• Will COP28 be the first to declare an end to fossil fuels?

Fuel for Thought

Will COP28 be the first to declare an end to fossil fuels?

Dec 08 2023

In a groundbreaking turn of events, COP28, hosted in Dubai, stands at the forefront of a global dialogue on the future of fossil fuels. This pivotal UN climate summit is witnessing a concerted push from numerous countries to initiate the phase-out of fossil fuels. A key element of this discussion hinges on the outcomes of the inaugural "global stocktake" under the Paris Agreement. This assessment aims to pinpoint the discrepancies in emissions reduction targets among nations and chart a course for maintaining global temperatures within a 1.5-degree rise. 

The rallying cry at COP28, as articulated by COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, revolves around the 1.5-degree target, deemed the "North Star" of this summit. Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan, in his address to the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, emphasized the inevitability of a fossil phase-out in light of the existing oil and gas reserves' potential to drastically alter the planet's climate. He underscored the necessity for a diverse array of financial solutions to facilitate a swift and equitable transition to clean energy. 

Critical to this discussion is the need for detailed planning on how this transition will be structured and executed, particularly focusing on the financial mechanisms that will support the shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources. Developing countries, in particular, require significant support in this transition. Minister Ryan also highlighted the importance of carbon capture technology in this context but cautioned against its misuse as a loophole for the fossil fuel industry. 

The negotiations at COP28 are marked by progress, yet significant decisions remain pending. The draft text indicates a commitment to phase-out, but its final form is still uncertain. The involvement of major oil-producing countries, notably Saudi Arabia, and their stance on carbon capture and storage technologies, is a critical aspect of these talks. 

Lord Browne, former chief of BP, pointed out the role of state-owned enterprises in hydrocarbon extraction, suggesting a potential reluctance among oil-rich nations to cease their reliance on fossil fuels. This stance is echoed by climate groups and several national delegations. 

Al Gore, former US vice president, now a vocal advocate for climate action, stressed the historic significance of an agreement to phase out fossil fuels at COP28. He noted the establishment of a loss-and-damage fund for developing countries but highlighted the need for a substantial commitment to ending fossil fuel usage as the summit's critical outcome. 

The stance of various countries, particularly those like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China, remains a contentious issue. These nations' reluctance to agree to a fossil fuel phase-out reflects the complex dynamics of global climate negotiations. The consensus-based nature of UN summits necessitates unanimous agreement on the text of any potential deal, adding layers of complexity to the discussions. 

A group of 800 big names, including Jacinda Ardern, Sadiq Khan, Richard Branson and Jane Goodall, have released an open letter to the President of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber, demanding that the Conference agrees explicitly to phasing out fossil fuels. In this critical juncture, the world looks to COP28 for decisive action. The call for an end to fossil fuels is not just a policy decision; it's a commitment to the future of the planet. As negotiations continue, the international community eagerly awaits a resolution that could mark a historic turning point in our fight against climate change. 

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