COP28 deal: Death knell for fossil fuels or lip service?

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COP28 deal: Death knell for fossil fuels or lip service?
COP28 deal: Death knell for fossil fuels or lip service?

Africa-Press – Kenya. Businesses have to look at the decision adopted in Dubai and think about their next steps as transition to renewables is inevitable, WWF-UK official Clement Metivier tells Anadolu

Final COP28 ‘outcome does not provide the interim targets needed for urgent action now, but instead includes distractions and loopholes,’ says Friederike Roder, vice president at advocacy group Global Citizen

Finance and equity provisions are seriously insufficient and must be improved, says Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists

COP28 final text pays lip service to the human right to health and a clean environment, but falls short of action to guarantee them, says Jess Beagley, policy lead at Global Climate and Health Alliance

LONDON

For the first time in 30 years of climate negotiations, the final deal reached at a UN Climate Change Conference has included a reference to fossil fuels, the root cause of climate change.

After intense talks that ran into overtime, the final agreement signed by about 200 countries at COP28 in Dubai speaks about a “transition away from fossil fuels,” a reference that experts believe could be the beginning of the end for dirty fuels.

Viewed as historic by some and weak by others, it remains to be seen how the COP28 deal will impact the fossil fuel industry, particularly since experts have pointed out a number of loopholes and insufficient outcomes on key issues such as climate adaptation and finance.

COP28 wrapped up almost 24 hours later than schedule because negotiators needed to work on several draft texts until they ironed out a version that many could agree on.

Despite strong support for phasing out of fossil fuels from about 130 countries, scientists and civil society organizations, the language on fossil fuels remained one of the hottest topics at the Dubai summit.

Most major fossil fuel producers, Saudi Arabia being the most prominent, opposed the language on the phase-out, a critical step to slash emissions.

The final deal calls on parties to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems in an orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber hailed the agreement as “historic,” saying it has “delivered a robust action plan to keep 1.5 degrees in reach.”

“It is an enhanced, balanced, but make no mistake, a historic package to accelerate climate action. It is the UAE consensus. We have language on fossil fuel in our final agreement for the first time ever,” he said.

For Clement Metivier, acting head of international advocacy at WWF-UK, the COP28 “outcome is very important because it really signals the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel era.”

“So, we have a landmark decision to transition away from fossil fuels, and obviously that is a commitment for countries to transition away from oil, gas and coal. I think this is very significant,” he told Anadolu.

“It is very welcomed that after 30 years of climate negotiations, we have come to a point where the root cause of the climate crisis, which are fossil fuels, is explicitly named.”

Metivier said he is hopeful that this signal of a transition away from fossil fuels “is going to become very clearly a total phase-out of coal, oil and gas in the coming years.”

Emphasizing the need for a course correction to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, he said this shift is not just dependent on governments, but also the fossil fuel industry.

“Businesses have to look at the decision that has been adopted and have to think about next steps. Transition to renewables is inevitable,” he said, adding that it also makes economic sense.

‘Loopholes allow for potential distractions’

The COP28 final text recognized the need for deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions – 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 – compared to the 2019 levels, and reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions to limit global warming by 2050.

The UN Environment Program’s latest Emissions Gap Report showed that levels are still rising, although more slowly than previous decades.

Pledges on renewables, efficiency and reducing methane emissions at COP28 are estimated to bridge only 30% of the gap by 2030, according to a recent analysis by the International Energy Agency.

“COP28 was meant to herald the demise of fossil fuels, the primary driver of climate change. For the first time ever, a COP agreement does state the need to turn away from fossil fuels by 2050,” said Friederike Roder, vice president at advocacy group Global Citizen.

“As important as that signal is, it is frustrating that the presidency fell short of providing the clarity and urgency needed. The final outcome does not provide the interim targets needed for urgent action now, but instead includes distractions and loopholes on so-called transition fuels and carbon capture technology.”

Ironically, the transition fuels mentioned in the agreement are known to be gas, which is one of the fossil fuels that needs to be phased out.

According to WWF-UK’s Metivier, this is one of the glaring loopholes in the final COP28 text.

“Those loopholes allow for potential distractions to be introduced for carbon capture and storage,” he said.

“I think that the COP28 outcome will obviously only be judged in the future. What we have to look at from now on is national implementation of the signals and approaches that have been taken here in Dubai,” he said.

The next steps will be very critical in terms of accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels and supporting the development of renewables, he stressed.

Tripling global renewable capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030 is one of the areas where a broader consensus has been reached, although China and India remain opposed to this aim.

This leaves the door open for countries to decide what capacity they choose to build.

Tripling means global renewable energy capacity is expected to reach 11 terawatts by 2030 from its current level of 3.4 terawatts.

Adaptation and finance weak spots

COP28 opened with a crucial agreement as countries agreed to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund, aiming to compensate vulnerable countries for climate change-related damage.

However, countries have so far committed just $655 million to a fund that requires hundreds of billions.

According to UN figures, developing countries’ need for adaptation finance is around $400 billion per year.

“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,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director and a lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

She stressed that richer nations like the US have a responsibility to take the lead in “quickly moving away from fossil fuels and providing scaled-up climate finance for developing countries.”

“Without that, we will not be able to succeed in phasing out fossil fuels, which remains the essential guiding star, nor will we deliver justice for people on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” said Cleetus.

Jess Beagley, policy lead at the Global Climate and Health Alliance, also believes the language on adaptation and finance in the final COP28 text is weak.

“This language leaves vulnerable people unprotected and risks reinforcing cycles of debt, disease and death,” she said.

“The COP28 final text pays lip service to the human right to health and the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, but falls short of action to guarantee them.”

Source: AA

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