By: Anouk Bollen-Vandenboorn

Climate summit COP28 – ‘An agreement is only as good as its implementation’

Global warming and its border regions


From 30 November to 12 December 2023, the COP28 climate summit took place in Dubai. It is special because all parties agreed to phase out fossil fuel use, triple global renewable energy generation capacity by 2030 and double energy efficiency. This annual UN climate conference is the world’s largest decision-making forum on climate change. Nearly all countries and parties (currently 197 countries and the EU) of the world that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992 (UNFCCC) come together then.

Climate policy
At COP21 in Paris (2015), agreements were made regarding the control of the Earth’s average temperature. The main goal is to keep the increase below 2°C compared to the average temperature from the pre-industrial period (1850-1900). The temperature value from this period counts as the 0 measurement. Parties then also agreed to make efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C. Current data, however, show that the world is not on track. For instance, 2023 is the warmest year ever with a temperature increase of 1.4°C. Reason to accelerate. Climate policy calls for a global effort to transition to a sustainable economy. However, it now comes down to implementation to make it successful as well. Or as the President of COP28, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, put it: ‘An agreement is only as good as its implementation.’

Energy transition in border regions
Indeed, the challenge lies in implementation. Europe, certainly globally, has been proactive with initiatives such as the Green deal, the Fit for 55 package, the European Climate Law and revising existing legislation. As the global target descends further and further down the line from Europe to member states, the complexity of this issue becomes more visible in Europe’s border regions. However, global warming knows no borders, nor do renewable energy sources sun, wind and water. Bureaucracy and national laws and regulations, on the other hand, do. As a result, many border regions face a backlog of renewable energy commitments. The ITEM Cross-border Impact Assessment 2022 ‘Energy Transition and Energy Security’ shows that they would benefit from good coordination between the different governments of neighbouring countries. Now they are faced with the complexity of uncoordinated regulations that hinder a successful energy transition in border regions. Developing a common vision for spatial planning in border regions, would help coordinate and advance the energy transition. Consider finding locations for wind farms on both sides of the border and grid connection options. To create global acceleration, national and decentralised governments will also have to think and act without borders. When it comes to renewable energy, European directives have for years given member states the option of aligning their subsidy schemes, yet the Dutch, Belgian and German governments have not (yet) taken advantage of this option.

To achieve the acceleration of COP28, the interplay of national, federal and decentralised governments on both sides of the border is essential, while daring to go beyond (one’s own) borders to exploit the potential of border regions. This does require joint vision, coordination and alignment based on expertise at the front end with your neighbouring countries to achieve borderless implementation.