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COP 28: what happened and what we are watching now

A deal has been struck. Delegates and industry representatives alike have packed up and are now leaving COP28. It’s been a busy two weeks in Dubai with no shortage of pledges, commitments, and announcements. Now that this year’s annual conference has come to a close, let’s take a look at what happened and what we’ll be watching coming out of COP28 in the year ahead.

Nuclear ‘has its moment’ at COP 28

Going into COP28, we were looking for nuclear to play a prominent roleand we certainly were not disappointed. This quote (in the IAEA News Center) from Zion Lights, a former UK spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion is quite telling about how this COP conference was a different than those that preceded it:

“After 28 years in the wilderness, nuclear is finally having its moment at the world’s most important gathering on climate changeand not a moment too soon.

She added: "As someone who once protested against nuclear energy and changed her mind about it, it is heartening to see just how much attitudes to nuclear energy have changed.”

(Credit: COP28)

These sentiments are undoubtedly in reference to private and public sector pledges that recognize the critical role that nuclear energy will play when it comes to fighting climate change. On December 2nd, more than 20 countries came together to launch the Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy.

The declaration is clear that the global goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels will rely on significant increases in production of electricity from nuclear powera tripling of nuclear energy capacity from 2020 levels by 2050, to be specific. This is an historic pledge and will lay the groundwork for global cooperation on nuclear new builds moving forward.

Notably, the signatories to the declaration have committed to undertaking several initiatives, including:

  1. domestic actions to ensure the safety of nuclear operations in their respective countries;

  2. mobilize investments in nuclear power, including through innovative financing mechanisms;

  3. inviting shareholders of the World Bank, international financial institutions, and regional development banks to include nuclear energy in their lending policies;

  4. develop and construct nuclear reactors for both power generation and wider industrial applications (ex. hydrogen production);

  5. recognize the importance of resilient supply chains used by nuclear power plants (ex. fuel);

  6. extend the life of nuclear power plants operating efficiently and safely;

  7. support responsible nations looking to explore new civil nuclear deployment under the highest standards of safety, sustainability, security and non-proliferation;

  8. encourage complementary commitments from the private sector, non-governmental organizations, development banks and financial institutions.

This call was heard loud and clear by the private sector. Just days later, 120 companies backed the Declaration and committed to doing their part to advance the objectives outlined above. Going into COP28, we were looking for nuclear to be recognized as an agent of decarbonization. These declarations are clear evidence that this was achieved.

The bankers came to COP

In addition to recognizing the role of nuclear in decarbonization and meeting our climate targets, we were also watching for movement on financing climate actionspecifically the inclusion of nuclear in these models moving forward.

Credit: COP28

Finance was a central topic at this year’s COP. According to Bloomberg, a “record 200 or more executives from some of the world’s largest firms” attended this year’s conference. This showing from the financial sector demonstrates the foundational role that finance will play in meeting our climate targets.

If there’s one term that we should get used to coming out of COP28 it’s blended finance. Blended finance refers to structures and arrangements that use both public and private funds to entice investors to direct resources to projects that would otherwise not receive them. The overall goal is to lessen the risk profile or “green premium” of climate-focused projects.

As seen above in the Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy, countries around the world and private sector organizations will be putting pressure on public and private lenders to direct their resources to nuclear projects. Blended finance offers a great way to entice this kind of investment.

On both fronts, the success of COP28 will be determined not by the words said at the conference but the actions that will follow.

That said, the COP28 has laid the groundwork for an exciting year ahead for the global nuclear sector.


Chad Richards is the Director of Policy and Partnerships.


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