If the agreement to phase out fossil fuels is not reached at Cop28, it will lead to a global climate crisis.
The former climate chief of the UK has warned that if the UN Cop28 climate summit fails to reach an agreement on phasing out fossil fuels, it could result in the world exceeding the critical 1.5C temperature limit and facing a breakdown in the climate.
The current president of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, Alok Sharma, emphasized the importance of governments making a definitive pledge within the coming days to phase out the use of coal, oil, and gas.
“If the goal is to maintain a 1.5 degree Celsius limit, it will be necessary to include language regarding the discontinuation of fossil fuels,” he stated in an interview with the Observer. “Furthermore, a feasible plan for implementation must be included.”
He stressed the importance of government action, stating that time is running out. According to him, the opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is quickly closing and we must act with immediate urgency if we want to achieve this goal. He emphasized that we are currently in our final chance to secure a better future for our children.
Over 190 nations have gathered in Dubai for the last sessions of the Cop28 conference, set to conclude on Tuesday. The primary focus of the agenda is whether to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels. While over 100 countries support this idea, significant producers of fossil fuels such as Saudi Arabia, China, and India are against it.
Sharma was credited with keeping 1.5C “alive” against the odds at the Glasgow summit he led in 2021, when he managed to forge a deal among more than 190 squabbling countries that focused on the goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Environmental advocates are concerned that nations may face pressure from oil-producing countries in Dubai to reduce their commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels. During the closing stages of Cop26, China and India posed a threat to the entire agreement unless the coal phase-out commitment was diluted.
Sharma encouraged government officials to stand firm on the stricter goal this time. He emphasized the importance of clear and direct language, so that anyone reading the agreed-upon terms would fully comprehend that the objective is to eliminate all use of fossil fuels.
During Cop28, there are concerns that nations may choose to gradually reduce the use of “unabated” fossil fuels. The definition of this term is not clear in the text, but it typically involves the implementation of new technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere after it has been released.
Sharma disagreed with the notion that CCS could serve as a potential compromise. He stressed the importance of being strict with ourselves, given the goal of reducing emissions by more than 40% by 2030 (as advised by scientists to limit global warming to 1.5C). Despite the existence of CCS, it is not currently advanced enough or widely implemented to effectively reduce emissions to the necessary level. As a result, it is crucial for this Cop to address the cessation of fossil fuel consumption and production.
Sharma, a highly regarded figure in climate politics in the UK, has made a strong and influential intervention at Cop28. This is in stark contrast to the short visit made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to the summit earlier this month.
Sunak received a lot of backlash for only staying in Dubai for 12 hours, which is less time than he spent on the private jet that transported him. Despite the UK’s efforts to decrease the use of fossil fuels, Sunak has promised to fully utilize the North Sea by offering new permits for oil and gas drilling, causing some to accuse him of being hypocritical.
Sharma stated that it is important for all countries to align their international actions with their domestic policies. He also acknowledged that there is a perception among global partners that the UK has deviated from its previous strong stance on climate commitments following Cop26.
Government officials in Dubai are currently discussing a preliminary document that presents various choices, such as gradually removing fossil fuels or completely omitting any mention of them.
On Friday, The Guardian reported that OPEC sent a letter to its member countries urging them to reject a phase-out approach. The cartel expressed concerns that this could lead to a tipping point where there is no turning back in the fight against fossil fuels.
The country hosting the Cop28 summit, the United Arab Emirates, is a major producer of oil and gas and is a member of Opec. Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the conference, also serves as the chief executive of Adnoc, the national oil company of the UAE, which has plans to greatly increase its production capacity.
Sharma anticipated that Al Jaber would experience great pressure and responsibility as the summit approaches its end on Tuesday. He stated that there is a desire for a significant outcome and the potential to achieve it.