A few days ago, I posted at this blog my personal take on what happened at COP-28 in Dubai (and what didn’t happen). Feedback from readers indicates that some people found my assessment helpful and realistic, but it’s conceivable that some found it insufficiently enthusiastic. So, today, I’m pleased to offer some potential balance. It comes from my most recent podcast interview, which was with Amy Harder, the founding Executive Editor of Cipher News, who expresses her pleasant surprise with the outcome from the recent 28th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 28) in Dubai during a special post-COP episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.” The podcast is produced by the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. Listen to the interview here.
Amy Harder notes, “I think the results [of the COP], although not perfect, and certainly not as strong as some delegates had wanted, it’s certainly stronger than I had anticipated. I think this line in the… agreement about transitioning away from fossil fuels, this will be cited in every protest, and probably lawsuits in the coming years, decades, and centuries. And that’s a big deal. Even if it wasn’t a phase out or phase down, it still was stronger than I had thought was possible.”
Harder recognizes that it will be challenging to wean the world off fossil fuels, considering that aggregate energy consumption has continued to rise over the past three decades.
“We call it the energy transition, but we actually have only added clean energy on top of oil, natural gas, and coal. We actually haven’t even begun the process of displacing fossil fuels with clean energy. That’s because of growing energy demand, and a lot of other factors that we can get into. But those two goals – tripling [the production of] renewable energy, and [enhanced] energy efficiency… those can happen even while we continue being dependent upon fossil fuels.”
Harder also expresses surprise at the ease with which negotiators reached agreement on the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund, which is intended to help support developing countries suffering severe impacts from climate change.
“I think it was interesting and very strategically smart on behalf of the UAE government to come out of the gate on basically the first day of COP in Dubai with an agreement on loss and damage,” she says. “That was really set to be a controversial point that was really taken off the table relatively quickly in a positive way.”
Harder and I agree that the number of private companies and entrepreneurs at the COP continues to grow every year as they become more and more aware of the need to build awareness around clean energy technologies.
“We need… two to three different ledgers of climate action, and one is over time reducing fossil fuels, but two, commercializing the technologies that will replace them. And that’s what we saw in Dubai, and that’s really significant,” she remarks. “We can expect to see climate entrepreneurs attending COPs much more in the future now, and I think that’s significant, and we will only see that more as the Dubai consensus percolates into our society.”
She and I also agree that the lack of agreement at the COP on carbon markets (Article 6 of the Paris Agreement) was a significant disappointment.
“It really comes at a pivotal time for this industry, which has been facing… a lot of questions about the efficacy of carbon offsets and the markets themselves,” she says. “Hopefully at the next COP, with the Global Stocktake and the statement about fossil fuels in not only the review mirror but in motion… negotiators can really focus and get more resolution on the carbon markets question because it really is an essential part of managing carbon effectively in the decades and centuries to come.”
Finally, I hope you will listen to this 56th episode of the Environmental Insights series, with future episodes scheduled to drop each month. You can find a transcript of our conversation at the website of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. Previous episodes have featured conversations with:
- Gina McCarthy, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Nick Stern of the London School of Economics discussing his career, British politics, and efforts to combat climate change
- Andrei Marcu, founder and executive director of the European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition
- Paul Watkinson, Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Jos Delbeke, professor at the European University Institute in Florence and at the KU Leuven in Belgium, and formerly Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Climate Action
- David Keith, professor at Harvard and a leading authority on geoengineering
- Joe Aldy, professor of the practice of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, with considerable experience working on climate change policy issues in the U.S. government
- Scott Barrett, professor of natural resource economics at Columbia University, and an authority on infectious disease policy
- Rebecca Henderson, John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard University, and founding co-director of the Business and Environment Initiative at Harvard Business School.
- Sue Biniaz, who was the lead climate lawyer and a lead climate negotiator for the United States from 1989 until early 2017.
- Richard Schmalensee, the Howard W. Johnson Professor of Management, and Professor of Economics Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Kelley Kizier, Associate Vice President for International Climate at the Environmental Defense Fund.
- David Hone, Chief Climate Change Adviser, Shell International.
- Vicky Bailey, 30 years of experience in corporate and government positions in the energy sector.
- David Victor, professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego.
- Lisa Friedman, reporter on the climate desk at the The New York Times.
- Coral Davenport, who covers energy and environmental policy for The New York Times from Washington.
- Spencer Dale, BP Group Chief Economist.
- Richard Revesz, professor at the NYU School of Law.
- Daniel Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environment and Law at Yale University.
- William Hogan, Raymond Plank Research Professor of Global Energy Policy at Harvard.
- Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
- John Graham, Dean Emeritus, Paul O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University.
- Gernot Wagner, Clinical Associate Professor at New York University.
- John Holdren, Research Professor, Harvard Kennedy School.
- Larry Goulder, Shuzo Nishihara Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics, Stanford University.
- Suzi Kerr, Chief Economist, Environmental Defense Fund.
- Sheila Olmstead, Professor of Public Affairs, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin.
- Robert Pindyck, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Professor of Economics and Finance, MIT Sloan School of Management.
- Gilbert Metcalf, Professor of Economics, Tufts University.
- Navroz Dubash, Professor, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.
- Paul Joskow, Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics emeritus, MIT.
- Maureen Cropper, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland.
- Orley Ashenfelter, the Joseph Douglas Green 1895 Professor of Economics, Princeton University.
- Jonathan Wiener, the William and Thomas Perkins Professor of Law, Duke Law School.
- Lori Bennear, the Juli Plant Grainger Associate Professor of Energy Economics and Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University.
- Daniel Yergin, founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and now Vice Chair of S&P Global.
- Jeffrey Holmstead, who leads the Environmental Strategies Group at Bracewell in Washington, DC.
- Daniel Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry & Environmental Engineering at Harvard.
- Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago.
- Billy Pizer, Vice President for Research & Policy Engagement, Resources for the Future.
- Daniel Bodansky, Regents’ Professor, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University.
- Catherine Wolfram, Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, currently on leave at the Harvard Kennedy School.
- James Stock, Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University.
- Mary Nichols, long-time leader in California, U.S., and international climate change policy.
- Geoffrey Heal, Donald Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise, Columbia Business School.
- Kathleen Segerson, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Connecticut.
- Meredith Fowlie, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, U.C. Berkeley.
- Karen Palmer, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future.
- Severin Borenstein, Professor of the Graduate School, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.
- Michael Toffel, Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management and Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School.
- Emma Rothschild, Jeremy and Jane Knowles Professor of History, Harvard University.
- Nathaniel Keohane, President, C2ES