The biggest climate conference ever held was the 28th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly called COP28, that took place in Dubai over 30 November to 13 December 2023.  More than 190 countries were represented, with King Charles of the United Kingdom giving the opening address.

There was, of course, some controversy: the president of COP28 was Sultan al-Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.  Climate campaigners considered this inappropriate and illogical, but in his own words, “not having oil and gas and high-emitting industries on the same table is not the right thing to do. We need to reimagine this relationship between producers and consumers. We need this integrated approach.”  In fact, around 2,400 delegates connected to the coal, oil, and gas industries were in attendance, a number that has quadrupled from COP27.

For the first time, countries agreed on the need to start “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”.  

At the meeting, a landmark deal was also made to commit US$700m to the loss and damage fund to rehabilitate vulnerable countries affected by the climate crisis.  This fund was agreed at COP27 with the idea that wealthier countries pay poorer countries.  For decades, richer nations have been veering away from paying for their historic carbon emissions.  The US, for instance, wanted to make clear that its contribution to the fund was not compensation for past emissions.

Although its critics accuse the conference of letting business and governments promote climate credentials and policies without actually implementing the, the COP summits are important.  They offer the potential for global agreements, such as the 1.5C warming limit which was agreed on at COP21.

At the end of the day, it is up to the world to put into practice the resolutions of COP28 and future COPs.


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It is fair to say that climate change does not discriminate based on country – it is a global issue, although poorer nations tend to face greater effects from emissions. The Paris Agreement is a legally-binding international treaty, the world’s first in the field of climate change, bringing virtually all nations together to fight climate change. So significant and important is the agreement that US President Joe Biden recommitted to it on his first day in office in January 2021.

Entered into force in 2016, goals of the Paris Agreement are to:

Limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century and to keep them well below 2.0°C above pre-industrial levels.  Crossing the 1.5°C mark would put the world at risk of even more severe impacts on climate change and even more extreme weather.
Limit greenhouse gas emissions to the same levels that trees, soi, and oceans can naturally absorb between 2050 and 2100.  This is what we otherwise call “net zero”.

For the Paris Agreement to work, countries must submit their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in which they specify the actions they will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to adapt to rising temperatures. Every five years, countries are expected to update their NDCs.  Subsequent NDCs are meant to be more ambitious than the previous ones. Countries are also encouraged, but not required, to submit long-term strategies.

Developing countries produce more than half of today’s greenhouse gases but are limited by finances and capacity. These countries have been demanding funds for loss and damage incurred from the effects of climate change. Developed countries are therefore expected to take the lead in providing financial assistance (or climate finance) to more vulnerable countries and support them in their emissions control and adaptation efforts. At COP27 in 2022, countries agreed to setting up a fund, and at COP28, US$700m was committed.

However, the strength of the Paris Agreement, being an all-nations cooperative effort, is dependent on its many participants to remain committed to the joint task. Scientist also argue the need to assess the progress made toward its goals every year.


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The global population is facing a critical time in climate policy. Climate change has evolved from being a distant and abstract concept to a tangible reality. In 2023, we experienced the highest temperatures in 120,000 years. The world also saw the worst wildfires in recorded history, the most notable being in Canada, Greece, Spain, and Hawaii.

The existing energy framework we have was built for a different climate. Today, this system is no longer sufficient because of rising temperatures and more extreme weather – very hot summers and blistering winters. Hence, the world needs to find a balance between managing the existing levels of climate change and trying to hold off the rate of global warming.

The last few decades have seen the world rapidly develop clean energy technologies like wind- and solar-generated power. Electric cars are also accessible. We also have international frameworks in place like the Paris Agreement and the annual United Nations Climate Change Conferences which we colloquially refer to as COP. Energy transition has become a major talking point but, aside from being a popular topic, it is something the energy industry has come to take seriously.

In fact, oil and gas companies have been investing in renewables since the 1980s. Today, oil companies are committed to investing billions of dollars in energy efficiency. These companies are actually very well placed to lead the energy transition: they already have experience with large-scale projects, storage and transportation, and a deep understanding of the energy needs of consumers.

What we as the global population also need to consider is the affordability of clean energy for poorer countries. Roughly US$1 trillion is needed in investments in the power sector for developing countries to meet their climate goals. Demetrios Papathanasiou, Global Director of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank, says that “poorer countries are stuck in a vicious cycle where they pay more for electricity, cannot afford the high upfront cost of clean energy, and are locked into fossil fuel projects. In essence, they are paying a triple penalty for the energy transition.”

Furthermore, many of these countries do not have the strong governance that is so fundamental to signal to investors that the country is suitable for private investment into its clean energy transition.

Even in developed countries at the household level, high upfront costs of clean energy solutions make them inaccessible for those with lower incomes. Despite the long-term promise of electricity bill savings, making that switch can cost two-thirds of someone’s yearly salary.

The global move towards clean energy therefore requires solutions from governments and large corporations to uplift those who cannot afford it. At Cathay Petroleum, our teams are consistently researching our options to invest in clean energy with a view to support the global energy transition.


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