Nations at COP28 strike deal to transition away from fossil fuels

  • Global Fossil Fuel Reduction Agreement: COP28 attendees from almost 200 nations agreed to reduce fossil fuel consumption, signaling a pivotal shift away from the oil age.
  • Historic Deal in Dubai: After intense negotiations, a historic deal was reached in Dubai, emphasizing unity to combat climate change by breaking ties with fossil fuels.
  • Landmark Language on Phasing Out Fossil Fuels: The agreement includes clear language on the necessity to “phase out” oil, gas, and coal, a significant breakthrough after years of climate talks.
  • OPEC Opposition and Delay: Over 100 nations pushed for strong language against fossil fuels, facing resistance from OPEC-led by Saudi Arabia, leading to a day-long extension of the summit.
  • Renewable Energy Acceleration: The deal calls for a tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030, faster reduction of coal use, and the advancement of technologies like carbon capture to achieve net zero by 2050.
  • Mixed Reactions and Implementation Challenges: While hailed as a step towards a greener future, critics highlight unambitious targets and loopholes. Implementation success hinges on turning the agreement into tangible actions.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - UNFCCC COP28 global conference plenary session. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images
UNFCCC COP28 global conference plenary session. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Nations at COP28 strike a deal for a fossil fuel-free future

Representatives from almost 200 nations reached a groundbreaking agreement at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai on Wednesday. The deal signifies a crucial step towards reducing global reliance on fossil fuels, marking a potential end to the era of oil. The agreement at COP28 emerged after intense negotiations spanning two weeks, aiming to convey a strong message to investors and policymakers about the world’s collective commitment to distancing itself from fossil fuels. Scientists emphasize that this shift is essential to prevent the dire consequences of climate change.

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber hailed the agreement as “historic.” However, he emphasized that its true success lies in the effective execution of its provisions. Addressing the crowded plenary at the summit, al-Jaber stated, “We are what we do, not what we say. We must take the steps necessary to turn this agreement into tangible actions.”

The deal at COP28 received praise from numerous countries for achieving a milestone that had eluded decades of climate talks. Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide remarked, “It is the first time that the world unites around such a clear text on the need to transition away from fossil fuels.”

Over 100 countries pushed for robust language in the COP28 agreement, advocating for the “phase out” of oil, gas, and coal use. However, they faced formidable opposition from the oil producer group OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia. OPEC contended that emissions could be reduced without singling out specific fuels. This disagreement extended the summit into overtime, raising concerns about a potential deadlock in negotiations.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) controls nearly 80% of the world’s proven oil reserves and about one-third of global oil output. Governments of OPEC member states heavily rely on oil revenues. In contrast, small climate-vulnerable island states strongly supported language calling for the phase-out of fossil fuels, backed by major oil and gas producers such as the United States, Canada, Norway, the European Union, and numerous other governments.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry hailed the agreement, stating, “This is a moment where multilateralism has actually come together, and people have taken individual interests and attempted to define the common good.”

While some considered the deal at COP28 unambitious, the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, Anne Rasmussen, did not formally object to the pact. Rasmussen’s criticism focused on the need for more significant actions, stating, “We have made an incremental advancement over business as usual, when what we really need is an exponential step change in our actions.” Despite her reservations, her speech garnered a standing ovation lasting nearly two minutes.

Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Dan Jorgensen reflected on the significance of the agreement, noting, “We’re standing here in an oil country, surrounded by oil countries, and we made the decision saying let’s move away from oil and gas.”

Net Zero Emissions by 2050, but Concerns Arise Over Funding Gaps

The deal at COP28 aims for a just and orderly transition, ultimately achieving a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050, aligning with scientific recommendations.

This transition is already underway in various countries, with some governments implementing policies to embrace a more sustainable and environmentally friendly economy. Notably, Europe and the U.S. have retired coal-fired power plants, and the global adoption of renewable energy has reached record levels. Many nations are also encouraging the use of electric vehicles.

The agreement signed at COP28 calls on governments to expedite these efforts by tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030, reducing coal use, and advancing technologies like carbon capture and storage for challenging-to-decarbonize industries.

A source familiar with Saudi Arabia’s stance described the deal at COP28 as offering flexibility for each country to choose its own pathway, reported by Reuters. The agreement is seen as recognizing the unique circumstances of each nation within the context of sustainable development while maintaining the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

While several oil-producing nations, including the UAE hosting the summit, support the inclusion of carbon capture technology, critics argue that it remains expensive and unproven at scale, potentially enabling continued fossil fuel extraction.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore welcomed the agreement but highlighted lingering concerns about concessions made to petrostates, noting “half measures and loopholes” in the final text.

Now that the deal is finalized, individual countries are tasked with translating it into action through national policies and investments. China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, urged developed countries to take the lead, emphasizing their historical responsibility for climate change.

“Developed countries have unshirkable historical responsibilities for climate change,” the country’s vice environment minister Zhao Yingmin said after the pact was approved.

In the United States, the top global producer of oil and gas and a major historical emitter of greenhouse gases, implementing climate policies faces challenges due to a divided Congress. President Joe Biden achieved a significant victory last year with the Inflation Reduction Act, providing substantial funding for clean energy subsidies.

Public support for renewable energy and electric vehicles has been growing globally, supported by advancements in technology, declining costs, and increased private investment. However, fossil fuels still dominate the global energy landscape, comprising approximately 80% of the total energy consumption, and predictions regarding the peak of global demand vary widely.

While the climate deal signed at COP28 has garnered praise, some, like Rachel Cleetus, the policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, express concerns about insufficient commitments from wealthy nations to financially support developing countries in their transition away from fossil fuels. She emphasizes the need for improved finance and equity provisions to ensure a just and inclusive clean energy transition, particularly for low- and middle-income countries.

“The finance and equity provisions… are seriously insufficient and must be improved in the time ahead in order to ensure low- and middle-income countries can transition to clean energy and close the energy poverty gap,” she said.

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Source(s): The Energy Mix; Reuters

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