Dubai: As the climate talks in Dubai spun into their final hours, negotiators on Monday released the latest draft on the global stocktake, deemed the most critical document of COP28, which notably omits any mention of the “phase out of fossil fuels”. However, the draft does suggest countries could agree on reducing the “production and consumption of fossil fuels” for the first time in the history of UN climate conferences. Several countries and the EU have emphasised that a deal to “phase out all fossil fuels” would signal success for COP28.
The COP28 Presidency said in a statement,
The COP28 Presidency has been clear from the beginning about our ambitions. This text reflects those ambitions and is a huge step forward. Now, it is in the hands of the Parties, who we trust to do what is best for humanity and the planet.
The latest draft of the global stocktake, based on which countries will announce their new action plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius next year, indicates a strong pushback from fossil-fuel reliant economies such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq against the phase-out of all fossil fuels, an outcome that seemed feasible until this evening. Soudi Arabia has the second largest oil reserves in the world (16.2 per cent of global share) after Venezuela and Iraq has the fifth largest (8.7 per cent).
Observers said “fossil fuel phase out” could still be included in the final text if nations push hard and commit to rapidly scaling up finance for poor and developing countries. The earlier draft presented four options for a “fossil fuel phase out” but none made it to the newest version released on Monday evening.
The updated draft lists eight options that “could” slash greenhouse gas emissions. These include “reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels in a just, orderly, and equitable manner to achieve net-zero emissions by, before, or around 2050 in keeping with science”.
The text features stringent language, although optional, regarding coal, to the detriment of heavily coal-dependent countries like India and China.
Rapidly phasing down unabated coal and imposing limitations on new and unabated coal power generation.
However, there is no mention of oil and gas in the 21-page document.
Approximately 40 per cent of global CO2 emissions stem from coal, while oil and gas contribute to the remaining percentage.
India, relying on coal for about 70 per cent of its power generation, aims to add 17 gigawatts of coal-based power generation capacity in the next 16 months.
The draft acknowledges the importance to triple global renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency rates by 2030, yet lacks specifics.
The International Energy Agency insists that achieving this is critical to avoid breaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.
The document calls for the scaling up of technologies, including underperforming ones, to capture CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.
There are references to equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, something developing countries have been fighting for.
These principles acknowledge that countries’ efforts to combat climate change should be considered in light of their contributions to total emissions. They also stress that wealthier nations should bear primary responsibilities due to their substantial historical emissions.
However, there is a noticeable absence of language in the adaptation section regarding the obligation of developed countries to provide finance.
The mitigation section in the previous version of the GST text referred to the obligation of developed countries to take the lead in securing finance. This has been removed, according to Brandon Wu from ActionAid USA.
Until now, statements from a large number of countries suggested a consensus on the need to phase out fossil fuels at COP28, but a small minority of countries have been blocking this text, observers said.
Catherine Abreu, the executive director of Destination Zero said,
Strong language on a support package for the energy transition and scaling up of renewable energy in developing countries could help these countries come on board. However, there’s a lack of strong acknowledgement of the need for differentiation.
The Earth’s global surface temperature has risen by 1.15 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels (1850-1900). CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere, primarily due to fossil fuel burning since the Industrial Revolution, are closely linked to this increase.
Phasing out all fossil fuels is easier said than done. This requires rich countries to rapidly deliver trillions of dollars in grants and newest technologies to help emerging economies like India and small countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka to leapfrog to renewables.
An energy transition without this will only deepen the existing gaps between the Global North and the Global South, climate experts said. John Silk, Minister of Natural Resources and Commerce, Republic of Marshall Islands, expressed disappointment over the text.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands did not come here to sign our death warrant. We came here to fight for 1.5 (degrees Celsius) and for the only way to achieve that: a fossil fuel phase out. What we have seen today is unacceptable. We will not go silently to our watery graves.
The new GST draft is a “watered down menu of compromises”, Abreu said.
Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, said that the latest GST text has dropped explicit language on phasing out fossil fuels, instead opting for a vague commitment to ‘reduce both consumption and production’ by 2050.
This is a clear indication of the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying power, influencing global policies to favor prolonged fossil fuel use.
Asked if the “phase out fossil fuels” language could be reintroduced, Li Shuo, director of China Climate Hub at the Asia Society Policy Institute, affirmed,
If parties push hard for it. Absolutely. There is an opportunity for that to happen.
Former Ireland president Mary Robinson said that reaffirming the Paris Agreement isn’t sufficient if there’s no commitment to a full fossil fuel phase-out.
Susana Muhamad, Colombia’s environment minister, said:
We need ‘phase out’ in the text. We need to acknowledge that we need 43 percent reduction by 2030. We need 1.5C. 2050 is too late. If we don’t get 2030, we won’t have 2050.
The observers said that if the UAE, which maintains strong diplomatic relations with the US, the EU, China, and India, does not secure a robust agreement on fossil fuels, it might prove challenging to achieve one in Azerbaijan, the host next year’s climate talks which relies on oil and gas for two-thirds of its revenues.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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