COP28 produces fossil fuel deal (with ‘litany of loopholes’)

The UN climate summit, held this year in Dubai, has surpassed expectations with a ‘historic’ deal on transitioning the world away from fossil fuels. But many remain sceptical. 


Brokered in the 11th hour of the annual conference, almost 200 countries were present at the plenary session yesterday, with no objections to the proposed plan to reach net zero by 2050. Dubbed the UAE Consensus, the agreement ‘calls on parties to contribute’ in a number of ways, including ‘transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems’. 

Notably, this should be done in a ‘just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.’ The document is an improvement on a previous draft which caused widespread anger this week after references to the reduction and eventually cessation of oil and gas extraction were removed. 

However, the latest version still does not specifically include the words ‘phase out’, which many leaders had been hoping for. Nevertheless, it does draw on language proposed by representatives from vulnerable countries, including Pacific Islanders.

‘We have set the world in the right direction,’ said COP28 President and head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Sultan al-Jaber. ‘We have give it a robust action plan to keep 1.5C within reach.’

EU, Canadian, and Irish ministers were among those praising the deal as ‘historic’. Prior to the landmark agreement, UK Climate Change Minister Graham Stuart was instructed to fly home so he could participate in a Westminster vote on controversial new immigration policies that could see illegal arrivals into Britain sent to Rwanda. 

Denmark’s minister for development, co-operation and global climate policy, Dan Jørgensen, said it was ‘very, very good’. ‘What we’re basically saying is the way you make your living now . . . you need to change because we’re moving away fossils. Fossils is not the future,’ he said, before adding: ‘did we solve all problems? Of course not.’

In contrast, red flags have been raised about the ‘litany of loopholes’ in the actual wording, described by the Alliance of Small Island States as ‘a major concern to us’. There are also doubts over the ability for economically less developed countries, already contending with huge debt, to finance a smooth transition. Calls have been made for more detail on how poorer states are expected to fund the switch.

‘The agreement to transition away from fossil fuels is a watershed moment and vital if we are to keep the Paris Agreement target of 1.5C within reach. But we are hanging onto the edge of a cliff and dangerous distractions such as ‘transitional fuels’ and large-scale carbon capture and storage should not be part of a future where people and nature thrive,’ said Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at the environmental charity WWF-UK. 

‘Finance is key to unlocking climate action. The early decision to operationalise the Loss and Damage Fund was a critical step,’ added Stephen Cornelius, WWF Deputy Global Climate and Energy Lead. ‘The many pledges we have heard at COP28, while welcome, are a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. The funding pot will now need to grow by orders of magnitude to adequately help people in harm’s way. The need for loss and damage and adaptation funding will only continue to rise rapidly if countries do not invest more in cutting emissions and phasing out polluting fossil fuels.’

More on COP28: 

Major dairy companies sign up for methane alliance at COP28

UK climate satellite mission contracts awarded at COP28

COP28: Delegates must give wildlife a seat at the table

Image: Zbynek Burival


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