Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom have all announced that they will not be signing an agreement that could potentially serve as a “death certificate” for small islands.
A coalition of nations, comprising Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan, have declared that they will not sign off on “death certificates” for small island nations. Instead, they are calling for a more robust agreement at the Cop28 summit to tackle the use of fossil fuels and address the pressing issue of climate change.
The Australian climate change minister, Chris Bowen, spoke on behalf of the umbrella group of nations, addressing tensions at the United Arab Emirates regarding a proposed draft deal by the summit presidency.
The draft was released in the early evening on Monday, respecting the local time. It steered clear of controversial demands for a gradual decrease or reduction of fossil fuels, in hopes of reaching an agreement among the approximately 200 nations gathered in Dubai for nearly two weeks.
Certain viewers praised certain aspects of the preliminary version, such as the initial acknowledgement in a document from the Conference of the Parties (Cop) about the need to decrease production of fossil fuels. However, there were also harsh critics who deemed it as severely lacking and inconsistent.
Cedric Schuster, the chairperson of the Alliance of Small Island States in Samoa, declared that they refuse to sign any agreement that would seal their fate. They are unwilling to support a document that lacks firm promises to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels.
During a subsequent meeting between government officials and Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the UAE summit, Bowen mentioned Schuster’s statement in his remarks. He spoke on behalf of the collective group of countries, which consists of New Zealand, Norway, Israel, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
Cedric Schuster, a Samoan minister and my friend, expressed his thoughts on the draft tonight, stating that signing it would essentially be signing our own death certificates. This is a matter of great importance for numerous countries and individuals who are not able to speak up. We refuse to be a co-signer to our own demise.
According to Bowen, the draft had some positive aspects, but the group unanimously felt that it was not strong enough. They believed that it should strongly address the future of fossil fuels, adequately tackle climate adaptation, and ultimately produce an outcome that they could proudly present as a significant change rather than just a small improvement.
According to him, the collection of countries, which consists of some of the largest consumers and producers of fossil fuels worldwide, advocates for a gradual elimination of uncontrolled fossil fuel usage. This stance has sparked debate as it implies that coal, oil, and gas may continue to be utilized if carbon capture and storage technology is proven effective. However, he stated that they may be open to alternative phrasing in the agreement, such as a shift away from fossil fuels in line with scientific evidence.
Bowen stated that the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C must not be compromised and an agreement must be reached without flexibility.
The discussions were anticipated to persist into Monday night, with a deadline set for Tuesday morning. However, most believed that an agreement would not be reached.
Rather than mandating producers to decrease their usage of fossil fuels, the initial proposal presented these reductions as a choice by urging countries to consider “actions that may involve” reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. Certain groups, like the EU, suggested that this could prompt them to leave the negotiations if left unaddressed.
Although several nations desired to enhance the text, there was concern that countries like Saudi Arabia and their allies in Opec who produce oil would take advantage of the remaining time to diminish the draft further. Throughout the meeting, the Saudis have been advocating for the document to focus on addressing emissions, rather than fossil fuels.
The passage mentions scientific guidance that several nations may perceive as a citation to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The panel determined that fossil fuels could play a minor role in 2050 if the goal is to achieve net zero emissions and restrict the average global temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Dr. Bill Hare, a climate scientist and the CEO of Climate Analytics, described the text as a chaotic disaster and stated that if put into action, it would not be able to achieve the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5C. He also pointed out that it does not properly address the importance of phasing out fossil fuels or the urgency of taking action within this decade to combat the issue.
Hare stated that this is providing all fossil fuel exporting countries with the necessary resources to increase their production of fossil fuels.
A representative for Al Jaber, who has identified maintaining 1.5C as a top priority, stated: “The Cop28 presidency has consistently expressed our aspirations. This statement aligns with those aspirations and marks significant progress. It is now up to the parties to act in the best interest of humanity and the environment.”
On Monday, it was announced that the next Cop event will take place in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic. In 2025, it will be held in Belém, located in Brazil’s Amazon region. The decision about Australia’s bid to co-host Cop31 with Pacific nations in 2026 is still pending.