COP28 strikes landmark fossil fuel deal, raising 1.5C hopes

An ‘historic’ deal has been reached in Dubai to move the world away from oil and gas, but with a ‘litany of loopholes’ many are sceptical. 

red and black metal tower during sunset

Brokered in the 11th hour of the annual conference, almost 200 countries were present at the plenary session yesterday, and no objections to the proposed plan to reach net zero by 2050 were raised.

Now known as the UAE Consensus, the document ‘calls on parties to contribute’ to efforts at bringing down emissions, and in turn air pollution. This includes ‘transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems’ in a ‘just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.’

For many, this is a significant improvement on a previous draft, published earlier this week, which caused widespread anger when references to ‘phasing out’ and a cessation of fossil fuel extraction and use were removed. The latest version still omits the words ‘phase out’, but draws on language proposed by representatives from vulnerable countries, including Pacific Islanders.

‘We have set the world in the right direction,’ said COP28 President and head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Sultan al-Jaber. ‘We have give it a robust action plan to keep 1.5C within reach.’

EU, Canadian, and Irish ministers labelled the deal as ‘historic’. Meanwhile, prior to the deal being reached UK Climate Change Minister Graham Stuart had already flown home to participate in a Westminster vote on controversial new immigration policies that could send illegal arrivals into Britain to Rwanda. 

Despite the clear progress the agreement represents, some red flags have been raised. The Alliance of Small Island States has described a ‘litany of loopholes’ in the wording, which could jeopardise the overall aims. And there are also doubts over the ability for economically less developed countries, already contending with huge debt, to finance transition. Calls have now been made for more detail on how the switch will be funded. 

‘The agreement to transition away from fossil fuels is a watershed moment and vital if we are to keep the Paris Agreement target of 1.5C within reach. But we are hanging onto the edge of a cliff and dangerous distractions such as ‘transitional fuels’ and large-scale carbon capture and storage should not be part of a future where people and nature thrive,’ said Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at the environmental charity WWF-UK. 

‘Finance is key to unlocking climate action. The early decision to operationalise the Loss and Damage Fund was a critical step,’ added Stephen Cornelius, WWF Deputy Global Climate and Energy Lead. ‘The many pledges we have heard at COP28, while welcome, are a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. The funding pot will now need to grow by orders of magnitude to adequately help people in harm’s way. The need for loss and damage and adaptation funding will only continue to rise rapidly if countries do not invest more in cutting emissions and phasing out polluting fossil fuels.’

More on COP28: 

WATCH: ‘Pollution pods’ spotlight air quality crisis at COP28

COP28 Global Cooling Pledge to tackle emissions, pollution from climate control

Groundbreaking methane alliance established at COP28

Image: Maria Lupan


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