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The Cop28 agreement is a major step forward for those seeking to address the urgent issue of climate change.

In September, UN Secretary General António Guterres issued a warning about the record-breaking temperatures experienced globally this summer, stating, “Humanity has unleashed the horrors of hell.”

On Wednesday, he praised the delegates at the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai as two weeks of tense discussions came to a close. He stated, “It is significant that the outcome acknowledges the necessity of shifting away from fossil fuels.” He emphasized, “The age of relying on fossil fuels must come to an end, and it must do so with fairness and equality.”

Over 190 countries have agreed to shift away from reliance on fossil fuels. Is this a groundbreaking agreement that will lead to the eventual elimination of gas, oil, and coal? Or is it just another small step towards disaster?

In the realm of discussions about climate change, these two ideas are not conflicting. The document that was officially approved on Wednesday morning, known as the “global stocktake”, urges countries to begin gradually reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. However, it does not have the power to force them to do so and it includes several shortcomings, according to small island nations that are particularly susceptible to the effects of the climate emergency. These loopholes will impede global efforts to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Sultan Al Jaber, the President of Cop28, praised the adoption of the main document on Wednesday morning as the “UAE consensus”. Although there was a consensus, it was not unanimous as Samoa, representing small island states, stated during the final meeting that they would not obstruct the agreement. However, they cautioned that the world is still significantly off track from the 1.5C limit and this outcome is insufficient to rectify the situation.

According to developing countries and others, there are numerous issues with this agreement. Underprivileged nations still require significant financial support to facilitate their shift away from fossil fuels. Developed countries and oil-producing nations will not be obligated to expedite their actions in line with recommendations from climate science.

The United States will only face minimal consequences from this Cop, as they have promised to provide just over $20 million in new funding for developing countries. Additionally, the US will maintain its status as the top producer of oil and gas. Meanwhile, China will continue to prioritize both coal and renewable energy production, and India’s coal industry will not face significant threats.

Although flawed, this agreement was met with tremendous resistance from nations that produce oil. Until the last minute, Saudi Arabia attempted to eliminate any mention of fossil fuels. They did manage to include some acknowledgement of carbon capture and storage, a technology they claim to support but do not seem to financially invest in.

Russia worked behind the scenes to scupper progress, and will do so far more next year when the Cop is held in Baku, Azerbaijan. This deal, like all multilateral UN deals, is fragile and oil producers may try to backtrack next year.

They put in a lot of effort to sabotage the agreement because they understand that it is more than just words, despite what some critics may argue. The agreement will have tangible effects on the world, influencing the decisions of investors, banks, financial institutions, governments, and private companies.

It may be hard to believe, but it has taken 30 years of almost yearly climate summits to reach an agreement that outlines specific plans for the use of fossil fuels in the future.

For the past three decades, there has been a collective avoidance of the main issue at hand: the primary cause of the current climate crisis, which is the use of fossil fuels. Despite some nations agreeing to discuss climate change, oil-producing countries and other wealthy nations have refused to commit to legally binding agreements that directly address the use of fossil fuels.

During the Cop26 conference in Glasgow, the UK, as the presiding country, successfully included a mention of the need for a reduction of coal in the final outcome document. This was the first time a fossil fuel had been mentioned in this way. However, at the previous conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, attempts to include additional references to fossil fuels were rejected.

The fact that an oil-producing nation has made a commitment to a Cop outcome for the very first time is quite remarkable. The president of this Cop, who is also the chief executive of Adnoc, the national oil company of the United Arab Emirates, is almost unbelievable. Many did not anticipate a significant outcome from this Cop, and Al Jaber faced personal criticism. Despite his exhaustion, he smiled as he kicked off the final plenary meeting and was embraced by the UN climate chief, Simon Stiell.

Amid all the celebratory embraces and applause, it’s important to remember that Adnoc is still moving forward with a significant expansion of production capacity, as are other oil companies and nations. However, Al Jaber achieved something unprecedented during his Cop presidency – getting Saudi Arabia to join the discussion and recognize the need for a global shift away from fossil fuels.

The mood in the closing plenary at Cop28 on Wednesday morning was clear: this deal does represent significant progress for the countries that want to tackle the climate crisis. The world must take this signal as the end of the fossil fuel era – now, before the gates of hell close behind us.

Source: theguardian.com