COP28: Countries agree to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels, business key to showing that a rapid phase out is achievable
Dec 13, 2023

The phase out of fossil fuels that stakeholders in science, business, and financial institutions had called for was not something countries managed to agree at COP28. Instead, the outcome calls on countries to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels. But governments and observers largely agreed that this text signalled the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. 

Civil society demonstrating for a fossil fuel phase out at COP28

Photo: UNFCCC / Kiara Worth

“The outcome from COP28 is far from perfect,” said Johan Falk, CEO and Co-founder of the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, adding:

The massive mobilisation of the business community was key to achieving the required pressure on governments. Now it will be key for businesses to take the necessary action to map and eliminate fossil fuels from their operations and value chains and to accelerate the shift to climate solutions. We must demonstrate to governments that a rapid phase out of fossil fuels is achievable, desirable and profitable.

Exponential Roadmap Initiative members highlighted how they have already started mapping and eliminating fossil fuels at a COP28 side event at the Swedish pavilion. Christina Niemelä Ström, Global Head of Sustainability Supply and Strategic Sustainability Assignments, Inter IKEA Group, said that in this mapping process, IKEA identified glue, a component used in particle boards and other wood-based furniture, as a pain point. 

Glue stands for almost 5% of our total climate footprint. We’re now working with substituting the fossil-based glue with bio-based glue. That helps reduce our glue footprint by 30%. 

Another pain point turned out to be coal that certain IKEA suppliers use in processes that require high temperatures. Global use of coal has to decrease by nearly three-quarters between 2020 and 2030 in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and IKEA has set a 2025 goal to phase out coal.

David Ekelund, CEO of Icebug, said his company similarly identified coal-fired boilers used by suppliers in dying textiles as a pain point.

Our solution was to switch to another dying process rendering coal-fired boilers unnecessary. This new process sees pigment added on fibre level instead of bathing large sheets of white textiles. We have also switched the source of heat from coal to gas or biomass, which is not ideal but better than coal. Through both these changes in process and heat source, we have eliminated coal in our supply chain. 

A process earlier in 2023 to develop transition plans aligned with the recommendations from the UN secretary general’s high level expert group for net zero commitments of businesses and other non-state actors (HLEG) highlighted the need to understand the transition in terms of phasing out fossil fuels in addition to understanding it in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The HLEG report Integrity Matters and the UN-produced checklist to implement the report’s recommendations ask for companies to detail targets for phasing out fossil fuels. 

David Ekelund, CEO of Icebug – the first company to publish a transition plan aligned with the HLEG-recommendations – said that while his company already had the intention to phase out fossil fuels as fast as possible, developing the transition plan made this effort more granular. 

The transition planning started moving us in the direction of really mapping exactly what fossil fuels we still have in our value chain and looking at what the fastest way will be to eliminate them.

In 2024, Exponential Roadmap Initiative is starting up a work programme with leading companies to map and eliminate fossil fuels. Johan Falk said:

It’s about communicating a commitment, it’s about taking action and it’s about mapping fossil fuels in the value chain. The programme is also about sharing case examples and developing best practice and methods that can be shared openly with others in order to scale. It’s about electricity, and heating and cooling, it’s about materials – about everything that has an impact in the value chain.

IKEA is committed to this collaboration and convinced it adds value to each company’s effort.

You have to start with mapping. We have a very complex and global value chain and work with materials, with food, transportation, customer travel, with energy use in life, end of life, and also business travel. Only the comprehensive mapping that we did showed us where the pain points are. And it’s great if we can share any learnings with others.

David Ekelund of Icebug agreed that it will be very valuable to develop best practice in mapping and eliminating fossil fuels. 

We’re such a small actor in the factories in which we have initiated a goal of installing solar we’re not more than 20% of the suppliers’ business at best. Aligning with other companies using the same suppliers is very helpful in getting this up on the agenda. And then there’s the aspect of sharing the knowledge out vertically as well.

Watch the recording of our 9 December event at the Swedish pavillion:

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