Two men, one in traditional Saudi dress and the other in a suit, embrace on the stage of COP 28 while others clap in the background

"The Most Significant Decisions Since the Paris Agreement" - IISD’s Experts on COP 28 Outcome

The UN's Climate Change Conference concludes with wins and disappointments. The most significant set of decisions since the Paris Agreement stirs mixed feelings among experts around the world. While many celebrate it as the end of the fossil fuel era, there are concerns about severe shortcomings in adaptation and worrisome loopholes in mitigation sections of the text. IISD experts unpack the COP 28 decisions, sharing insights and mapping the way forward. 

December 13, 2023

COP 28 Outcome

Nathalie Bernasconi, Interim Co-President and Co-CEO | Vice-President, Global Strategies and Managing Director, Europe at IISD

"COP 28 outcomes represent significant wins overshadowed by disappointments. While we celebrate the historic deal on financing for loss & damage and the commitment to transition away from fossil fuels—adopted for the first time—we can’t ignore the heartbreaking letdowns on adaptation and the dangerous loopholes in mitigation. The decisions adopted today in Dubai will impact the most vulnerable communities on earth, leaving them underprepared, underfinanced, and exposed to the consequences of global warming breaching the 1.5°C threshold."

Jennifer Allan, Team Leader/Writer/Editor, IISD-Earth Negotiations Bulletin

"This is the most significant set of decisions since the Paris Agreement. Countries agreed to a common diagnosis of the problem—fossil fuels. The outcome could be stronger on the next steps. It sets broad goals. We will see in Brazil in 2025 if this outcome leads to stronger pledges to the Paris Agreement. In the meantime, those most vulnerable were visibly upset at the end, crying even. Some said they were not in the room when the gavel fell. They didn't stand in the way of the agreement, but small islands' views sharply diverge from the positivity expressed by others."


Greg Muttitt, Senior Associate, IISD 

"COP 28 has brought the central cause of climate change to the fore, and, for the first time, an equitable transition away from fossil fuels is an agreed, negotiated outcome. It is disappointing that the COP 28 formal decision falls short of an explicit call for a full phase out of fossil fuels, as the science demonstrates is crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement goals. Equally, the text still includes loopholes countries might use to avoid or delay action to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, such as the qualifier 'inefficient' and the vague 'as soon as possible' timeline. Nonetheless, phasing out of fossil fuels now has unstoppable momentum. The recognition of equity requires developed countries both to reduce production and consumption fastest, and to provide substantial support to enable poorer countries' differentiated just transitions. And as governments return home, we urge them to implement the phaseout they discussed in Dubai, including by stopping any new fossil fuel projects and public finance for them."

Jonas Kuehl, Policy Analyst, IISD

"COP 28 concluded with a commitment to transition away from fossil fuels, and reforming fossil fuel subsidies is a key element to help make this happen. The new deal—which commits to 'phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible'—builds off a stronger EU position but leaves room for improvement. For instance, it articulates more clearly the exceptional cases when subsidies may be justifiable, which is important for defining what 'inefficiency' means in practice. Countries will need to come together in 2024 to eliminate the term 'inefficient' and the ambiguity it creates. Similarly, the timeline 'as soon as possible' fails to provide accountability to the pledge and must not become the new “in medium term” set by G20 in 2009 that led to slow progress for close to 15 years. To be very clear, 'as soon as possible' should mean 2025 for developed countries and 2030 for developing countries in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), and the existing G7 commitment and Sustainable Development Goal 12."


Anne Hammill, Associate Vice President, Resilience, IISD

"The newly adopted COP 28 decision on the Global Stocktake is unacceptably weak and does not reflect the urgent need of ramping up adaptation actions and support. All countries need to do more to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerabilities."

"For many countries, adaptation is a matter of survival. COP 28 failed to send a strong political signal on the need to ramp up both adaptation action and support. Progress on adaptation is crucial in this critical decade to fill the ambition and implementation gap."

Orville Grey, Head of Secretariat, NAP Global Network

"The Global Stocktake decision at COP 28 recognized the significant progress developing countries have made in adaptation planning and implementation through their NAP process. At the same time, it also acknowledged that challenges remain, and countries need to urgently ramp up adaptation action and support. The NAP process is at the centre of developing countries’ efforts to adapt to climate change. The Global Stocktake decision tells us that more needs to be done to support the transition from planning to implementation."

Jeffrey Qi, Policy Advisor, Resilience, IISD

"The Global Stocktake (GST) should have been a clarion call to countries to enhance their ambition, action and support. The COP 28 decision did not live up to this promise. What matters now lies with countries’ follow-up and implementation of the GST decision. Progress must be made on all fronts, especially on adaptation action and support—in both developing and developed countries—to enable the Paris Agreement ambition cycle and to protect people and nature."

Emilie Beauchamp, Lead, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning for Adaptation to Climate Change, IISD

"What we saw in the early hours of today is a watering down of the Global Goal on Adaptation text in a trade-off for having more powerful language in the Global Stocktake. The addition of fossil fuels in the Global Stocktake text is an advance, but it’s not enough, and it’s especially not enough when it comes at the cost of adaptation. Developing countries really needed a strong Global Goal on Adaptation framework, but now there is absolutely no promise to support developing countries in enhancing adaptation and most importantly there is no accountability in tracking and assessing the support provided. The Global Goal on Adaptation is supposed to increase ambition on adaptation and send a strong signal to the world that adaptation is needed now, that lives are at stake now. Instead, COP 28 has dramatically failed on adaptation, which is extremely disappointing."

Loss and Damage

Anne Hammill, Associate Vice President, Resilience, IISD

"The operationalization of the new Loss and Damage Fund was historic, and the initial contributions and pledges to it were important. However, this does not make up for the weak outcome on the Global Goal on Adaptation and the failure to advance other adaptation negotiation items. Failure to ramp up ambition on adaptation action and support will only lead to more losses and damages. In our response to the global climate crisis, we are skipping over a critical step that could prevent more suffering and costs."

Just Transition

Philip Gass, Director, Just Transition, IISD

"It is crucial that workers and those affected by climate change are central to policy responses, and the decision on the work program on just transition pathways is a solid step in the right direction in this regard. It embeds explicit reference to 'social dialogue, social protection and the recognition of labour rights,' all of which are essential for just transition that is consistent with ILO Guidelines. Labour, civil society, and other stakeholders fought very hard before and during COP to ensure these protections, so it is positive to see parties agree. Given the commitment in the COP 28 decision documents to move away from fossil fuels, this focus on just transition moves us to implementation with the right balance of the economic and environmental aspects of climate action while ensuring that social impacts of transition are given equal consideration.  With that said, it is coming implementation that will show the strength (or not) of these commitments in practice."

Food Systems

Claire McConnell, Policy Advisor, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, IISD

"COP 28 was supposed to be a game changer for food systems. And yet food-related emissions are blatantly absent from both the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action and the Global Stocktake decision text. The science is clear—all pathways to limit warming to 1.5°C or less are dependent on leveraging the huge mitigation potential of food systems and land use. All countries need to come to COP 29 able to demonstrate how they are including ambitious food systems targets in their NDCs. Rapidly phasing out fossil fuels alongside scaling up renewables, addressing food loss and waste and promoting sustainable diets are vital to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement as well as safeguarding the livelihoods and food security of billions worldwide."