Nearly 200 countries at Dubai’s Cop28 climate summit have agreed to a deal that, for the first time, calls on all nations to transition away from fossil fuels.
After an overnight sitting the agreement was rapidly gavelled through by the event’s President Dr Sultan Al Jaber, receiving an ovation from delegates and a hug from UN climate chief, Simon Stiell.
‘We have delivered a robust action plan to keep 1.5C (2.7F) [of global heating above preindustrial levels] in reach,’ Al Jaber said.
‘It is a plan that is led by the science. 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.’
However the proclamation did not include an explicit commitment to phase out fossil fuels, as many countries, environmental activists and scientists had hoped.
Instead, it called on countries to contribute to global efforts to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems ‘in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science’.
António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, tweeted after the deal was agreed: ‘Whether you like it or not, fossil fuel phase-out is inevitable. Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late.’
John Kerry, the US Climate Envoy, said: ‘While nobody here will see their views completely reflected, the fact is that this document sends a very strong signal to the world. We have to adhere to keeping 1.5C [of heating about [preindustrial levels] in reach.
‘In particular, it states that our next [nationally determined commitments] will be aligned with 1.5C.’
Kerry announced that the US and China – the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters – had agreed ‘that we both intend to update our long term strategies and we invite other parties in joining us’.
The deal said countries recognised ‘the need for deep, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5C pathways’, and called for a tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030.
It repeated statements agreed at previous summits calling on nations to accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power.
The US will get away lightly from Cop28, having pledged just over $20m (£16m) in new finance for the poor world, and with its position as the world’s biggest oil and gas producer intact. China will continue to pursue coal production as well as renewable energy, and India’s coal industry will also have little to fear.
The agreement also called for the development of a list of zero and low-emission technologies including renewables, nuclear, alongside abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilisation and storage.
Cop28 Talks Into Early Hours
Al Jaber had engaged in an intense round of shuttle diplomacy throughout Tuesday and had meetings with heads of delegations singly and in groups until 3am on Wednesday (UAE Time) in order to reach the deal.
There was some confusion shortly after it was passed as several nations believed there would be a debate over the text, which was released for consideration only four hours before it was passed.
The Alliance of Small Island States, representing 39 countries, said it had not been in the room when the deal was adopted as it was still coordinating its response.
Its lead negotiator, Anne Rasmussen from Samoa, did not formally object to that decision and believed the deal had ‘many good elements’. but she said it did not go far enough.
Mohamed Adow, from the thinktank Power Shift Africa, said it was the first time in three decades of climate negotiations the words fossil fuels have ever made it into a Cop summit ruling.
‘The genie is never going back into the bottle and future Cops will only turn the screws even more on dirty energy,’ he said. ‘It shows that even oil and gas producers can see we’re heading for a fossil-free world.’