Historic deal on a 'transition away from fossil fuels' adopted at COP28

07:37 PM Dec 13, 2023 | PTI |

Dubai: Nearly 200 countries on Wednesday clinched a deal that called for a “transition away from fossil fuels,” the primary reason for the planet’s climate crisis, at the UN climate summit here, a development described as “landmark” by negotiators but criticised by several activists for its lack of clarity.


The words “fossil fuel” became part of the final document of the first Global Stocktake deal, being termed the UAE consensus, at the COP28 for the first time in almost three decades of such negotiations, which called for its transition in a “just and equitable” manner.

Adopted after nearly two weeks of hectic negotiations, it urges countries to accelerate efforts toward the phase-down of unabated coal power, which is a climb down after India and China strongly resisted the singling out of coal.

As COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber gavelled through the agreement, the room full of negotiators at the annual Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) burst into applause.


Addressing the closing plenary of the COP28, Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav said the collective efforts here have sent positive signals to the world in reinforcing commitment to maintaining the temperature goals set in Paris.

“The way ahead must be based on equity and climate justice, let us implement the Paris Agreement in letter and spirit through the Global Stocktake process,” he said.

The text of the Dubai climate talks calls for a deep, rapid, and sustained reduction in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 degree Celsius pathways in a “nationally determined” manner, taking into account the Paris Agreement and their different national circumstances, pathways, and approaches.

The historic document called on countries with an eight-point plan to achieve this. It includes a “transition away from fossil fuels” in energy systems in a “just, orderly and equitable manner,” accelerating action in this decade, to achieve net zero (balance between greenhouse gases emitted and removed from the atmosphere) by 2050.

It also urged countries to accelerate efforts toward the phase down of unabated coal power, a marginal step up from the 2021 Glasgow deal.

However, unlike the previous versions, it lacks references to limiting the permitting of new and unabated coal power generation.

This absence suggests a strong pushback from heavily coal-dependent countries such as India and China.

Also, there is no mention of oil and gas in the 21-page document, fuels that rich countries continue to use.

US Climate Envoy John Kerry said the US along with China, will update their long-term strategies on pathways to net zero emissions by 2050, and encouraged other countries to do the same.

Graham Stuart, the UK’s climate change minister, said this is the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. “We’ve heard from the small island states and we understand their concerns. The voices of the islands must be heard,” he said.

India’s neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh — also spoke at the closing plenary and welcomed the adoption of the landmark agreement.

Addressing the gathering after adopting the agreement, Sultan al-Jaber said this is a robust action plan which plans to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.

Avinash Persaud, Special Climate Envoy to Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados, said when the dust settles and dawn breaks, this will be seen as one of the most historic COPs.

“We have operationalised a loss and damage fund, recapitalised the Green Climate Fund, and orchestrated an international climate finance system that prepares for new levies alongside emboldened development banks and new private sector flows. Today, we have committed to triple renewable investments and have a just transition from fossil fuels,” he said.

Noting that some parties opposed a clear reference to phase out of fossil fuels during the COP28, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in his post on X, said: “Fossil fuel phase out is inevitable.”

Ajay Mathur, Director General, International Solar Alliance, said the developments in Dubai further underscore the imperative to transition towards renewable energy for achieving Net Zero emissions.

Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia, said, “We cannot celebrate the mere inclusion of the reference to fossil fuels in the text if it comes without means of implementation and finance for energy transition for poor and developing countries.”

Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of Council for Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), said the COP decision hasn’t held historical polluters accountable, or established effective mechanisms to finance climate resilience and a just low-carbon transition for the Global South. “The Global Stocktake’s final text lacked the candid acknowledgement of problems and the teeth required to fight them.”

Madhura Joshi, India Lead at independent climate change think tank E3G said, “Though, there are several contradictions, the first Global Stocktake leaves the door open for low-carbon/emission technologies and transition fuels that have the potential to delay action and lock-in resources.”

(This story was produced as part of the 2023 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Centre for Peace and Security.)


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