Eva Morales and Samsurin Welch are the co-founders of HyveGeo
In Dubai this year, the largest-ever attended COP in history saw a gathering of almost 100,000 people, transcending beyond policymakers and governments. It signalled a global commitment to address the urgent climate crisis.
The outcome of COP28 received mixed reactions, especially regarding the language of “phase down” instead of “phase out” of fossil fuels. Yet the specific inclusion of “fossil fuels” into the agreement is still groundbreaking. For the 197 countries party to the agreement, meeting the commitment towards “deep, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 °C pathways” will, in reality, only be achievable with a significant reduction of fossil fuel use, especially if done “in keeping with the science”.
In many ways, the process of COP is as impactful, if not more so, than the specific agreement. As a convening platform, COP is the only event that brings together everyone, from large countries to small island nations, and an increasingly diverse spectrum of non-state actors spanning the private sector, investors, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, scientists, activists, indigenous communities, NGOs, and media around the climate issue.
If the real mission after COP28 is operationalisation and implementation of commitments, then arguably, the broader impact of COP28 is as the platform for innovation and collaboration. COP language serves as a north star for action beyond the agreement, providing market signals for public and private sectors. Just as the Paris Agreement put the 1.5C goal on everyone’s agenda, COP28’s position might remind public and private sector stakeholders that fossil fuel investment will inevitably lead to stranded assets while real opportunities lie in decarbonisation, renewable energy and cleantech sectors.
Understanding the true impact of COP requires looking beyond the formal negotiations among the parties in the Blue Zone. Instead, we must acknowledge the transformative initiatives that emerged from the Green Zone, particularly from startups and innovators. This year’s Green Zone featured 100 startups and scale-ups from around the globe, each tackling the climate challenge. Venturing into the Green Zone gave us the opportunity to explore many of these entrepreneurs and the exciting innovations they are building. Selecting a few highlights from the myriad of COP28 pledges, we illustrate some examples that have the potential to bring them to reality.
Fossil fuels phase down
The negotiations resulted in commitments to triple renewable energy production by 2030 and double energy efficiency through clean transportation and buildings, signalling a turning point in our energy systems. Some examples of ventures that can help accelerate this commitment:
Ohmium is developing electrolyser systems for cost-effective green hydrogen production, a critical element for decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors. What is interesting is their ongoing work on integrating desalination capabilities to enable hydrogen production from seawater.
Energy Source partners with manufacturers for repair, reuse and recycling of lithium-ion batteries. With the energy transition requiring a five-time increase in critical minerals by 2050 , such circular economy models will be required to alleviate resource pressures.
The loss and damage fund
This much-anticipated fund was established and agreed upon, with pledges totalling $729 million. Although falling short of the estimated $100 billion needed annually by 2030, it does lay the groundwork for supporting small island states and developing countries in climate change recovery.
Addressing loss and damage requires a hierarchy of mitigation, adaptation, and finally, reconstruction. Both technology and behaviour will play pivotal roles in averting loss and damage from climate change.
Bton Climate Positive Concrete: Bton develops a novel type of concrete that not only significantly reduces CO₂ emissions but also acts as a carbon sink while still conforming to international standards for construction. Cement production accounts for a mammoth 8 per cent of global emissions. Bton’s innovation can potentially help adaptation and reconstruction efforts in developing nations in sustainable ways.
For developing nations that are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change, technology-driven solutions like Bton are a transformative avenue for building better and more sustainable.
Climate and food systems
For the first time, food took centre stage with the Declaration on Resilient Food Systems, Sustainable Agriculture, and Climate Action, endorsed by 160 countries. Food systems contribute to 30 per cent of global GHG emissions. This linkage to climate action will catalyse investment in sustainable food initiatives.
Greening the desert: HyveGeo is a geoengineering company that turns sand into fertile land using microalgae-based agronomic products. By taking advantage of natural assets in desert regions, HyveGeo’s approach not only enhances food security but also contributes to carbon sequestration.
Article 6: carbon markets did not reach an agreement
Carbon markets is one area that was not delivered in COP28. While the scientific consensus is clear on the need for technical and financing mechanisms for carbon reduction and removal, market reform has been sorely needed. Article 6 is aimed at regulating international emissions trading and standardising approaches to ensure integrity and transparency. Unfortunately, negotiators failed to reach a consensus this time around. Still, interesting startups are pushing the boundaries and innovating in the field of carbon removal.
44.01 based on Oman, injects carbon dioxide into rock deep into the Earth, expediting the natural mineralisation process that locks away carbon permanently. Given the scientific mandate to remove 5-10 billion tonnes of carbon by 2050. 44.01’s technology takes advantage of the natural geology of the region to help address the urgency of carbon removal.
Despite the monumental challenge to meet global climate goals, we departed COP28 with a hopeful tone, inspired by the potential for startups and the innovations they are developing. The imperative is to ensure these innovations get the technical and financial support needed to scale up. COP28 has become a blueprint for future climate conferences, providing a platform for collaboration and innovation to make this happen.