COP28: the draft agreement does not call for an “exit” from fossil fuels

The new draft agreement at COP28 on climate, prepared by the United Arab Emirates, was made public on Monday, December 11, on the eve of the scheduled closing of the United Nations (UN) conference

COP28: the draft agreement does not call for an “exit” from fossil fuels

The new draft agreement at COP28 on climate, prepared by the United Arab Emirates, was made public on Monday, December 11, on the eve of the scheduled closing of the United Nations (UN) conference. The text calls in particular for the “reduction of both the consumption and production of fossil fuels in a fair, orderly and equitable manner, so as to achieve net zero [carbon neutrality] by, before or around 2050, as recommended by science.”

But he no longer mentions the word “exit” from fossil fuels. And it now includes a number of wishes from the camp of oil producing or exporting countries, such as the mention of nascent carbon capture and storage technologies, required by them to continue pumping hydrocarbons.

On coal, the text calls for "rapidly reducing coal without carbon capture" as well as establishing "limits on permits granted for new coal-fired power plants" without carbon capture, which in fact constitutes a step backwards by compared to the Glasgow COP two years ago, where no green light was given for new power plants. The text includes the objective of tripling renewable energies globally and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

“A significant regression”

As negotiators and observers dissect the text, reactions begin to fall in Dubai, ranging from moderate to scandalized. “Our voices are not heard”, and the project is “totally insufficient” on the issue of fossil fuels, denounced the Samoan minister, Cedric Schuster, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis).

The text “represents a significant regression from previous versions,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at the Climate Action Network (CAN), which represents more than a thousand associations and participates in the COP's work. as an observer. “Staggeringly, it no longer includes an explicit formula on phasing out fossil fuels.” This “exit” from fossil fuels was a red line for many countries and observers present at the Dubai negotiations, particularly among the countries of the Arab bloc.

“We are in a race against time,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres thundered earlier in the day, before calling on countries to “maximum flexibility” to avoid a huge disappointment on Tuesday. He was very clear: COP28 on climate must call for an “exit from fossil fuels”, but “this does not mean that all countries must exit from fossil fuels at the same time”. That is to say, rich countries must set an example and help the poorest to finance their solar power plants or the electrification of their factories.

“We don't have a minute to lose in this crucial final stretch,” Simon Stiell, head of UN Climate, urged before him, judging that “the highest levels of ambition are possible” on the two inseparable subjects at the heart of the latest talks: the end of oil, coal and gas on the one hand, and the dollars that poor countries need to develop without fossils on the other.