The preliminary agreement on climate change, known as Cop28, has received backlash for being inadequate and lacking consistency.
The proposed agreement to reduce worldwide production of fossil fuels is deemed inadequate and inconsistent, and will not effectively prevent the climate from reaching a critical point, as stated by attendees at the UN’s Cop28 conference.
After 10 days of intense debate, the proposed text from the summit’s leaders was met with alarm and frustration from numerous climate specialists and government officials. However, some praised certain aspects of the document, notably its acknowledgement of the need to decrease fossil fuel manufacturing, a first in Cop discussions.
Several nations are expressing concern that the language does not mandate a complete elimination of fossil fuels.
Cedric Schuster from Samoa, who leads the Alliance of Small Island States, stated: “We refuse to approve a document that will lead to our demise. We are unable to agree to a text that lacks firm commitments to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels.”
On Monday evening, the Cop28 presidency shared a preliminary document that urged for a fair and organized approach to decreasing the use and production of fossil fuels. The goal is to reach net zero emissions by, before, or around the year 2050, in accordance with scientific findings.
The wording steers clear of controversial demands for a gradual reduction or decrease of fossil fuels, which have sparked intense disagreement among the 190+ nations convening in Dubai.
Instead of mandating fossil fuel producers to decrease their production, the text presents these reductions as a choice by urging countries to potentially reduce the use of fossil fuels. Ireland’s environment minister, Eamon Ryan, expressed frustration with the use of the word “could,” stating that it undermines the effectiveness of the agreement. He also mentioned that the EU may withdraw from the negotiations if the language in the text is not revised.
Ryan expressed that the text was unacceptable as it lacked ambition and did not encompass the desires of all parties involved. He emphasized the need to incorporate climate justice throughout the entire text, something that has not yet been achieved.
The outcome of this two-week-long intense discussion on the future of climate action, set to conclude on Tuesday morning in the United Arab Emirates, is anticipated to be the crucial focus.
If the usage of fossil fuels withstands the anticipated pressure from the representatives of major oil-producing nations, it would signify a significant shift as countries are being urged to decrease their fossil fuel production under the UN framework convention on climate change.
Countries will now have a chance to express their opinions, and are predicted to engage in intense negotiations about the specific language. Some nations, who were hoping for a clear-cut elimination of fossil fuels, see the lack of a requirement for reduction as a significant weakening.
Mary Robinson, leader of the Elders organization made up of former world leaders, stated: “It is unacceptable to claim that you acknowledge and value scientific evidence, yet ignore its urgent warnings when making commitments for collective action… It is not sufficient to use vague language or allow loopholes that allow the fossil fuel industry to continue contributing to the very issue that countries have pledged to address here in Dubai… The current draft of the Cop28 text is significantly inadequate.”
There is concern that nations like Saudi Arabia, who have strongly opposed the reduction or elimination of fossil fuels, may attempt to undermine the text during the last moments of these discussions.
A representative for the presidential office stated: “Since the start, the Cop28 presidency has been transparent about our goals. This statement reflects those goals and is a significant advancement. It is now up to the involved parties, whom we have confidence in to make decisions that benefit both humanity and the environment.”
The passage addresses the topic of producing fossil fuels directly, instead of mentioning the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. During the conference, Saudi Arabia has consistently advocated for using the term “fossil fuel emissions” instead of “fossil fuel production” in order to allow for the implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The text also omits the word “unabated”, which was proposed by certain countries and pertains to the implementation of CCS. Fatih Birol, the director of the International Energy Agency, has criticized the idea of using CCS as a means for oil companies to continue their production, calling it a “fantasy” and an “illusion”.
The text mentions scientific advice, which is likely to be interpreted as a reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is a group of top climate scientists who have determined that there can only be a limited use of fossil fuels in 2050 in order to achieve net zero emissions and keep global heating below 1.5C (2.7F) compared to preindustrial levels. In order to align with this scientific guidance, there would need to be significant reductions in fossil fuel usage within the next 25 years.
According to David Waskow from the World Resources Institute, this statement fails to provide the necessary indications to prevent the climate crisis. The proposed actions are simply a selection of options, but it is not possible to choose only one or a few from the list. The world must address all of these transformative changes collectively.
The finance minister of Tuvalu, Seve Paeniu, expressed concern about the lack of a plan for phasing out certain practices. He also noted that the options given to countries may not be enough and could potentially cause more worry. Paeniu stated that Tuvalu will continue to advocate for stronger and more decisive language.
According to Romain Ioualalen, who leads the policy team at Oil Change International, a group that advocates for change in the oil industry, the current version of the draft is a confusing and risky compilation of ineffective actions that are not aligned with the necessary measures to prevent warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.
According to Meena Raman, a climate policy specialist at the Third World Network, the language used in the text seems to suggest that the president is attempting to find a middle ground between developing and developed nations. Negotiations involve trying to satisfy all parties, which can be a challenging task. However, Raman is somewhat relieved that the text does not appear to favor one side completely. In a noteworthy development, the text now includes mention of consumption and production.
Some advocates were pleased with the statement. Mohamed Adow, the head of Power Shift Africa, expressed, “This statement sets the foundation for revolutionary change. It marks the start of the end for the fossil fuel age.”