COP28 Highlights: Ghina Annan’s key Attendee Takeaways

Written By: Ghina Annan

1. How was my experience representing Stantec at COP28 UAE?

Representing Stantec at COP28 wasan immersive experience, encapsulating “Everything, Everywhere, all at once.” Following more than 300 hours of negotiations, the finalized COP28 text marked a historic moment as it called for transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, aiming for a just, orderly, and equitable process to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. While over 130 countries advocated for a fossil fuel phase-out, the final consensus focused on gradually eliminating fossil fuels, representing the first such agreement in 30 years.

Personally, I find the agreement groundbreaking, as it signifies a significant step forward in addressing fossil fuels explicitly at a UN climate summit. Although the final text didn’t mention a fossil fuel phase-out, it did emphasize the importance of phasing out inefficient subsidies to fossil fuels and investing in carbon capture utilization and storage.

Through conversations with conference delegates, the consensus emerged that education on climate change is key to addressing the issue. The UNDP’s recent publication of the Climate Dictionary is a noteworthy step, providing an accessible guide to understanding climate change and bridging the gap between complex scientific terms and the public. This multifaceted experience at COP28 reflects a transformative moment in global climate action.

2. What were the key global climate priorities discussed at COP28 and how do they align with Stantec’s commitment to sustainability?

COP28 key global climate priorities include achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, building resilience in vulnerable communities, transitioning to clean energy, and fostering international collaboration. These priorities, far from being abstract, represented a shared commitment resonating globally. Stantec’s dedication to sustainability seamlessly aligns with these goals, emphasizing putting people first, doing what is right, recognizing the strength in unity, and being relentlessly driven toward positive outcomes.

COP28’s groundbreaking accord on its first day established a fund addressing the impacts of climate change, particularly focusing on Loss and Damage. This fund responds to irreversible damages caused by climate change, with the World Bank set to oversee it, prioritizing aid to vulnerable nations. Financial pledges from nations like the UAE and Germany, along with a $30 billion climate finance initiative by the UAE and BlackRock, highlight a robust commitment to supporting the loss and damage fund.

Addressing what Stantec does in light of these global priorities involves recognizing three choices: complaining about the negative, letting others handle it, or acknowledging accomplishments and leading by example. Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond words to actions. We lead by example through a myriad of global sustainability projects, showcasing our dedication to positive environmental impact and contributing to the realization of key global climate priorities discussed at COP28.

3. Can you elaborate on the experiences and key insights gained from your participation in COP28, specifically focusing on the speaking opportunities you had, the takeaways, and any significant points discussed during these engagements?

I had the privilege of participating in three speaking opportunities at COP28, each shedding light on critical aspects of climate action:

  • The inaugural speaking engagement, hosted by the World Green Economy Organization (WGEO), focused on the pivotal role of North-South cooperation in accelerating climate action. The discussion delved into the realms of climate finance and knowledge transfer.
  • A subsequent roundtable, hosted by the World Green Building Council, centered around the MENA Zero Readiness Framework. Key efforts, including the UAE Zero Readiness Report, and pathways to achieving low embodied carbon construction in the MENA region took center stage.
  • The third speaking opportunity, representing the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) at COP28’s Climate Action Innovation Zone, highlighted the significance of public-private partnerships in financing climate mitigation and adaptation.

Key takeaways from these engagements include the understanding that economy-wide decarbonization is imperative for meeting the climate goals set in the Paris Agreement. Scaling up green infrastructure and technologies is vital, despite challenges such as strained public finances, varied readiness levels in different countries, and the need for robust policies and technological resources. The opportunities lie in mobilizing green investments, implementing policy reforms, adopting a market systems approach, and harnessing skills and knowledge. Policy harmonization emerges as crucial to ensure coherence between industrial, trade, and climate policies, fostering unified efforts toward global climate goals. Furthermore, an article explored the critical role of Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) systems as the lifeblood of buildings. It emphasized their impact on functionality, energy consumption, and environmental footprint, underscoring the vital role they play in buildings’ operational energy use and greenhouse gas emissions throughout their lifespan.

4. Can you elaborate on particularly discussions on energy efficiency, the green building council, and sustainable urban development and share key learnings relevant to your role?

COP28 provided a comprehensive platform for discussions on various critical topics, including energy efficiency, the green building council, and sustainable urban development. My focus on decarbonization in the building sector aligns with the overarching themes discussed at COP28. Looking ahead to 2024, I strongly believe in the transformative power of a regenerative approach in shaping building sustainability.

Regenerative businesses, guided by a systems-thinking approach, prioritize the protection and restoration of environmental capital, human capital, and public resources. These models contribute positively to the world by restoring biodiversity, transitioning to a circular economy, regenerating forests and soil, emphasizing well-being over profits, upskilling individuals with green competences, and recognizing nature as a partner rather than a resource.

Our unique perspective as developers emphasizes harmonizing complexity by embracing potential rather than fixating on isolated problems. Understanding the broader context allows problems to dissolve.

Working respectfully with ecosystems and establishing reciprocal relationships between human communities and ecosystems are essential for a healthy planet, where communities contribute distinctiveness to the world.

Practically, setting achievable emission targets in projects, emphasizing supplier collaboration and transparency, conducting life cycle assessments, and promoting supplier and technology adoption are crucial steps. The outcomes of COP28 highlight the importance of aligning procurement strategies with global climate goals. Sustainability should be viewed by procurement professionals not just asa compliance requirement but as a strategic imperative.

5. Discuss the transformative outcomes of COP28 and their relevance to the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) in Canada, considering collaborative spirit, technological innovations, and contributions to the global climate action agenda. How can AEE and its individual members align with COP28 lessons to advance energy efficiency, sustainability, and collective action in Canada?

The AEE Canada East Chapter, under the leadership of President Andrew Penner, is making significant strides in advancing energy efficiency and sustainability. Additionally, on the global stage, President Bill Kent’s impactful presence at COP28 has contributed to AEE’s efforts worldwide. My gratitude to President Bill Kent and President Andrew Penner for their outstanding contributions and commitment to driving positive change in the field of energy and the environment.

The outcomes of COP28 marked a historic shift, showcasing transformative elements such as the global stocktake, enhanced action agenda, and a groundbreaking call for fossil fuel phase-out. AEE can find inspiration in COP28’s collaborative spirit, aligning with the urgent need for individual actions, business initiatives, and civil society engagement to promote energy efficiency and sustainability. Lessons learned and inspiration gained from COP28 serve as a catalyst for AEE to drive collective action in Canada and globally.

Moreover, technological innovations highlighted at COP28, ranging from renewable energy technologies to climate-smart agriculture, present opportunities for AEE in Canada to leverage cutting-edge solutions. Exploring advancements in renewable energy and fostering collaborations in precision agriculture can propel Canada toward a sustainable and resilient future.

AEE, with its emphasis on knowledge exchange and capacity building, holds a pivotal role similar to the Climate Action Hub and initiatives at COP28 in driving collective action. Members of AEE can champion climate action by reducing carbon footprints, advocating for policy changes, and engaging with elected officials. The imperative for individual actions seamlessly aligns with AEE’s commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability, making each member a force for positive change.

Last words

In harmony with COP28’s call to unite, act, and deliver,

  • It is paramount to place nature, people, lives, and livelihoods at the core of climate action for a future of sustainability and growth.
  • Collaboration across governments, policy-makers, academia, and civil society is essential to expedite sustainable action. COP28 illustrated the potency of small individual efforts, united asa force for change.
  • Each person plays a role in shaping a sustainable future through activism, policy changes, and daily decisions.
  • Global success hinges on collective action.

Representing Stantec at COP28 UAE was beyond a professional mission; it was a transformative journey into the heart of global climate action, for which I am grateful. The conference’s atmosphere, global climate priorities, outcomes, technological innovations, and implications for AEE in Canada contribute to a broader narrative, emphasizing the urgency and collaborative spirit needed for a sustainable future. As an AEE member, the lessons and inspiration from COP28 fuel our collective commitment to advancing energy efficiency and sustainability. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Ghina Annan
Associate, Decarbonization Business Lead

Ghina is a sustainability expert and a cross-disciplinary thinker, who combines sustainability vision and practical experience to deliver a solution-based approach for buildings, masterplans, and cities.

She is passionate about cities and the built environment, leading teams to achieve effective sustainability outcomes while identifying and implementing adequate strategies to achieve Net Zero Energy, Water, Waste and Carbon while following regulations, codes, standards and safety.

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