Negotiators at United Nations COP28 climate talks agreed Wednesday the world must transition away from planet-warming fossil fuels, a significant step toward shifting how the world is powered but one filled with questions about how soon and who will pay for the transition.
COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber gaveled through the text at a plenary session in Dubai after more than two weeks of discussions that saw nations try and figure out a way for the world to stay in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. Countries were split between those wanting strong language on a phase-out of fossil fuels and others who wanted some way to continue burning oil, gas and coal.
The new compromise had been floated early Wednesday after a global rallying cry stronger than proposed days earlier, but with loopholes that upset critics.
The new proposal doesn’t go so far as to seek a “phase-out” of fossil fuels, which more than 100 nations had pleaded for. Instead, it calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade.”
That transition would be in a way that gets the world to net zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 and follows the dictates of climate science.
It projects a world peaking its ever-growing carbon pollution by the year 2025 to reach its agreed-upon threshold but gives wiggle room to individual nations like China to peak later.
“The world is burning, we need to act now,” said Ireland Environment Minister Eamon Ryan.
Intensive sessions with all sorts of delegates went well into the small hours of Wednesday morning after the conference presidency’s initial document angered many countries by avoiding decisive calls for action on curbing warming. Then, the United Arab Emirates-led presidency presented delegates from nearly 200 nations with a new central document – called the global stocktake – just after sunrise.
It’s the third version presented in about two weeks and the word “oil” does not appear anywhere in the 21-page document, but “fossil fuels” appears twice.
The Alliance of Small Island States said in a statement that the text ”is incremental and not transformational. We see a litany of loopholes in this text that are a major concern to us.”
“We needed a global signal to address fossil fuels. This is the first time in 28 years that countries are forced to deal with fossil fuels,” Center for Biological Diversity energy justice director Jean Su told The Associated Press. “So that is a general win. But the actual details in this are severely flawed.”
“The problem with the text is that it still includes cavernous loopholes that allow the United States and other fossil fuel producing countries to keep going on their expansion of fossil fuels,” Su said. “There’s a pretty deadly, fatal flaw in the text, which allows for transitional fuels to continue” which is a code word for natural gas that also emits carbon pollution.