Yesterday, COP closed to protestors calling for a phase-out, highlighting the fate millions would face if negotiators failed to include this wording within the text.
This morning, the world woke up to a draft that has, once again, omitted any reference to a phase-out of fossil fuels. Instead, the document outlines a “transitioning away” from fossil fuels.
HE Dr Sultan Al Jaber waved through the Global Stocktake, as the room burst into applause and rose to a standing ovation. The agreement is named the “UAE Consensus.”
The COP28 Presidency called the deal a “historic package” and said that a comprehensive response to the global stocktake had been delivered.
“We have delivered a robust action plan to keep 1.5 degrees in reach. It is a balanced plan that addresses emissions… it is built on common ground. It is strengthened by full inclusivity.”
However, later in the session, it came to light that the Alliance of Small Island States was not in the room when the text was announced as being agreed to.
Samoa’s lead negotiator, Anne Rasmussen, said: “We didn’t want to interrupt the standing ovation when we came into the room. But we are a little confused about what happened. It seems that you just gaveled the decisions and the small island developing states were not in the room. We were working hard to coordinate the 39 small island developing states that are disproportionately affected by climate change. And so we were delayed in arriving here.”
“We don’t see any commitment to peak emissions by 2025. It is not enough to reference science and make agreements that ignore that science,” she said.
“On paragraph 28, we are exceptionally concerned that this does not do what we need, in sub-para 28 D, the exclusive focus on energy systems is disappointing. We are concerned that paragraphs 28 E and H potentially take us backwards rather than forward. In subpart E, we are being asked to endorse technologies that could result in actions that undermine our efforts. In subpart H, we see a litany of loopholes, it doesn’t deliver on a subsidy phase out and it doesn’t advance us beyond the status quo.”
Voting the text through, however, signals the first time at a COP that nations have agreed on a move away from fossil fuels.
Speaking on this, John Kerry, United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said: “For the first time in the history of our regime, the decision supported by all nations of the world calls for transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems to achieve net zero by 2050.” “
But, while this change is an improvement on the previous dire draft, its language is far from ambitious enough and lacking in clarity and action.
On coal, there is merely a reference to the “phase-down” of unabated coal power. Oil makes no appearance, and there’s a reference to fossil fuels just twice.
Nuclear, abatement and removal technologies are still featured in the text, as is low-carbon hydrogen production, to the disappointment of many – these technologies and fuels have been dubbed “false solutions.”
Another element considered a serious blow, is the inclusion of “transitional fuels” and their role in “facilitating the energy transition while ensuring energy security” – a reference to natural gas.
Elsewhere, the document outlines that finance, capacity-building and technology transfer are “critical enablers of climate action” and also “recognizes” the significant challenges developing country Parties face in accessing finance for implementing their national adaptation plans. However, the wording on climate finance is weak, as is the adaptation text.
It “notes with concern” that the adaptation finance gap is widening, and that current levels of climate finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building for adaptation remain “insufficient” to respond to worsening climate change impacts in developing country Parties.”
However, while it called for this to be “scaled-up,” there’s a lack of specifics and details on implementation.
On food and ag, the text now “encourages” the implementation of integrated, multi-sectoral solutions, including “resilient food systems,” within the adaptation bracket, and further says: “Attaining climate-resilient food and agricultural production and supply and distribution of food, as well as increasing sustainable and regenerative production and equitable access to adequate food and nutrition for all.”
This is not the result that many were hoping for, and it entirely omits the importance of food systems transformation in climate mitigation, despite a lot of rhetoric thrown around throughout the summit.
Today, Dr Al Jaber said that the agreement is “built on compromise,” “strengthened by full inclusivity” and “enhanced by balance,” and indeed, it is a huge compromise, and climate experts say one that does not keep us on the 1.5-degree track.
Considering how vague the text is, there are also questions about what implementation would actually look like and whether countries will honour the agreement.
“The text, it provides alternatives. But I think these texts do not affect our exports, do not affect our ability to sell,” said Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.
Despite what has been a disappointing result for many, COP did facilitate dialogue across many areas, saw the dedication of billions, and various pledges.
The Loss and Damages Fund was considered an early win, but now it must ramp up significantly to meet the minimum of $100 billion per year developing countries asked to be committed to the fund. The numbers show that $400bn in damage is caused by climate change each year.
More locally, the UAE Banks Federation, representing 56 lenders, pledged Dh1 trillion ($272 billion).
Elsewhere, countries made big emissions pledges; for example, Dubai committed to a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030.
Cooling came into the spotlight, with 63 countries pledging to cut their emissions from cooling systems by 68% by 2050 – a crucial commitment as temperatures rise. Over one hundred countries have also endorsed plans to triple renewable energy by 2030, and double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements.
Over 150 countries have also given the green light to a non-binding agreement to prioritise food and agriculture systems in their national climate plans, while the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health has been endorsed by 141 countries.
With all of these commitments, the devil is in the detail, and what’s needed now is clear plans of action and implementation.
Now, many are hoping that countries will push further than the text that was agreed upon today and that the private sector will step up with no more hiding behind promises, good intentions, and greenwashing.