12 Dec 2023

9 Key developments from being at COP28

Posted in: Environmental news

9 Key developments from being at COP28

As over 70,000 delegates gather in Dubai for COP28, Toitū Envirocare's Chief Science & Advisory Officer, Dr. Belinda Mathers, is right in the midst of the action, offering us the latest insights and announcements. Representing New Zealand's leading carbon certification provider, her perspective is invaluable in elevating climate ambition.

Ahead of our webinar ‘COP28 success or flop? Debrief with on the ground experts’ later this week, here’s an overview of nine key developments and insights that have caught her attention.

1. COP28 Draft agreement released but omits fossil fuels

A draft agreement from the UN’s COP28 climate summit has dropped references to the phaseout of fossil fuels in the initial release. Intended to be agreed on by almost 200 countries at the summit, it sets out a range of actions that countries “could” take to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

2. There’s action – but we need it quicker says science

The conference has been discussing the latest climate science from the first Global Stocktake and the IPCC´s Synthesis Report to the Sixth Assessment Report which concluded that that human influence is unequivocally causing climate change. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during this century unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Our planet has already warmed by 1.1°C, and even more in the polar regions. Both are seen as the leading scientific insights and benchmarks on how the world is tracking to limit global heating to 1.5°C. The IPCC is now gearing up for the seventh assessment cycle.

3. Article 6: Enhancing Global Climate Cooperation

A central theme at COP28 is the negotiation of Article 6, part of the Paris Agreement. This article is instrumental in enabling international cooperation for climate action, encompassing:

  1. Article 6.2: Allows countries to voluntarily cooperate in meeting their climate targets, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). It enables the use of Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs), which are essentially emissions reductions achieved in one country that can be transferred to and counted towards another country's NDC. This mechanism is largely market-based, allowing countries to trade emission reductions and other climate mitigation outcomes in a flexible manner.
  2. Article 6.4: Establishes a new mechanism by the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to facilitate the validation, verification, issuance and trading of high-quality carbon credits.
  3. Article 6.8: This section focuses on non-market approaches to fulfill the objectives of the Paris Agreement. It encourages cooperation among countries to achieve their NDCs without relying on the exchange of emission reductions or carbon credits, such as joint initiatives, programs, or policies that contribute to mitigation and adaptation efforts, sustainable development, capacity-building, and technology transfer. These approaches are intended to complement market-based mechanisms by addressing climate action in a holistic and integrated manner.

Success in this area is important to New Zealand businesses, especially exporters. Organisations wanting to purchase carbon credits need clarity about the claims they can make about the emissions reductions associated with the carbon credits they purchase and confidence that the reductions or removals are not double counted.

4. Collaboration in the Voluntary Carbon Market

A significant announcement was the collaboration among major carbon crediting programmes (ACR, ART, Climate Action Reserve, Global Carbon Council, Gold Standard, and Verra) to align on quantification and accounting principles. This is a major step towards enhancing the integrity of the voluntary carbon market.

All are applying for independent assessment against the Core Carbon Principles that were recently released by the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM).

5. Voluntary Carbon Market Integrity Initiative (VCMI)

After two years of development, the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) in June published guidelines to tighten climate claims purchasers make. To comply, companies must first publish annual emissions, adopt science-based targets and make measurable progress in cutting emissions — only then they can buy credits to offset some of their remaining emissions.

At COP28, a joint letter was issued by key organisations in the carbon space, recognising the need for alignment with the VCMI. This represents a crucial step towards standardising the use of high-quality carbon credits. It demonstrates a growing consensus on the need for credible claims and transparency in the voluntary carbon market. Ahead of COP28, Toitū Envirocare announced a transition away from carbon credits that didn’t meet the ICVCM principles, which are seen as best practice internationally.

6. Aligning and integrating Sustainability Reporting and Management Practices

A pivotal announcement at COP28 following the publication of the International Sustainability Standards Board’s (ISSB) inaugural Standards—IFRS S1 and IFRS S2—the IFRS Foundation and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have confirmed their shared commitment to cooperate in a partnership to align global efforts in sustainability reporting and management. The ISSB's introduction of IFRS S1 and IFRS S2 standards for sustainability-related financial disclosures, combined with ISO's expertise in environmental management and greenhouse gas emission standards, such as ISO 14000, is set to streamline sustainability practices globally. This synergy between two leading standard-setting bodies ensures that sustainability reporting and management are not only consistent but also adhere to the highest standards of integrity and transparency.

For Toitū Envirocare, this development has significant implications. Our carbon certification programme, anchored in ISO 14064, aligns closely with these evolving global standards. Toitū Envirocare and our members, as key participants in New Zealand's largest voluntary climate programme, lead in adopting internationally recognised sustainability practices. These high standards, increasingly seen as a global benchmark, enable them to meet the rigorous demands of global sustainability governance and ensure transparent sustainability reporting.

7. Buildings Breakthrough Initiative: Transforming the Construction Sector

On the Multilevel Action, Urbanization and Built Environment/Transport day at COP28, we saw the launch of the Buildings Breakthrough initiative by the Governments of France and Morocco, in partnership with UNEP, which marks a concerted effort to transform the building sector. This initiative aims to make near-zero emissions and climate-resilient buildings the norm by 2030, addressing a major source of global emissions and showcasing a commitment to sustainable urban development.

8. FAO’s Global Roadmap for Agrifood Systems

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announced a global roadmap for transforming agrifood systems, which was a detailed, and comprehensive strategy to harmonise the fight against hunger with climate objectives.

Summarised succinctly by Rod Oram’s Newsroom column, the “key targets include reducing methane emissions from livestock by 25 percent by 2030; ensuring all the world’s fisheries are sustainably managed by 2030; safe and affordable drinking water was available for all by 2030; halving food waste by 2030; and eliminating the use of traditional biomass for cooking by 2030. The methane target is on an intensity basis, that is per unit of production, rather than an outright reduction. The roadmap was welcomed but also sharply criticised.”

9. Urgent and ambitious programme to restore NZ indigenous forests.

Recloaking Papatūānuku a scheme to restore and improve 2.1 million hectares of native forest across New Zealand over the next decade was launched and presented at COP28. It is being spearheaded by registered charity Pure Advantage and by prominent business and community leaders. The proposal is to reforest and restore 2.1 million hectares of indigenous forest over the next 10 years.


It’s still too early to say if COP28 has been a success but it has provided a long list of initiatives and commitments cutting across various sectors and countries. From the critical discussions around Article 6, to transformative initiatives in building and agriculture, the conference has showcased a united front in global climate action.

If you want to learn more, join us for our webinar ‘COP28 success or flop? Debrief with on the ground experts’