It's been over three weeks since COP28 concluded, and we've witnessed a pivotal shift. The deal struck at the Conference of Parties (COP) underscores a crucial move away from fossil fuels. It was a historic first, yet not devoid of contention. The Global Stocktake, while undeniably significant, falls short of the resolute language required to match the urgency inherent in the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal. As we look back at the two weeks of this essential climate summit, progress is apparent, but so is the need for an unwavering commitment to decisive measures. The path to a resilient future demands nothing less.
COP28 in Dubai showcased tangible commitments – from supporting the Loss and Damage Fund for climate-affected nations to endorsing the Global Cooling Watch Report for a phasedown of climate-warming refrigerants. After years of lobbying and work from developing nations to incorporate the loss and damage funds into our climate action, the 28th session of COP finally took a big step forward to act on them.
Yet, the call for genuine action rings louder than ever. Let’s remember that this decade is the ultimate turning point for a radical shift toward a sustainable future in the climate discourse.
Notably, at COP28, there was a spotlight on accelerated net-zero commitments. Dubai committed to a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030. Meanwhile, a Friends of the Earth analysis indicated the UK’s potential gap in meeting its Paris Agreement targets. Projections showcase that the UK might only achieve half of the necessary reduction by 2030 with its current initiatives. This underscores a critical reality - we’re not doing enough! We need to harness every available resource and strategy immediately to meet our climate goals and deadlines. Now is also the time to look and relook at the real estate sector. International climate objectives must prioritise reducing emissions from the built environment, contributing 40% of global carbon emissions.
Over the years, we've seen a clear upward trajectory in building energy demand. The surge is evident, with a 4% increase from 2020 to 135 EJ – the most significant spike in the past decade. Building operations emissions have concurrently hit a record 10 GtCO2, reflecting a 5% uptick from 2020. At this pace, built environment emissions are poised to surpass their 40% share. It's a concerning indication that the sector is off track to achieve decarbonisation by 2050.
This brings us to a critical statement made at the COP28 Buildings Pavilion – the scenario could’ve been entirely different had the industry moved away from fossil fuels, highlighting the close alignment between energy and real estate in tackling climate goals.
The COP28 climate deal's monumental transition away from fossil fuels is commendable. Yet, its impact unfolds over time, particularly for heavily coal-dependent nations in the Global South, such as India and China. The agreement does prompt the question: does it adequately address the needs of vulnerable and poorer countries? Effecting a just transition and phasing out fossil fuels in developing nations requires more than just pledges. There must be robust support in climate finance, access to tech infrastructure and a comprehensive mitigation and adaptation approach.
Meeting climate targets demands increased efforts in energy efficiency by industries and governments. The most straightforward approach is to embrace transformative technologies. In particular, the built environment stands to benefit from leveraging technology for decarbonisation, utilising actionable intelligence from advanced tech and AI, like Ecolibrium’s AI-powered decarbonisation solution, SmartSense. Ultimately, deploying tech to help buildings run more efficiently is the most impactful way to reduce your carbon footprint. Moreover, it provides the real-time data you need to track and continuously improve performance.
The Buildings Breakthrough is one prominent real estate development at COP28. To unite countries in accelerating decarbonisation in the industry, its focus is on ensuring clean technologies and sustainable solutions are the most affordable and accessible options globally by 2030. Technology Without Borders is another significant COP28 initiative. It represents a joint effort to narrow the net-zero energy technology divide between the Global North and South for an inclusive transition. Both are laudable steps that finally attempt to keep the interests of climate-vulnerable nations at the centre.
Post-COP, amidst the aftermath of another year of climate commitments, the global gaze is upon governments, policymakers, and organisations. While the historic shift from fossil fuels stands vital, the call now is for more than rhetoric. The world demands tangible actions and commitments translated into reality.