facilitating greater emission reductions and progress towards global climate goals.

3.6. Controversies 

The designation of Azerbaijan as the host country for COP29 has elicited skepticism among climate activists, primarily due to the nation's heavy reliance on fossil fuels, particularly oil and gas. The nation's status as a petrostate provides additional layers of complexity, given its significant gas exports to Europe, and involvement in regional conflicts, notably with Armenia. Adding to controversies is the fact that for the second consecutive occasion a major fossil fuel exporter has been selected as host for the climate conference. 

3.7. Summits ahead of COP29  

Regional Climate Weeks canceled
The regional climate weeks serve as a pivotal platform where stakeholders convene to exchange experiences, best practices, and insights, fostering collaborative efforts towards implementing the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Regrettably, resource limitations have compelled UN Climate Change to suspend the regional climate weeks for 2024 until further notice.

Roadmap to Mission 1.5
Negotiators have agreed on collaboration among the COP28, COP29, and COP30 presidencies to develop a "Roadmap to Mission 1.5." This initiative is designed to strengthen international cooperation over the next two years, focusing on enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and mobilizing crucial financial resources to incentivize climate action. The COP Presidencies Troika will spearhead a series of high-level gatherings aimed at assessing obstacles to NDC development. The key 2024 meetings ahead of COP29 will be the following:

4. 2024: a critical year 

2024 is poised to be a critical year, marked by ongoing global conflicts, rising geopolitical tensions, and increasing interest rates. Adding to the complexity, in 2024 over half of the world's population will participate in democratic elections, spanning key regions like the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, large parts of Africa, and Taiwan. Within this uncertain landscape, governments may find themselves forced to prioritize domestic concerns, security, and economic stability, often sidelining urgent climate action. Therefore, amidst these geopolitical and economic challenges, it becomes even more urgent for COP29 to reinforce the call for global climate action.

These are the very first insights in our series. Watch this space to keep updated as we produce more content

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