Climate Change, COP28, Energy Transition, Environment, ESG, Sustainable Legacies

As COP28’s official sustainability advisor, AECOM had a unique view of this year’s conference, as we sought to integrate sustainability into every touch point of the delegate and visitor experience. 

Whether via our carbon tracking tool used throughout the conference, or through our participation in numerous bilateral meetings, industry debates and panel discussions, our team on the ground demonstrated our commitment to addressing the climate emergency, and our capability to drive positive change. 

Now, as post-conference discussion focuses on what must happen next to realize the potential of the final agreement, there is cause to be optimistic for what lies ahead. 

At a time marked by both significant challenge and opportunity, we believe climate ambition is translating into sustainable, meaningful, collective climate action – and that the last few weeks in Dubai have demonstrated that progress is accelerating, particularly across the infrastructure and built environment space.  

The COP28 agreement by nearly 200 countries to “transition away from fossil fuels” is significant after looking improbable early on, and the COP28 pledge to triple renewable energy investment and production is a landmark moment. 

When both agreements are framed in the context of International Energy Agency (IEA) research that predicts global spending on clean energy is to reach US$1.8trillion in 2023 – outpacing the US$1.1 trillion allocated to fossil fuels – it’s clear this “transition away” via investment in offshore wind, solar and hydrogen is already well underway. 

We see investment in renewable energy – and in the global energy transition – as one of several secular trends alongside broader infrastructure investment, and investment specifically focused on sustainability and resilience, that reinforce the “glass half full” view of many at COP28. 

In the U.S., the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have sharpened private-sector focus around clean energy investment, and elsewhere around the world we are seeing significant growth in green investment and technologies. The global “infrastructure renaissance” we’re helping deliver is increasingly being approached through a sustainability and resilience lens, a marked departure from even a few years ago.  

Our recent Future of Infrastructure report – Lost in transition? finds there is increasing momentum propelling the global energy transition forward, with 74 percent of the organizations we surveyed reporting significant acceleration in their adaptation efforts. While cost and inflationary pressures, skills shortages and competing priorities remain, they are not insurmountable. Practical, profitable, predictable and people-centric strategies exist to achieve net zero. 

Knowledge, compromise and collaboration are critical, and COP28 has been an important and constructive opportunity to build understanding, challenge convention, engage in difficult conversations, bolster collaboration and, as much as is possible, drive consensus on the actions that matter, like decarbonizing supply chains and ensuring the hard work within communities provides tangible social value in the longer term. 

Outside the Green and Blue Zones of COP28, we know our clients around the world are eager to progress the decarbonization of their own operations, as well as learn how to implement ambitious sustainability, resilience and net zero agendas. 

That’s where we see massive opportunity for us to play our part, aligned with our Sustainable Legacies strategy. The investments we continue to make to attract the industry’s best to AECOM, and to shape our business to deliver impactful work aligned with our purpose of delivering a better world – from day one advisory services to industry-leading technical delivery anchored in digital innovation – is helping transform a desire to change to a demand – truly pivoting from ambition to action.

Originally published Dec 20, 2023

Author: Lara Poloni