COP28: the UAE presidency proposes a historic compromise on fossil fuels

The UAE presidency of COP28 unveiled a new compromise plan on Wednesday (December 13) to unblock the Dubai climate negotiations, calling on countries around the world to “transition away from fossil fuels” with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality in 2050, in accordance with climate science

COP28: the UAE presidency proposes a historic compromise on fossil fuels

The UAE presidency of COP28 unveiled a new compromise plan on Wednesday (December 13) to unblock the Dubai climate negotiations, calling on countries around the world to “transition away from fossil fuels” with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality in 2050, in accordance with climate science. The document, whose publication was awaited all night by sleep-deprived negotiators, proposes for the first time in the history of United Nations climate conferences to mention all fossil fuels, largely responsible for climate change, in a decision to be adopted by all countries.

The text, every word of which was negotiated by the Emiratis, thus calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a fair, orderly and equitable manner, by accelerating action in this crucial decade, in order to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050, in accordance with scientific recommendations.” The call to accelerate action from the current decade was a demand of the European Union and many other countries, but the document no longer speaks of an "exit" from oil, gas and coal, as more calls for. of a hundred nations.

To make history, this compromise text, the result of painful negotiations between the European Union, small island countries, the United States, China and Saudi Arabia, will have to be approved by nearly 200 countries per consensus. The presidency convened a plenary session at 9:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. in Paris) for this purpose, the day after the planned end of COP28, chaired by Emirati Sultan Al-Jaber, boss of the Emirati oil company Adnoc. Only one country can object to the adoption of a decision at the COP, according to UN Climate rules.

Sultan Al-Jaber had been striving for more than twenty-four hours to save a COP that he had announced as "a turning point", capable of preserving the most ambitious objective of the Paris agreement, adopted ago eight years: limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. The first draft Emirati text, on Monday, sparked an outcry for failing to call for an “exit” from fossil fuels, the combustion of which since the 19th century is largely responsible for the current rise in global temperatures of 1.2° C compared to the pre-industrial era.

“We are making progress,” John Kerry, the US climate envoy, declared on Tuesday evening, heading towards yet another consultation. “Good progress” is being made, said Australian Climate Minister Chris Bowen. Around 130 countries (European Union, island states, United States, Brazil, etc.) demanded an ambitious text sending a clear signal to initiate the decline of fossil fuels.

A text that contains multiple calls related to energy

To date, only the “reduction” of coal had been recorded at COP26 in Glasgow. Oil and gas had never been designated. Included in the UAE's draft agreement is recognition of the role played by "transitional energies", referring to gas, in ensuring "energy security" in developing countries, where nearly 800 million people lack access to electricity. electricity.

The text contains multiple energy-related calls: tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling the pace of energy efficiency improvements by 2030; accelerate “zero carbon” and “low carbon” technologies, including nuclear power, low carbon hydrogen, and the nascent carbon capture and storage, championed by oil-producing countries to be able to continue pumping hydrocarbons.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq took a hard line, refusing any agreement attacking fossil fuels, which are their source of wealth. From a conference in Doha, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Saad Al-Barrak denounced Tuesday an “aggressive attack” on the part of the West. Some of the countries most in favor of an oil “exit” have signaled that they are prepared to sacrifice the term, in exchange for meaningful commitments.