The world agreed to a new climate deal in Dubai on Wednesday at the COP28 summit after two weeks of painstaking negotiations, making an unprecedented call to abandon fossil fuels but using vague language that could allow some countries to take minimal measures.
The hammer fell on the deal, known as the Global Stocktake, the morning after negotiations were pushed into overtime by marathon negotiations between countries bitterly divided over the future role of oil, gas and coal.
COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber described the agreement as “historic” in his speech to national delegates during the final session approving the agreement. “For the first time ever, our final agreement contains provisions on fossil fuels,” he said, adding that the deal represented “a paradigm shift that has the potential to redefine our economies.”
Some countries said the deal marked the end of the fossil fuel era, but more ambitious nations and climate advocates said it was still far from enough to reflect the growing urgency of the crisis. climatic.
“Finally, the loud calls to end fossil fuels have been put to black and white paper at this COP,” said Jean Su, director of energy justice at the Center for Biological Diversity, “but cavernous fault lines threaten to undermine this decisive moment. »
The deal fails to require the world to “phase out” oil, coal and gas — something more than 100 countries and many climate groups had called for, language that was included in an earlier version of the draft.
Instead, the agreement “calls” on countries to “contribute” to global efforts to reduce carbon pollution in any way they see fit, offering several options, one of which is to “abandon fossil fuels in energy systems…accelerating action during this critical decade.” , in order to reach net zero by 2050.”
COP28 took place at the end of a year marked by unprecedented global heat, which led to deadly extreme weather conditions, including record wildfires, deadly heatwaves and catastrophic flooding. This year is officially the hottest on record, due to a combination of human-caused global warming and El Niño, and next year is expected to be even warmer.
The Dubai conference was marred by controversy and criticism that oil interests influenced the negotiations.
Licypriya Kangujam, an indigenous Indian climate activist, holds a protest sign during the talks on December 11, 2023, before the deal was reached.
The conference was also marked by deep divisions, with Saudi Arabia leading a group of oil-producing countries rejecting any proposals to phase out fossil fuels. On the other side, more ambitious parties, including the European Union and a group of island states, have expressed anger over a previous draft containing watered-down language on fossil fuels.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said divisions nearly derailed the conference, with oil and gas-producing countries pushing back on the fossil fuel narrative.
“I think there were times over the last 48 hours where some of us thought this might fail,” Kerry told reporters Wednesday. But ultimately, they “stepped up and said, ‘we want this to succeed.’
Kerry called the deal a success and a vindication of multilateralism.
“We can all find a paragraph or a sentence or a section where we would have said it differently,” he said in an earlier speech after the deal was reached. But, he added, “having a document as strong as the one that has been developed is, in my opinion, a reason for optimism, a reason for gratitude and a reason to warmly congratulate everyone here.”
He said the deal was “a much louder and clearer call for 1.5 than we have ever heard”, referring to the internally agreed ambition to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold beyond which scientists say. humans and ecosystems will struggle to adapt.
“The message coming out of this COP is that we are moving away from fossil fuels,” Kerry said. “We won’t go back.”
Several parties expressed disappointment and concerns over the speed with which Al Jaber banged his gavel and adopted the draft agreement. Typically, countries express support or objections and agreement follows debate.
“It looks like you made the decisions and the small island developing states were not in the room,” Anne Rasmussen, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), told Al Jaber once they enter the room.
AOSIS, an intergovernmental organization of countries particularly at risk of a climate crisis, is one of the most powerful voices in the annual climate negotiations.
AOSIS was “exceptionally concerned” about the deal, Rasmussen added. Although the text contains “many positive elements,” she said, “the necessary course correction has not yet been achieved.”
03:45 – Source: CNN
This deceptively simple term could be key to the planet’s survival
“It is not enough to point to science and then make deals that ignore what the science tells us we need to do,” she said in her speech that received a standing ovation from delegates.
Many climate experts, while cautiously welcoming the reference to fossil fuels in the deal, point to serious weaknesses, including leaving the door open for continued fossil fuel expansion.
Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at the non-profit Climate Action Network International, said: “After decades of evasion, COP28 has finally shone a light on the real culprits of the climate crisis: fuels. fossils. A long-awaited direction away from coal, oil and gas has been set.
But, he added, “the resolution is riddled with loopholes that provide the fossil fuel industry with numerous exit routes, relying on unproven and dangerous technologies.”
It refers to the controversial technology known as carbon capture and storage – a set of techniques being developed to extract carbon pollution from polluting facilities such as power plants and air, and store it under earth. The agreement calls for an acceleration of technology.
Many scientists have expressed concern that carbon capture is not proven on a large scale, distracting from policies aimed at reducing the use of fossil fuels and is too costly.
Some countries and experts were alarmed by the agreement’s recognition of the role of “transition fuels” in the energy transition – widely interpreted to mean natural gas, a planet-warming fossil fuel.
“We want to sound the alarm that the energy transition will become permanent, especially in developing countries,” said a delegate from Antigua and Barbuda.
There has also been criticism of the failure to ensure that enough funds flow to the poorest and most climate-vulnerable countries to help them adapt to the growing impacts of the climate crisis and shift their economies towards renewable energies.
COP28 started with an initial financial success. On day one, countries formally adopted a loss and damage fund, decades in the making, and have since pledged more than $700 million to help countries on the front lines of the fight against climate change .
But the summit agreement – while recognizing that developing countries need up to $387 billion a year to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis and that around $4.3 trillion is needed each year until 2030 to develop renewable energy – does not include any obligation for developed countries to give more.
Developing countries “still dependent on fossil fuels for energy, income and jobs are left without strong guarantees of adequate financial support,” Singh said.
Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, said in a statement that the “transition” provided for in this agreement “is neither funded nor equitable.”
“We still lack enough funding to help developing countries decarbonize and expect rich fossil fuel producers to exit first,” Adow said.