The Conference of the Parties (COP) is in Dubai this year - it commenced on 30 November and will run till 12 December. The location itself is contentious as the hosts are located in a region rich in oil and gas, which for decades have propped up its economy and financed the opulent resorts that consume key resources (like water) to function and attract tourists.
Given the backdrop it will likely be a challenge to keep world leaders on track with the major themes that need to be explored and engineer cooperation to tackle the pertinent issues associated with climate change, such as conserving our resources and protecting our environment.
Former discussions and debates have resulted in the formation of treaties to align with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as the Paris Agreement. The eyes of the world will be on the collective will of this year’s COP leaders to carry the targets forward.
Decisions made at COP events can shape the discourse around sustainable investment practices and leave a lasting impact on countries and companies worldwide as well as impact financial markets. These are the main COP28 themes that are being discussed, which may affect your investments and the environment:
Key issues on the COP28 agenda
1. Fossil fuel phase out
COP27 was criticised for not having an aggressive enough stance on phasing out fossil fuels. However, consensus is difficult to achieve among the almost 200 participants amidst influence from oil industry lobby groups, fossil fuel companies and countries like Russia who have opposed any phase out of fossil fuels.
Money also continues to flow into fossil fuels – according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) more than $1 trillion in new funding has been invested in this year alone. This, and the role oil plays in industry, makes putting a stop to its use soon a difficult task.
COP28 attendees will likely suffer similar pressure to address the ongoing use of fossil fuels, as the event will be held in one of the richest oil and gas producing nations. Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC Group), has been appointed COP28 president designate. His role has sparked controversy due to concerns about impartiality, given the company's plans to increase oil production. Sultan Al Jaber’s role continues to be a contentious one following reports that he’s using his position at COP to strike oil and gas deals.
While the influence from oil lobbyists should ideally be kept to a minimum, cutting them out entirely could be counterintuitive as they could provide much of the investment needed to finance the energy transition.
2. Land use, deforestation
COP28 will assess the progress of pledges made at COP26 to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, with a focus on China, Brazil, and the US. The main sectors involved in deforestation are agriculture (cattle farming, palm oil, rubber, soy and timber) and mining.
COP28 is expected to see countries signing a Food Systems Declaration, highlighting the importance of addressing food-related issues, including land use change, deforestation, , and regenerative farming.
3. Climate finance
The $100 billion per year commitment from rich to poor nations, which was supposed to be met by 2020, remains unfulfilled and requires renewed attention. Some believe that Al Jaber will call for private sector funding to assist less developed countries at COP28 and that a focus on climate finance will serve as a diversion from taking harder action on the use of fossil fuels.
4. Loss and Damage Fund
The purpose of the Loss and Damage Fund is to provide financial aid to poorer countries to cope with the negative consequences of climate change such as flooding, extreme heat waves, desertification and crop failures, to name but a few.
The concept of such a fund to help the most vulnerable territories has been mooted for over 30 years and was first proposed by Pacific Island nation Vanuatu.
The idea was that poorer countries that were at high risk from the impact of climate change but contributed the least to the overall problem would qualify for funding. However, unanswered questions persist around which countries qualify for this fund and what its focus should be. It is hoped that COP28 will address these concerns and enhance its effectiveness.
5. Global stocktake and Paris Agreement goals
COP28 will conduct the first global stocktake, evaluating the collective progress towards the 2015 Paris Agreement goals. The UN IPCC's report shows that efforts to limit the increase of the average global warming temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius are off track with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change predicting a likely increase between 2.1 degrees Celsius and 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2100, underscoring the need for urgent and comprehensive action.
6. Mental and physical health
The world’s continued dependence on fossil fuels also has an impact on mental and physical health. Extreme weather events, food insecurity, water scarcity and increasing air pollution have all been linked to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There’s a lot of evidence that fossil fuel combustion has a negative, worldwide impact on health, however, climate change negotiations have so far not taken this issue seriously enough. Health Policy Watch has highlighted its concern that COP28’s Climate and Health Draft Declaration ignores fossil fuels as a cause of ill health.
What is Evelyn Partners’ approach to Responsible Investing?
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is important to our investment processes and research. We believe Responsible Investing (RI) and good stewardship can help to drive change and improve company performance.
To ensure companies create change and embrace ESG initiatives, Evelyn Partners engages with listed corporates and voted at over 780 meetings in 2022.
The UN PRI and UK Stewardship Code 2020 obligations frame our Group’s investment process, policies, and procedures. We also engage with collaborative engagement platforms such as The Investor Forum and Climate Action +. We recently joined Nature Action 100, which is an initiative focused on reversing nature and biodiversity loss.
Through our membership with Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), we create more awareness around the risks of intensive animal farming practices and help to support the creation of a more sustainable food system.
We take ESG seriously and our efforts have been recognised. We were awarded ‘ESG Initiative of the Year’ at the International Adviser Awards in 2022. Investors can learn more about our approach and also help to drive change through our sustainable fund range.
The way forward on climate change
Past COPs have been criticised for their lack of action and while this is of concern, it leaves individuals and corporations with a bigger part to play. The state of the environment affects all of us.
COP28's outcomes, and the COPs to follow, will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of both our environment and our finances for years to come and we will watch developments at the conference with interest.
 World Economic Forum, Is 2023 going to be the hottest year on record?, 2023
The value of investments, and the income from them, may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested.
The content of this article is not advice, or a recommendation and you should not make any investment decision based on it.
Please note that some sustainable funds may, by definition, have a limited investment universe; this may affect their performance.