A significant agreement, known as Cop28, has been reached to gradually shift away from using fossil fuels.
More than 190 countries participating in the Cop28 climate conference have reached a consensus to take action for the first time and encourage all nations to shift away from using fossil fuels in order to prevent the severe impacts of climate change.
Following two weeks of occasionally contentious discussions in the United Arab Emirates, the deal was promptly approved by Cop28’s president, Sultan Al Jaber, on Wednesday morning. His actions were met with applause from attendees and a embrace from the UN’s climate leader, Simon Stiell.
Although over 130 countries, scientists, and civil society groups encouraged it, the agreement did not contain a specific promise to gradually eliminate or reduce the use of fossil fuels.
Instead, a resolution was made to urge nations to support worldwide initiatives in transitioning to renewable energy sources in a fair, organized, and impartial way. This would involve taking immediate action in the next ten years to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, in accordance with scientific findings.
Al Jaber argued that the deal, reached in the hottest year on record, was a comprehensive response to a global stocktake that found countries were failing to live up to the goals of the landmark Paris climate agreement, particularly a commitment to try to limit global heating to 1.5C (2.7F) above preindustrial levels.
“We have presented a strong plan of action to ensure we stay within 1.5C,” he stated. “It is an improved and equitable package, but let’s be clear, it is a momentous effort to speed up climate action. This has been agreed upon by the UAE. Our final agreement includes language addressing fossil fuels for the first time in history.”
Countries from the global south and climate justice advocates said the text fell short of what was needed on emissions reductions and finance to help the most vulnerable cope with worsening extreme weather and heat, and included language that appeared to placate fossil fuel interests.
There was a lack of clarity in the meeting room soon after the resolution was approved, as several groups had expected a discussion on the wording. The Alliance of Small Island States, which represents 39 countries, stated that it was not present during the adoption of the agreement as it was still coordinating its reaction.
The chief negotiator for Samoa, Anne Rasmussen, did not officially oppose the agreement and expressed some positive aspects of the deal. However, she stated that the process was unsuccessful and the written document had many flaws. She also stated that while some progress was made, it was not enough and more significant efforts and assistance are necessary. Her speech was met with a round of applause.
The majority of compliments regarding the agreement centered on the decision to shift away from using coal, oil, and gas. Professor Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany stated that while the Cop28 agreement will not fully achieve the 1.5C limit, it is still a significant milestone. He also added that this agreement effectively communicates to financial institutions, businesses, and societies that we are now reaching the true “beginning of the end” of our fossil fuel-based global economy, albeit eight years later than the Paris schedule.
The secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, posted on Twitter: “Whether you are in favor or not, the phase-out of fossil fuels is unavoidable. Let’s hope it occurs in a timely manner.”
US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry stated that although no one may fully agree with the views presented, the document conveys a powerful message to the global community.
Some important aspects of the agreement were:
The 1.5C target was reaffirmed and acknowledged that a 43% decrease in emissions by 2030 and 60% by 2035 from 2019 levels would be necessary. This suggests a significant increase in objectives and strategies when nations present their updated commitments in 2025.
Nations have supported a proposal to increase worldwide renewable energy production by three times and double the rate of energy efficiency advancements by 2030.
The assertion that worldwide emissions must reach a maximum by 2025 was removed. China, along with other countries, opposed this idea despite indications that it may be able to reach its own peak emissions by that time.
The text was influenced by fossil fuel companies, with phrases like “transitional fuels” which refers to natural gas, and “carbon capture and utilization and storage.”
The agreement recognizes the need for trillions of dollars in assistance for climate adaptation and finance, but little headway was achieved in this area.
A fund has been put into action to assist those most in need to repair the destruction caused by climate change. This marks a significant advancement, but there is still substantial effort needed to strengthen its capabilities.
The tense dynamic of the accord highlights the United Nations’ method of reaching a shared decision during climate conferences. After a resolution is achieved, each nation must uphold and fulfill the terms through their own policies and investments.
Several advanced nations have teamed up with the most susceptible ones to urge for the elimination of coal, oil, and gas. The European Union claims that a vast majority is in favor of this proposal, but some affluent countries only want it to be implemented for “unabated” fossil fuels, which refers to those that are not able to capture emissions from combustion.
Some countries, including Saudi Arabia and its allies, opposed mentioning the reduction of fossil fuel production and usage in the potential agreement’s text. Following the deal, a representative from Saudi Arabia stated that the agreed-upon texts would not impact their exports or sales. Opec, a group that includes both Saudi Arabia and UAE as members, praised the Cop for its favorable outcome.
Reworded: According to Stiell, Cop28 emphasized the urgent need to address humanity’s central climate issue: the use of fossil fuels and their harmful impact on the environment. However, the final agreement allowed for varying interpretations, with each country responsible for committing to the most ambitious one.
According to him, failure of all nations to adopt this method could result in weaknesses that make us susceptible to the influence of fossil fuel companies. This could jeopardize our ability to safeguard people worldwide from the effects of climate change.
According to Mohamed Adow, a member of Power Shift Africa, the agreement conveys a powerful message. However, he also acknowledges that there are numerous gaps that need to be addressed, particularly in regards to untested and costly methods like carbon capture and storage. These methods may be exploited by the fossil fuel industry to sustain the use of polluting energy sources.
He stated that some individuals may have had overly high expectations for this meeting, but achieving this outcome would have been unimaginable just two years ago, particularly at a conference in a country heavily reliant on the petroleum industry. This demonstrates that even countries that produce oil and gas recognize the shift towards a world free of fossil fuels.
Nations will meet again at Cop29, scheduled for November in Baku, Azerbaijan.