What You Need to Know.

  • The UNFCCC has released a draft text of the negotiated outcome of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The draft text currently includes four options to address the question of “phasing out” versus “phasing down” the use of fossil fuels, with the strongest option’s wording being “[a] phase out of fossil fuels in line with best available science.”  Options with weaker wording would call on the Parties to the Paris Agreement to take action towards “phasing out unabated fossil fuels and to rapidly reducing their use so as to achieve net-zero CO2 in energy systems by or around mid-century.”
  • The distinction between “abated” and “unabated” fossil fuels and the meaning of “abated” are being hotly debated, with many commentators warning about the potential of creating a loophole through legal ambiguity.  This draft text will form the basis of intense high-level negotiations between global leaders over the next days.
  • Vanuatu and Tuvalu have renewed calls for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation treaty to address the climate crisis.  Such a treaty is being promoted by supporters as an alternative to the COP process if world leaders cannot agree to phase out fossil fuels.
  • The governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan—until recently at war with each other—issued a joint statement acknowledging not only a “historical chance to achieve long-awaited peace in the region” but confirming that as a “sign of good gesture” Armenia would support Azerbaijan’s bid to host COP29.  Hours later, Russia reportedly blocked Azerbaijan’s bid, according to EU diplomats.  If countries cannot agree, Germany will be the default host country.  Looking further ahead, COP30 in 2025 is widely expected to be hosted by Brazil.
  • December 8 was “Youth Day,” and featured events focused on empowering and elevating the voices of young people in the climate negotiation process.  Shamma Al Mazrui, COP28’s “Youth Climate Champion” and the UAE’s Minister of Community Development, stated in remarks, “when young people have a seat at the table and a voice in decision making they become agents of change.”
  • Leading up to COP28, a “Global Youth Statement” that synthesizes collective climate policy demands and proposals of young people, was provided to the UNFCCC and COP28 Presidency by YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC.  The statement includes demands for a “just, equitable and secure transition to a fossil fuel phase-out” and more financial support for vulnerable communities to address the impacts of climate change.

Why This Matters for Businesses.

  • The negotiations on the Global Stocktake and the resolution, in either direction, of the “phase out versus phase down” debate will be an important signal for the seriousness of governments’ climate policy in the coming years.  As the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States has made clear, businesses stand to gain from aligning their objectives with the trajectories of national climate policies.  And the numerous declarations made by members of the private sector over the course of COP29 demonstrate that many businesses are committed to act even without government taking the lead.
  • The host nation and respective COP President-Designate has strong repercussions for the outcome of the COP and in turn for the business community.  The COP28 Presidency not only influences the substantive agenda for the conference but also the venue and general organization of the meetings and negotiations.  With COPs increasingly serving as a global agora for climate change and energy issues—and COP28 being the largest ever conference with over 84,000 attendees —businesses should monitor how next year’s COP Presidency provides space and support to non-government stakeholders from the private sector and civil society.

Covington Commentary.

“While public attention over the next days will focus on the important ‘phase out’ debate, our planet’s warming will also be impacted by the dozens of less visible compromises on procedures and concrete commitments under the COP umbrella.  It is important for leaders to get out of their ‘comfort zones’ on these issues as well.  Together, these commitments can help or hinder real, meaningful climate action.” 

Carol Browner, Senior Of Counsel, ESG Practice Group

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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Photo of Paul Mertenskötter Paul Mertenskötter

Paul Mertenskötter is an associate in the firm’s Brussels office and a member of the Public Policy and International Trade practice groups. He advises multinational companies, governments, and other clients on a range of matters related to public policy, international trade, and new…

Paul Mertenskötter is an associate in the firm’s Brussels office and a member of the Public Policy and International Trade practice groups. He advises multinational companies, governments, and other clients on a range of matters related to public policy, international trade, and new technologies. Mr. Mertenskötter’s practice encompasses advising clients on the European Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy, including on the Payment Services Directive (PSD 2).

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Mertenskötter clerked at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and was a Fellow at the Institute for International Law and Justice at NYU Law School. His work has been published with Oxford University Press and the Cornell Law Review.

Photo of Carol Browner Carol Browner

Carol M. Browner brings nearly four decades of experience advising on environmental and energy policies affecting global energy, environmental, public health, and business matters.

She provides counsel to industry leaders in the energy, transportation, and consumer product sectors on regulatory matters, environmental impact…

Carol M. Browner brings nearly four decades of experience advising on environmental and energy policies affecting global energy, environmental, public health, and business matters.

She provides counsel to industry leaders in the energy, transportation, and consumer product sectors on regulatory matters, environmental impact issues, corporate sustainability approaches, and strategic partnership development to advance clean energy, ESG, and other business priorities.

Carol joins the firm after serving as Senior Counselor in the Sustainability practice of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm.

Carol served as Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, where she oversaw the coordination of environmental, energy, climate, transport, and related policy across the U.S. federal government. During her tenure, the White House secured the largest investment ever in clean energy and established the national car policy that included both new automobile fuel efficiency standards and first ever greenhouse gas reduction standards.

Carol is the longest serving Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As Administrator, she adopted the most stringent air pollution standards in U.S. history; set the first fine particle clean air standard; and spearheaded the reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act as well as the Food Quality Protection Act. Carol was known for working with both environmentalists and industry to set science-based public health protections while providing businesses important flexibilities in how to meet those standards. She worked across the agency to ensure a focus on protecting vulnerable populations and promote environmental equity.

Additionally, Carol serves on a number of boards of directors advising on environmental and energy issues, including as Chair of the Board of the League of Conservation Voters, as Chair of the Sustainability Committee of the Board of Directors for Bunge Limited, and as a Board Member of Innovyze.

Photo of Jayni Hein Jayni Hein

Jayni F. Hein co-chairs the firm’s Carbon Management and Climate Mitigation industry group.

Jayni joins the firm after serving as Senior Director for Clean Energy, Infrastructure & the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

During…

Jayni F. Hein co-chairs the firm’s Carbon Management and Climate Mitigation industry group.

Jayni joins the firm after serving as Senior Director for Clean Energy, Infrastructure & the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

During her tenure at CEQ, she oversaw the Biden Administration’s ambitious environmental and clean energy agenda, leading work on low carbon projects and climate disclosure, and advancing the successful implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (2021) and Inflation Reduction Act (2022).

Jayni has extensive experience advising clients on NEPA, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act issues, as well as energy development on public lands. As the former senior political appointee spearheading work to revise NEPA regulations and issue guidance on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, Jayni offers clients first-hand experience with infrastructure projects that require federal and state permits and authorization. She helps clients identify new funding opportunities and successfully advance clean energy and other infrastructure projects, including onshore and offshore wind, solar, hydrogen, transmission, semiconductor, and carbon, capture, sequestration, and utilization (CCUS) projects.

In addition, leveraging her government experience, Jayni advises companies and investors on ESG compliance and strategy in light of increased scrutiny of corporate climate and net-zero commitments. She advises clients on the legal and policy issues relating to ESG and climate-related regulatory requirements, investor demands, global reporting frameworks, and strategic business opportunities.

Clients benefit from her ability to creatively troubleshoot issues, establish relationships across government, and engage policymakers, industry, non-profit organizations, and other key stakeholders in constructive conversations around climate change, environmental justice, and corporate decarbonization goals.

Prior to CEQ, Jayni led energy and climate work at think tanks at NYU Law and Berkeley Law.