What You Need to Know.

  • The fourth Day of COP28 saw the first-ever Health Day at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference.  In collaboration with the World Health Organization, Health Day included programing that showcased the links between the impacts of climate change on human health and methods for identifying and scaling adaptation measures to address these impacts.
  • Tensions and debate remained high around whether the world should commit to “phase out” or merely “phase down” fossil fuels.  On the same day that the Guardian reported statements from COP28 President Al Jaber that “[t]here is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the Day 3 pledges by several major oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from their pipelines by 2030 “clearly fall short of what is required” and “say[] nothing about eliminating emissions from fossil fuel consumption . . . .”
  • The UN’s High Level Expert Group on Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities launched a Taskforce on Net-Zero Policy to ensure the credibility and accountability of net-zero commitments.  Taskforce constituents include, among others, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the United Nations Environment Program – Finance Initiative, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Vulnerable 20 Group, and the International Financial Reporting Standards.  The taskforce’s objective is to share knowledge, practices, and insights that advance net-zero aligned policy.
  • During the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS), various governments and organizations unveiled $1.7 billion in new initiatives to further both climate and biodiversity goals, including $1 billion from a coalition of international institutions led by the Asian Development Bank.
  • On Day Two of the Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum—COP28’s multistakeholder engagement platform for the private sector—business and philanthropy leaders made additional pledges and announcements on renewable energy and green economy programs, commitments to preserving nature, a methane abatement accelerator, and  initiatives to decarbonize health supply chains.
  • The U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Earth Fund, and The Rockefeller Foundation presented the core framework of the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA), a carbon finance platform aimed at catalyzing private capital to support energy transition strategies in developing and emerging economies.  The ETA aims to connect willing sellers and buyers employing high-integrity carbon crediting to support faster energy transition.

Why This Matters for Businesses.

  • The United Nations estimates that an additional 250,000 deaths per year will occur in the next decade because of climate change.  The health impacts of climate will increasingly be marshalled in support of more stringent methods to address greenhouse gas emissions. These COP28 Health Day developments provide important context for understanding this trend in climate action. 
  • The dueling comments of the UN Secretary-General and the COP28 President on “phase out” versus “phase down” of fossil fuels, as well as the announcement of the PRI-led taskforce on net-zero policy, underscore the significant public scrutiny that will follow net-zero and other corporate climate commitments.  Such scrutiny is increasingly taking the form of binding regulatory requirements or translating into litigation over the integrity and transparency of climate-related commitments.
  • The State Department-led ETA will provide opportunities for private companies to support the energy transition in developing and emerging economies.  Already, various multinational corporations, including Amazon, Bank of America, and PepsiCo, have signed letters of interest in support of the ETA.
  • The Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum and WCAS pledges highlighted above demonstrate the importance of nature-based climate measures to global adaptation efforts and the global economy.  The COP28 Presidency noted that addressing nature-loss can save $104 billion in adaptation costs and has the potential to provide upwards of 30% of the CO2 mitigation action needed by 2030. 

Covington Commentary.

“Understanding climate change as a public health crisis is an important first step to developing coordinated, resilient responses to the warming that is already occurring and poised to continue if global ambition isn’t significantly scaled-up in the near term.”

Kevin Poloncarz, Partner, co-chair of Covington’s Environmental and Energy Practice Group, Energy Industry Group and ESG Practice.

More News and Developments

Covington’s multidisciplinary COP28 delegation includes leaders of Covington’s ESGEnvironmentEnergyProject Development and FinanceCorporate, and Public Policy practices, as well as our unique Carbon Management and Climate Mitigation (CM2) initiative. Our comprehensive and integrated global team is ready to assist clients as they prepare for COP28, engage with key stakeholders while there, and then strategize about and successfully implement ESG corporate policies aligned with COP28 goals.  Follow our Climate Hub for Businesses to stay up to date with the latest developments from COP28.

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Martin Levy

Martin Levy is an associate in the firm’s Washington’s office. He is a member of the Environmental and Energy Regulatory practice, focusing on low-carbon and renewable energy incentives, carbon markets, environmental marketing claims, and other corporate climate change initiatives. He advises power generators…

Martin Levy is an associate in the firm’s Washington’s office. He is a member of the Environmental and Energy Regulatory practice, focusing on low-carbon and renewable energy incentives, carbon markets, environmental marketing claims, and other corporate climate change initiatives. He advises power generators, technology companies, and financial institutions on how to better align their business practices with “net zero” commitments. Before joining Covington, Martin was a vetting attorney with the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition, a law clerk at the Eastern District of New York, and an undergraduate environmental law instructor at Boston College.

Photo of Kevin Poloncarz Kevin Poloncarz

Kevin Poloncarz represents a broad range of clients on policy, regulatory, litigation, commercial, and enforcement matters involving air quality, climate change, and clean energy. He co-chairs the firm’s Environmental Practice Group and Energy Industry Group.

Mr. Poloncarz is ranked by Chambers USA among…

Kevin Poloncarz represents a broad range of clients on policy, regulatory, litigation, commercial, and enforcement matters involving air quality, climate change, and clean energy. He co-chairs the firm’s Environmental Practice Group and Energy Industry Group.

Mr. Poloncarz is ranked by Chambers USA among the nation’s leading climate change attorneys and California’s leading environmental lawyers, with sources describing him as “a phenomenal” and “tremendous lawyer.” He was named an “Energy & Environmental Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal in 2017 and was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers in 2018.

He has extensive experience with California’s Cap-and-Trade Program, Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), and is recognized as a leading advisor on carbon markets. He also assists energy-sector clients in obtaining and defending state and federal approvals for major projects throughout California.

Mr. Poloncarz also assists clients with the development and execution of legislative and policy strategies supporting decarbonization, including carbon capture and sequestration, low-carbon fuels, advanced transportation and energy storage, and is a registered lobbyist in California and Oregon.