COP28 could call for phase-out of fossil fuels



Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels globally are set to hit a record high in 2023 exacerbating climate change. And the COP28 climate conference of 200 countries being held at Dubai, UAE, is considering a formal phase-out of fossil fuels as part of the UN summit’s efforts to tackle global warming. Research published on Dec 5 showed that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are set to hit a record high this year fuelling more destructive extreme weather.

The draft, which could be the final agreement from COP28, proposed “an orderly and just phase-out of fossil fuels,” which if adopted would mark the first global deal to end the oil age. It has led to serious negotiations on the summit’s defining issue, but whether countries will agree to eventually end the use of fossil fuels, or fight to preserve a role for them is yet to be seen. At least 2,400 fossil fuel lobbyists registered for this year’s summit, outnumber the 1,609 delegates from the 10 most climate vulnerable countries combined. The proposal is expected to spark heated debates among the nearly 200 countries attending the two-week conference.

The draft text for a COP28 final deal includes three options for dealing with fossil fuels. The first, “an orderly and just phase-out”. According to the UN, the word “just” suggests that wealthy nations that have been long burning fossil fuels would phase out faster than others.

The second calls for “accelerating efforts towards phasing out unabated fossil fuels”. The third is to avoid mentioning a phase-out at all.

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said his country would “absolutely not” agree to a deal that calls for a phase-down of fossil fuels. At the same time, David Waskow, director of World Resources Institute’s international climate initiative, said a COP28 outcome was not possible without moving away from global reliance on oil, gas and coal.

The Global Carbon Budget report said CO2 emissions from coal, oil and gas are rising, driven by India and China. Countries are expected to emit a total 36.8 billion metric tons of CO2 from fossil fuels in 2023, a 1.1% increase from last year. The world’s overall emissions for this year, which reached a record high last year, have plateaued in 2023 due to a slightly better use of land, including a decline in deforestation.

China’s fossil fuel emissions rose after it lifted COVID-19 restrictions, while India’s rise was due to a power demand growing faster than its renewable energy capacity, leaving fossil fuels to make up the shortfall.

“We’re not talking about turning the tap off overnight,” German Climate Envoy Jennifer Morgan said. “What you’re seeing here is a real battle about what energy system of the future we are going to build together. I don’t think we’re going to leave Dubai without some clear language and some clear direction on shifting away from fossil fuels,” he added.


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