The Beginning of the End of the Fossil Fuel Era and Other Outcomes of COP28


On December 13, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) wrapped up. In a previous article, we covered expectations regarding the main negotiation vectors at COP28 and Ukraine’s role in climate negotiations. This article provides an overview of COP28 outcomes, their significance for Ukraine and the world, and the subjects that were of the highest importance for Ukraine.



1. Key Outcomes of COP28 by Priorities

1.1. Loss and Damage

1.2. Climate Finance

1.3. Reducing Emissions

1.4. Adaptation

1.5. Global Stocktake

1.6. Climate Justice and Gender Equality

1.7. Other Important Topics

2. Other Issues of Additional Importance to Ukraine that were Considered

3. The Ukrainian Climate Community’s Position based on COP28 Outcomes

4. Ukraine’s Pavilion and Its Concept

5. The War: Did COP28 Allow for Showing the Causal Relationship between Russia’s War against Ukraine and the Global Climate Crisis?

6. Further Steps

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On December 13, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) closed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), with a 17-hour delay caused by long discussions between countries that could not reach a consensus on all the issues at hand on time. Applauded by oil-producing countries, the conference eventually settled for vague wording, without due attention to the presentations by youth movements, civil society organizations, and island states.

However, the text of the final decision includes wording about “[t]ransitioning 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.”

Still, the parties arrived not only to discuss the official Paris Agreement-based agenda. The Ukrainian delegation took part in COP28 with its own publicly declared priorities:

  • Sign the Environmental Declaration;
  • Launch the Global Damage Assessment Platform announced by the President of Ukraine at COP27;
  • Start an international dialogue on developing a new mechanism for calculating and compensating loss and damage caused by armed conflict;
  • Consider the option of including this mechanism into the Paris Agreement in the future;
  • Call for assigning responsibility for an increased volume of greenhouse gas emissions due to reconstruction to the country that initiated the armed conflict.

Let us look further at these and other topics discussed by representatives of over 190 countries.

1. Key Outcomes of COP28 by Priorities

1.1. Loss and Damage

On the very first day of the conference, the parties managed to agree on establishing the Loss and Damage Fund. The fund received initial contributions of about USD 700 million, with the largest contribution made by the European Union (EU) – USD 300-400 million. However, these contributions mostly came from existing climate finance and development budgets, which did not meet the fund’s needs, representing less than 0.2% of the estimated economic and non-economic losses already faced by developing countries due to global warming.

Even though countries announced additional billions of funding from state budgets, the fund will require sustainable funding through fair taxes paid by major polluters. An international working group on taxation, set up at COP28, will study taxes in different sectors.

Recognizing the fund’s weaknesses, the Global Stocktake process highlighted significant funding gaps and the need for regular loss and damage reporting. Developed countries are yet to increase long-standing commitments to meet the real needs of those countries already suffering from the climate crisis.

For Ukraine, the issue of loss and damage appears in a somewhat different light, because according to the latest studies and calculations, Russia’s full-scale invasion caused 150 million tons of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere during the first 18 months of hostilities. The study authors noted that Russia should bear the responsibility for these emissions and their damage to the climate. However, there is no corresponding vehicle either in international climate policy or in international humanitarian law.

At a press conference during COP28, Ukraine’s Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Ruslan Strilets proposed developing an “aggressor refunds” mechanism with the international community. This initiative would compensate the losses caused to the environment and climate as a result of armed conflicts. Minister Strilets emphasized that the responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions during the war should be placed on the initiator of the aggression.

1.2. Climate Finance

Financing of climate action took center stage at the conference. The Green Climate Fund, created for this purpose, received a boost for its second replenishment, with six countries pledging additional contributions during COP28, bringing the total pledges to a record USD 12.8 billion from 31 countries. Further contributions are expected.

Eight donor governments announced new commitments to the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund totaling more than USD 174 million. At the same time, new financial commitments to the Adaptation Fund reached almost USD 188 million.

However, these promises are not enough. Supporting developing countries in their renewable energy transition and implementing their climate plans and adaptation efforts will take trillions of dollars. To secure such financing, the Global Stocktake emphasizes the importance of reforming the multilateral financial architecture and accelerating the ongoing creation of new and innovative funding sources.

COP28 participants also discussed establishing a new collective quantified goal for climate funding (NCQG) for 2024 in view of the needs and priorities of developing countries. The new goal, which will start from a baseline of USD 100 billion per year, will be a building block for designing and subsequently implementing national climate plans that need to be delivered by 2025. At COP29, governments must establish a new climate finance goal, reflecting the scale and urgency of the climate challenge.

Ukraine’s position on achieving the new climate finance goal is clear-cut: the fund must be actively financed, including for the needs of rapid recovery during the war and long-term post-war recovery. To deliver on the Paris Agreement goals, recovery has to take place within the principles of sustainable development and “building back better.” Ukraine will need climate finance to ensure reconstruction while also complying with the 1.5° scenario, says Ukraine’s official position. “NCQG could be multilayered, encompassing diverse finance sources such as public and private, provided and mobilized. Public finance needs to be at the core, being supplemented by private and other sources of finance. For Ukraine, it is important to reflect in NCQG the need to support recovery efforts in post-conflict regions, helping the countries rebuild destroyed assets and infrastructure under the Build Back Better principles.”

At the same time, Ukraine’s delegation made every effort to block the calls of some participants regarding the need to put an end to wars worldwide and redirect military funds to climate action. Ukraine’s official position – “negotiations on ending the war are impossible as long as aggressor troops remain on the territory of Ukraine” – is justified regarding the current situation in Ukraine but may be viewed as blocking potential additional funds for climate finance.

1.3. Reducing Emissions

Even before the negotiations took off, COP28 participants expressed some skepticism about the possible outcomes of the conference, given it took place in a country literally built on oil money. Moreover, Sultan Al-Jaber, head of the oil company ADNOC, was appointed as the president of COP28 in the UAE.

In November, during a live broadcast with former UN Special Envoy Mary Robinson, Al-Jaber momentarily forgot his prepared answers and said, “There is no scientific evidence or scenario that says phasing out fossil fuels will achieve 1.5°C.” He also dismissed Robinson’s call for a phase-out as “panicky” and said it would “take the world back to the caves.”

During the final day of negotiations, many countries strongly advocated for a more ambitious outcome. Achieving the most important global goal – limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – requires urgent and complete abandonment of fossil fuels, the main drivers of the climate crisis. While the final agreement does not clearly outline that course, it is consistent with the required emissions reduction targets: a 43% reduction by 2030 and 60% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. The agreement emphasizes that industrialized countries and those that have historically produced more greenhouse gases must take the lead on this issue.

In addition, the agreement calls on countries to take critical action, such as tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030, which are crucial steps towards achieving these goals. Unfortunately, it also includes controversial solutions such as nuclear power and carbon capture and storage technologies.

Not all developing countries were enthusiastic about abandoning fossil fuels. “Telling us to abandon fossil fuels is an insult. It’s like telling Uganda to remain poor,” said the country’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu. She added that Uganda would be open to a “long-term opt-out” but only if “developing countries can exploit their resources in the near future, while rich producers who have been in the market for a long time opt out first.”

1.4. Adaptation

During the negotiations, the parties were unable to agree on a specific and measurable adaptation goal; however, they managed to adopt a general framework. This is an important step forward in achieving the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), designed to help countries with their efforts to protect people and ecosystems from climate change.

Much of the effort during the negotiations was focused on technical issues. The parties agreed on wording and some goals in the context of water conservation, food security, health, ecosystems, infrastructure, poverty eradication, and preservation of cultural heritage. Within these themes, the parties discussed sub-goals that countries could work on, though the final text still ended up with rather vague wording like “achieving sustainability” or “reducing the impact.”

The following can be considered positive achievements in terms of adaptation measures:

  • Deciding to double the adaptation fund by 2025 and prepare a report on this process;
  • Carrying out an assessment of climate vulnerability by countries (by 2030) and creating an early warning system for risks (by 2027);
  • Introducing a national, gender-sensitive, participatory, and fully transparent national adaptation plan (by 2030);
  • Achieving progress with implementing developed plans in accordance with purpose-built monitoring and evaluation systems of national adaptation efforts (by 2030).

With the understanding that adaptation processes depend on the specifics of each individual country, this framework with its goals and sub-goals is considered a roadmap for countries, and its adoption at COP28, albeit without adequate funding, can be considered a significant achievement.

1.5. Global Stocktake

The Global Stocktake at COP28 is the first report on countries’ efforts to address the climate crisis and assess whether the world is on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C. These first monitoring reports already make it clear to us that our current efforts are insufficient. That is why the public and a number of delegations took positions, yet again, at the COP to identify fossil fuels as the leading cause of anthropogenic climate change and to abandon them. And this year, change was finally achievable.

However, for the first time in almost 30 years, the final document resulting from negotiations includes a call regarding “[t]ransitioning 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.” In addition, the text repeats the wording from COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, about gradually ceasing the use of coal energy, but does not mention the cessation of new coal-fired power generation projects.

Despite this rather progressive phrasing, considering the context of this year’s negotiations, the conference still failed to reach an agreement on fully abandoning fossil fuels, even though this item was in the first drafts of the document and is absolutely necessary to maintain global warming at a level below 1.5°C.

The document also contains a number of decisions on decarbonization, which are controversial or potentially harmful or risky to the ambition of joint climate action. We would like to highlight the following:

  • Accelerating the implementation of zero- and low-emission technologies, “including ... carbon capture, utilization, and storage” (which in the future can be used to cover up emission reduction scenarios with low ambition);
  • Recognizing the need to significantly reduce methane emissions by 2030, but without target indicators for the process (though previous iterations of the document did include figures);
  • Regarding fossil fuel subsidies, the text calls for the soonest possible termination of “inefficient … subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions” (though all forms of subsidizing fossil fuels should be stopped);
  • An amendment that Russia lobbied for that “recognizes that transitional fuels can play a role in facilitating the energy transition while ensuring energy security,” also recognizing the role of gas as an important transitional fuel (even though no fossil fuel can be viewed as such).

1.6. Climate Justice and Gender Equality

Unfortunately, references to human rights and gender-based approaches were removed from the final text. The response of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was disappointing. While the final text “is an improvement and does reflect a number of proposals made by small island developing states,” the alliance added in a written statement, it contains “a litany of loopholes,” leaving plenty of opportunity for increasing fossil fuel production. Due to the loopholes, the final COP decision is “gradual, rather than transformational.”

1.7. Other Important Topics

COP28 launched a wave of new international pledges covering everything from methane emissions by oil and gas companies to increasing renewable energy capacity, tripling global nuclear generation, sustainable food systems, and biodiversity loss. Among key declarations, which Ukraine also joined, are the following:

  • Declaration on sustainable agriculture, resilient food systems and climate action. For the first time, more than 130 countries pledged to take responsibility for climate change caused by food and agriculture.
  • Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge. Initiated by the EU and signed by more than 110 countries, the goal is to triple the available renewable energy capacity to 11 terawatts by 2030 and double the rate of energy efficiency improvements.
  • Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy by 2050. More than 20 countries signed this declaration, which “recognizes the key role of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • Declaration on Climate and Health. Signed by more than 120 countries, it sets priorities for climate change and health and supports including health issues in the climate agenda.
  • Declaration on Climate Relief, Recovery, and Peace. More than 70 countries and nearly 40 organizations have endorsed this declaration, which cements a collective commitment to increase investment and action to increase the resilience of countries and communities affected by conflict, instability, or humanitarian crisis.

In addition, this year, Ukraine signed the Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action, drafted at COP25 in Madrid, Spain. Together with more than 40 countries, Ukraine thus declares its intention to protect the rights of children and young people to a clean environment, in particular in the context of “green recovery.”

As illustrated by the experience of previous COPs, such declarations often remained nothing but promises, since they were not enshrined in the official decisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and not duly supported by financial tools.

Unlike the goals of the other declarations listed above, tripling the renewable energy capacity and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030 did end up in the final text of the Global Stocktake decision. This is crucial, since alongside reducing methane emissions from fossil fuel production, achieving the goals on renewable energy sources (RES) and energy efficiency could provide the 80%-reduction of emissions required in this decade to reach the 1.5°C trajectory.

In addition to mentioning the official text, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU would allocate EUR 2.3 billion to support energy transition in neighboring countries and worldwide over the next two years to support the Global RES and Energy Efficiency Pledge. In general, many countries, banks, and other players have announced the allocation of additional funds for climate action as part of various initiatives. Although the total pledge is an additional hundreds of millions, if not billions of U.S. dollars, experts believe this is still insufficient to cover all the global needs (especially in developing countries) to accomplish the goal of the Paris Agreement.

2. Other Issues of Additional Importance to Ukraine that were Considered

Undoubtedly, the key issues that interest Ukraine in the international arena include engaging financial support and bringing Russia to justice for the damage caused to the population, the economy, and the environment. In addition, due to Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territories since 2014, Ukrainian diplomats and lawyers ensure that international UN reports should mention the support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders.

Access to climate finance, through the Loss and Damage Fund or carbon markets in Article 6, are issues that Ukrainian negotiators are closely following. Unfortunately, there were no significant developments in the Article 6 arrangements at COP28. And in terms of loss and damage from climate change, Ukraine is far from the top country that can claim financial support.

Considering the nature of the situation, the Ukrainian government, civil society organizations, and experts brought up greenhouse gas emissions as a result of war, military operations, and the military sector in general. Thus, Ukraine is pursuing an important goal: find or develop international legal instruments to hold aggressor countries accountable for additional emissions from conflicts and include negative climatic consequences in the register of losses through estimating the cost of emissions related to war. Despite some interest from the media and climate experts, this issue has not yet received widespread attention. It remains a sensitive issue for many states, as there are currently no international obligations for countries to disclose or reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the military sector, although it is estimated that emissions from it may amount to more than 5% of global emissions.

3. The Ukrainian Climate Community’s Position based on COP28 Outcomes

Ukrainian public position has remained unchanged for years now: there should be more determination and ambition to achieve climate neutrality. The only difference is that over time, the public’s voice is increasingly taken into account, and we are better positioned to advocate for positive change. What was accomplished this year?

Let us briefly recall the Ukrainian Climate Network’s key requirements before COP28:

  1. Abandon fossil fuels.
  2. Regulate liability for climate damage from armed conflicts.
  3. Ecosystems and biodiversity conservation: before the next round of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), it is important to align countries’ climate ambitions with the goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Framework Agreement on Biodiversity.
  4. Carbon markets: comply with the additionality criterion and prevent double counting of emission reduction units.
  5. Strengthening Ukraine’s participation in global climate initiatives: present the plan to abandon coal in the energy sector (Powering Past Coal Alliance initiative); reduce methane emissions (Global Methane Pledge); and join the Declaration on Forests and Land Use and the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (BOGA), an international coalition of governments and partners working together to facilitate the phase-out of oil and gas production.

Based on the conference outcomes, Ukrainian civil society organizations believe that at COP29, Ukraine should:

  • Come with clear proposals that go beyond the scope of the negotiations. Signing the Environmental Declaration is a good step, but declarative bilateral agreements often remain valid only on paper.
  • Get involved with a broader spectrum of negotiating issues (not only access to funding). To achieve this, negotiations should include representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food.
  • Expand political partnerships, including with the countries of the Global South, both in terms of adapting to climate change and setting up communication in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
  • Further involve civil society organizations and youth long before negotiations, but include negotiating issues into the discussion, rather than be limited to generic consultations.

4. Ukraine’s Pavilion and Its Concept

For the second time, Ukraine had its own physical representative space, a pavilion, at the COP. Compared to COP27, the Ukrainian pavilion area was much larger, which allowed for not only expanding the exposition on environmental damage from the war, but also setting up a negotiating room that was used for high-level meetings.

In addition to events and meetings, the Ukrainian pavilion was meant to demonstrate the negative consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine on the environment and solutions to overcome this negative impact. To follow up on last year’s “missile crater,” this year, Ukraine demonstrated a house flooded as a result of Russia blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant (HPP). This was the first of the three key visual sections in the pavilion, telling the story of the catastrophic explosion at the dam, flooding dozens of communities and killing over 50 people. The second section was dedicated to Ukrainians’ resilience and bravery on the path of green reconstruction of their country (visualization of construction of Tylihulska wind power plant, the first one of its kind to be built during the war). Exhibits in the third section provided a detailed description of the impact that war has on the environment, making use of augmented reality (AR).

The pavilion was quite active, with events organized both by the official Ukrainian delegation and the public, both Ukrainian and international. In addition, the pavilion was visited by foreign partners, including:

  • Special Representative of the President of the United States on Climate Issues, John Kerry;
  • Secretary General of the Estonian Ministry of Climate Keit Kasemets and former President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid;
  • President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová;
  • European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius;
  • European Commissioner for Climate Affairs Wopke Hoekstra;
  • Ministers of Ecology of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Moldova, the Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, and New Zealand.

Most government events were conducted in the rhetoric of Clause 8 of President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula, “Environmental Security.” A lot of attention was also dedicated to digitalization processes and setting up international cooperation around initiatives proposed by Ukrainian government structures, mainly the Environmental Declaration and the Global Damage Assessment Platform.

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Among the key focus areas of the event part, the following prevailed:

  • Energy security and independence; transition to net zero and decarbonization of the Ukrainian energy sector; hydropower during the war;
  • “Green reconstruction” and the challenges it faces due to the ongoing hostilities; the role of businesses in “green reconstruction”;
  • Calculating damage caused to the environment as a result of hostilities, with discussions of both official government data and research by the non-governmental organization (NGO) EcoAction;
  • Communities, their participation in reconstruction processes, and movement towards carbon neutrality.

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As part of other events, issues considered included climate education, using artificial intelligence (AI) to work with reconstruction, agroecology and nature-oriented solutions, gender aspects of reconstruction, and others.


Additionally, we would like to highlight the participation of Crimean Tatar representatives in the events at the pavilion, not only as an indigenous people, but also as part of the Ukrainian community affected by Russia’s armed attack all the way back from 2013. In addition, during the event “War against Environment: Protecting Dams and Nuclear Power Plants,” for the first time the direct link was highlighted between the catastrophic environmental impact of the explosion at the Kakhovka HPP and capture of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP), and human rights violations as a result of the subsequent flooding and torture of plant employees. Both events resulted in calls to bring Russia to justice for the damage caused as well as to include the notion of “ecocide” in international legal terminology.

This year, the subject of food security was hardly covered at the pavilion.

It is also worth noting that since May 2023, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources has held periodic online meetings with members of the public on organizing events in the pavilion and covering information about them during COP28.

Sadly, interest in the Ukrainian pavilion significantly decreased compared to the previous year. This is based on:

  • Decreased number of high-ranking pavilion guests;
  • Overall lower number of visitors at events;
  • Fewer representatives of international media during Minister Ruslan Strilets’ press conference.

This may be due to the overall decrease in interest in Ukraine due to the dominance in the information space of the Hamas war against Israel and due to the location of pavilions . Last year in Egypt, pavilions in the blue zone were located in one sectioned-off building, while in Dubai, the buildings were separate, making visits to pavilions more intentional. Thus, part of the audience potentially interested in events could have been lost due to low foot traffic.

Overall, the pavilion was successful and showcased the value of cooperation among different stakeholders: government representatives and the negotiating delegation, the public, business, and academia. However, in order to maintain the global community’s focus on Ukraine next year, it is definitely worth working even more actively on engaging visitors to the pavilion and expanding the thematic variety of events.

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5. The War: Did COP28 Allow for Showing the Causal Relationship between Russia’s War against Ukraine and the Global Climate Crisis?

Unlike in 2022, the consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine for Europe and the world did not sound as frequently or as loudly. The focus was on the war in Israel and Gaza, and the tension was felt both in the negotiation hall and outside it. World media noted that the issue of climate change was “relegated to the background” during the World Climate Action Summit of global leaders on December 1, as several heads of state used their speeches to discuss this war, while others opted out of the event in protest.

Since President Zelenskyy did not speak at the summit, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda was almost the only leader who directly reminded the world during his speech: “Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine has caused enormous damage to the environment, and the actions of the aggressor are incompatible with international law and run counter to joint efforts of the world aimed at stopping climate change.” And despite Putin’s visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia during COP28 to discuss oil deals with those countries, the media’s focus was on the Emirates as the host of the summit, rather than on Russia and the impact of Russian warfare on the climate crisis.

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6. Further Steps

Negotiations on the “enhanced transparency system” at COP28 laid the groundwork for a new era in implementing the Paris Agreement. The UN Climate Change Division is developing transparent reporting and analysis tools for parties to use that were demonstrated and tested at COP28. Final versions of the reporting tools should be available to parties by June 2024.

The parties agreed on Azerbaijan hosting COP29 on November 11-22, 2024, and Brazil as the host of COP30 on November 10-21, 2025.

The next two years will be critical. At COP29, governments must establish a new climate finance goal, reflecting the scale and urgency of the climate challenge. And at COP30, they will have to prepare for new nationally determined contributions that apply to the whole economy, cover all greenhouse gases, and fully comply with the 1.5°C limit.