Jenny Ostridge: COP28 outcomes

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Jan 25, 2024

Jenny Ostridge, a Junior Consultant in the NECS Consultancy team, shares some of the outcomes from last month’s COP28 conference and links to NECS’ own Corporate Social Responsibility commitments.

“I am very passionate about sustainability and have been a member of NECS’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) working group for the past 18 months. The CSR working group is accountable for the delivery of the objectives in the NECS CSR strategy, the aim of which is to help us meet local and national legislation and guidance. We want to educate people and maintain a sustainable business, which is at the heart of our success and create a more sustainable, more inclusive society.

“Between 30 November and 12 December 2023, the 28th UN Climate Change Conference, or COP28, was held in the United Arab Emirates. Amidst debates about holding the summit in a petrostate, significant agreements among nations to combat climate change were achieved. The conference brought together over 80,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth and non-state actors.

“A highlight of COP28 was the initiation of the first global stock-take, a key outcome of the Paris Agreement (PA) for countries and stakeholders to collectively assess their progress toward meeting the Agreement’s goals. The primary objective of the PA is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and strive to restrict it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The results of the stock-take show that we are still significantly behind target, with 2023 being the highest ever year of greenhouse gas emissions. In order to limit temperature rise, greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut 43% by 2030.

“The global stock-take plays a pivotal role in determining nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs will be established in 2025, requiring each country to provide detailed information on their efforts towards achieving net-zero emissions. The NHS is aiming to be at net zero by 2045. NECS has targets that contribute towards this such as reducing water consumption by at least 8% from the 2017/18 baseline.

“As of September 2023, NECS was on track to reach net zero for controllable emissions by 2040. Since the 2017/2018 baseline figure, NECS’ 2022/23 tCO2e carbon footprint has reduced by 77% (2020/21 and 2021/22 are anomaly years due to COVID-19).

“Some of the other highlights from this year’s COP28 included:

  • Countries committed to continuing the global tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. These ambitious targets aim to accelerate the transition towards sustainable energy sources and reduce carbon emissions.

NECS’ own CSR strategy objectives include the increased use of LED lighting, upgrading and improvement of building management systems, wider roll out of sub-metering to include electricity, gas, water and heat, switching to non-fossil fuel heating, and increased on-site renewables.

  • Addressing the concept of ‘loss and damage’, COP28 acknowledged the irreversible harm caused by climate disasters and created the ‘loss and damage’ fund within the opening day of the summit. This fund will provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change. The establishment of the fund is a commendable step forward, garnering appreciation from numerous developing nations. However, there is a recognition that the fund’s potential shortfall in reaching the estimated billions of pounds necessary for addressing damages stems from a lack of mandate to secure pledges from affluent countries.
  • In a ground-breaking shift, COP28 witnessed nearly every participating country agreeing to transition away from fossil fuels. This marks the first instance in almost three decades of UN climate change meetings where fossil fuels were explicitly named in an agreement. However, concerns have been raised about potential loopholes in the agreement, as voiced by The Alliance of Small Island States.

“Within NECS, I led a piece of internal work in Consultancy last year to baseline our CSR activity and identify improvement opportunities. This initiative resulted in the establishment of a consultancy-wide group aimed at sharing best practice across regions. I’m a member of the NECS-wide CSR Working Group as well as the CSR Champions Network which aims to educate on CSR topics and promote initiatives amongst colleagues in different service lines.

“If you’d like to read more about what NECS has committed to in terms of CSR, the NECS2025 strategy paper sets out the organisational goals that we’re aiming to achieve over the next couple of years. In addition, the NECS Carbon Reduction Plan specifically focuses on actions to achieve net zero by 2045, in line with a greener NHS.”

Learn more about COP28