DUBAI: At the end of hottest year on record, more than 195 countries, including India, at the UN climate summit (COP28) here on Wednesday agreed for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems”, bringing the spotlight for the first time on oil and gas in the global climate body’s decision text.
It also underlined the need “to limit global warming to 1.5 degree C (over 1850-1900 levels) through “rapid and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 relative to the 2019 level.
Though the global stocktake (GST) outcome doesn’t carry the controversial ‘phase out’ language for fossil fuels keeping in view the sensitivity of oil, gas and coal producers and consumers, it opted for more acceptable words – transitioning away – in the text noting the need to do it “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”.
The agreement reached after two weeks of intense negotiations where oil producing nations had been strongly opposed to the ‘phase out’ of fossil fuel language whereas EU nations and small island countries had been pitching for it. The differences pushed the climate talks into overtime to Wednesday when the COP28 presidency brought a final text that was accepted in the final plenary within few minutes. The pace of the text decision being gavelled so quickly also surprised many countries as some of them could not even reach the plenary hall.
“We did not want to interrupt you, but we are a little confused about what just happened. It seems that you gavelled the decisions, and the small island developing states were not in the room. We were working hard to coordinate the 39 small island developing states that are disproportionately affected by climate change, and so were delayed in coming here,” said Anne Rasmussen, lead negotiator of Samoa. In the UNFCCC process, any outcome is adopted only with consensus of all members.
Though Samoa representative did not oppose the outcome, it expressed disappointed terming it inadequate. Rasmussen made her remarks on behalf of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in the plenary while speaking after its adoption.
The UN climate body (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, in his remarks termed the outcome as the beginning of the end of fossil fuel era. He said though the countries “didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end”.
Besides calling countries to transition away from fossil fuels to reach net zero, the COP28 outcome also spoke about encouraging them submitting economy-wide Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – climate action pledge – during next cycle beginning late next year. The GST is considered the central outcome of COP28 – as it contains every element that was under negotiation and can now be used by countries to develop stronger climate action plans due by 2025.
The outcome also agreed on tripling global renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030, adopted a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and operationalised the loss and damage fund that is meant to support countries impacted by climate change.
The countries also agreed on “accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030. Since it’s not a binding provision, India didn’t object to the methane emission clause.
“A global goal to triple renewables and double energy efficiency, declaration on agriculture, food and health, many more oil and gas companies stepping up for the first time on methane emissions and we have language on fossil fuels in our final agreement. All of these are world firsts….We have given it a robust action plan to keep 1.5 (degree Celsius of warming goal) within reach. It is a plan that is led by the science,” said the COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber while delivering his remarks at closing plenary.
He said, “The world needed to find a new way. By following our North Star, we have found that path…We have worked very hard to secure a better future for our people and our planet. We should be proud of our historic achievement.” Though the outcome emphasised on energy transition, tripling of renewable energy and adaptation goals, there is little reference to finance in final outcome. It is expected that the country would focus on the issue next year when the developed countries are expected to raise the floor of their annual contribution from $100 billion annually. Rich nations including the US have invariably been pushing for private finance in this head.
At COP28, discussions continued on setting a ‘new collective quantified goal on climate finance’ in 2024, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries. The new goal, which will start from a baseline of $100 billion per year, will be a building block for the design and subsequent implementation of national climate plans that need to be delivered by 2025.
The outcome talks about “phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” with a caveat that such phasing out applicable to only those subsidies which do not address energy poverty or just transitions – the points which suits India for its subsidy programmes such as subsidy on cooking gas for poor.
The final decision retained the Glasgow (COP28) language on coal, saying it recognises the need for accelerating efforts towards the “phase-down” of unabated coal power.
On GGA, countries agreed on targets its framework, which identify where the world needs to get to in order to be resilient to the impacts of a changing climate and to assess countries’ efforts. The GGA framework reflects a global consensus on adaptation targets and the need for finance, technology and capacity-building support to achieve them.



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