CISL's COP28 Week One:

An unmissable opportunity

The largest ever UN Climate Change Conference kicked off in Dubai last week at a critical time for the future of the planet. Since the groundbreaking Paris Agreement in 2015 at COP21, where 194 parties (193 countries plus the EU) agreed to limit the warming of the planet to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, little progress has been made. Later is too late.     

This year’s COP28 is more important than ever.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, demanded in his opening address, “We can – you can – prevent planetary crash and burn. We have the technologies to avoid the worst of the climate chaos – if we act now.”   

King Charles echoed the urgency, stating, “In your hands is an unmissable opportunity to keep our common hope alive. I can only urge you to meet it with ambition, imagination and a true sense of the emergency we face.” Now is the time for actions not just ambitions.   

And, so, The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) sent a delegation to the UAE with eight key ‘asks’, designed to unlock private sector ambition and galvanise negotiators to achieve the work set out in the Paris Agreement.    

The climate emergency is, by its very nature, complex. Affecting everyone on the planet. Therefore, solving the issues is also vastly complex and the solutions agreed are many - so we’ve collated the most significant commitments from COP28 week one below.   

Week two needs to see agreements on the Global Goal for Adaptation (the first draft was rejected), established in the Paris Agreement to enhance adaptive capacity. And an outcome on the first Global Stocktake. The big talking point is over two words: the critical phrasing of either ‘phase out’ or ‘phase down’. We know the world has to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030, but we’re currently on a path towards a 9% rise. Time is running out. A clear plan is needed.     

The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth

King Charles III


COP28 had barely begun when the promising news came on day one of the landmark Loss and Damage (L&D) Fund deal, potentially setting the tone for more positive declarations to come. Hard-fought to get on last year’s agenda in Egypt, but without planned logistics, it was crucial to secure the financial help for countries, especially those in the Global South, most affected by climate.   

A CISL ‘ask’ to include risk-sharing mechanisms to operationalise an L&D fund , this early news was welcomed and set a hopeful tone for further COP agreements. Initial funding was close to US$429m, albeit voluntary. CISL’s own report, Risk Sharing for Loss and Damage: Scaling Up Protection for the Global South, expands the mechanisms to achieve support for vulnerable countries using the economic efficiency of risk capital markets.   

What we've heard is a huge step forward to protecting the most vulnerable countries from carrying the full burden of the impacts of climate change

Dr Nina Seega, Sustainable Finance Director, CISL


The outcome of the first Global Stocktake, an assessment of progress towards achieving the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal, is a highly anticipated element of COP28. It serves as an inventory of what actions have been taken by countries to reduce emissions.

A draft text did the rounds in the Blue Zone of Dubai’s Expo City on Tuesday’s crucial Energy Day, with an announcement expected in week two (watch this space).  Read more in our CISL asks to take urgent 1.5C-aligned action and to phase out fossil fuels

Fossil fuels remain the single largest cause of climate change. Our economy has been built around their consumption, yet the science could not be clearer – we must transition to renewable energy or we miss making the targets of halving emissions by 2030 a reality”

Beverley Cornaby, Director of Corporate Leaders Group UK, CISL

white wind mills


COP28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber announced the Global Decarbonisation Accelerator (GDA), designed to steer nations toward the 1.5C pathway by committing to three key pillars: rapidly scaling the energy system of tomorrow; decarbonising the energy system of today; and targeting methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases (GHGs). More on the renewables and methane targets below...   

Every decision we make should be geared to say, 'Does this advance the 1.5 degrees or is it going to be more destructive and take us in the wrong direction?'

John Kerry, U.S. Special Climate Envoy


On day two, EU President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the Global Pledge on Renewables and Energy Efficiency, signed by 118 countries agreeing to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030. A smaller group of 22 nations agreed to a separate goal of tripling nuclear energy capacity by 2050. Commitment involves regular reviews, with annual assessments to track progress.   

The key to ensuring that communities – especially the most vulnerable – can leave fossil-fuel based economies behind, is to create space for a just transition to a green economy  

United Nations

photo of outer space


Announced: a Global Flaring and Methane Reduction Partnership, that will be run by the World Bank with an initial $255 million, to help developing countries and their oil companies stifle leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Some oil companies are resisting this.   

Another 50 oil and gas companies have signed an Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter – a voluntary charter to end methane emissions by 2030.   

Hosting a climate conference in a petrostate sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but there are signs that it could deliver real progress on climate

Justin Rowlatt, BBC Climate Editor, BBC News

photo of outer space


Dominating talks under a number of agendas, climate finance received a large boost on Finance Day with a new joint declaration from the four multilateral climate funds—the Adaptation Fund (AF), the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the Green Climate Fund (GCF).    

The GCF received record funding: governments also pledged, with US Vice President Kamala Harris announcing US$3bn to the Green Climate Fund, the main finance vehicle to help developing nations adapt to the climate crisis and cut fossil fuel pollution. If approved by Congress.  

One of our CISL asks of the Parties: to scale up private finance for emerging markets and developing economies.

Finance is a great enabler of climate action. Providing grant funding for developing countries can get both mitigation and adaptation projects off the ground. It builds momentum

Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary

bird's eye view photography of trees and body of water


World leaders of 134 countries adopted the breakthrough UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, committing to incorporating 1.5C-aligned food systems into nationally determined contributions (NDC) and national plans. Despite being responsible for a third of all human-caused emissions, the food agenda hasn’t been included in previous COPs - so a food systems declaration provides an innovative approach for the Parties to not address issues in silo.   

There is no path to achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and keeping 1.5C within reach that does not urgently address the interactions between food systems, agriculture, and climate

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and COP28 Food Systems Lead

Drone perspective of vineyard rows.


In another first for a COP, health was on the thematic schedule, raising the profile of health impacts of climate change. A declaration was announced: 70 states and 39 organizations backed the UAE declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace – in partnership with the World Health Organization. It includes a collective commitment to increase investment and actions to improve resilience in countries and communities affected by conflict, fragility, or humanitarian crises. Finance commitments announced included US$300m by the Global Fund to prepare health systems, US$100m by the Rockefeller Foundation to scale up climate and health solutions, and UK Government adding GBP £54m.  

“It’s astonishing to me that it has taken as long as it has to have health as the centrepiece of the climate discussion because the reality is that it is killing people around the planet. We should not measure progress on the climate crisis just by the degrees averted but by the lives saved” 

John Kerry, U.S. Special Climate Envoy


A new partnership launched on Gender Equality Day with the aim of protecting women’s livelihoods and supporting their economic empowerment: COP28: Partnership launched to support women's economic empowerment - ESG Clarity   

Sixty-three nations signed a Global Cooling Pledge to cut cooling-related pollution by at least 68% by 2050: COP28 pledge to curb cooling emissions backed by 63 countries | Reuters 

Al Gore wants voting to become majority decision not consensus: Al Gore Has a Plan to Stop Oil Producers From Controlling COP Meetings - Bloomberg 



Climate scientists released a damning tipping points report showing five important natural thresholds already risk being crossed: Global Tipping Points | Home (  

Global Carbon Project (GCP) annual report of global carbon cycle trends anticipates a 1.1% increase in global fossil CO2 emissions in 2023: Fossil Fuel Emissions Set to Reach Record High despite Clean Energy Growth (   

UN Adaptation Gap: Adaptation Gap Report 2023 | UNEP - UN Environment Programme   

UN Emissions Gap: As things stood on the eve of COP28 and the launch of this report, titled: ‘Broken Record: Temperatures hit new highs, yet the world fails to cut emissions (again)’, the world is heading towards limiting temperature rise to 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels this century. Emissions Gap Report 2023 | UNEP - UN Environment Programme

UN Production Gap: Production Gap Report 2023 | UNEP - UN Environment Programme   

CLG Europe's Materials & Products Taskforce released its report, 'Inclusive Circularity: Creating decent and fair jobs in the EU,' marking a significant stride in Europe's sustainable evolution. Read here:

Independent High-Level Expert Group on Climate Finance: A climate finance framework: decisive action to deliver on the Paris Agreement - summary - Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment (

UN Women launched a report showing how climate change will push up to 158 million more women and girls into poverty: Feminist climate justice: A framework for action | Publications | UN Women – Headquarters 


Dr Nina Seega, who leads our Centre for Sustainable Finance, wrote an opinion piece in Forbes about her thoughts on the $100 billion question of committing to support developing countries through climate change.

Eliot Whittington, our Chief Systems Change Officer, appeared on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to discuss the importance of COP28. Listen at 2h 10m 42s.

Corporate Leaders Group UK Director, Beverley Cornaby, spoke with Sarah George on the edie podcast on the CISL ‘asks’. You can listen to the interview from 12 minutes on the podcast.

Dr Nina Seega also spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live about the L&D announcement. Listen from 25mins.

Beverley Cornaby also spoke with Business Green on renewables.

And Beverley Cornaby wrote an opinion piece for Business Green.