COP28 ends with call to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels; UN’s Guterres says phaseout is inevitable

Reacting to the adoption of the outcome document, UN chief António Guterres said mention of the world’s leading contributor to climate change comes after many years in which the discussion of this issue was blocked.

He stressed that the era of fossil fuels must end with justice and equity.

“To those who opposed a clear reference to a phaseout of fossil fuels in the COP28 text, I want to say that a fossil fuel phase out is inevitable whether they like it or not.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late”, he added.

The latest edition of the annual UN climate conference has been running in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, since 30 November. 

COP28 had been scheduled to close on Tuesday, but intense overnight negotiations over whether the outcome would include a call to “phasedown” or “phaseout” planet heating fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal – the main sticking point which pit climate advocates, and climate-vulnerable and small island countries against some larger nations – forced the conference into overtime.

‘The science is clear’

In his statement, Mr. Guterres said the science is clear in that limiting global heating to 1.5°C, one of the keystone targets set in the landmark 2025 the Paris Agreement, “will be impossible without the phase out of all fossil fuels”, and this is being recognized by a growing and diverse coalition of countries.

The negotiators at COP28 also agreed on commitments to triple renewables capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030 and made progress in relation to adaptation and finance.

Other progress was also made in relation to adaptation and finance, including – including the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund, even though financial commitments are very limited, according to the Secretary-General.

But the UN chief stressed that much more is needed to deliver climate justice to those on the frontlines of the crisis.

“Many vulnerable countries are drowning in debt and at risk of drowning in rising seas. It is time for a surge in finance, including for adaptation, loss and damage and reform of the international financial architecture.”

He said the world cannot afford “delays, indecision, or half measures” and insisted that “multilateralism remains humanity’s best hope.”

“It is essential to come together around real, practical and meaningful climate solutions that match the scale of the climate crisis.”

Mixed reactions

Despite multiple rounds of applause inside the plenary, not all delegations were pleased with the outcome of the climate talks. Civil society representative sand climate activists, as well as delegations from small island developing countries were visibly unhappy.

Just after the release of the final document, Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International told UN News: “After decades of evasion, COP28 finally cast a glaring spotlight on the real culprits of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. A long-overdue direction to move away from coal, oil, and gas has been set.”

“But the resolution is marred by loopholes that offer the fossil fuel industry numerous escape routes, relying on unproven, unsafe technologies.

Mr. Singh also pointed to what he saw as “hypocrisy of wealthy nations… as they continue to expand fossil fuel operations massively while merely paying lip service to the green transition.”

He underscored that developing countries still dependent on fossil fuels are left without robust guarantees for adequate financial support in their “urgent and equitable transition to renewable energy.”

“While this COP recognized the immense financial shortfall in tackling climate impacts, the final outcomes fall disappointingly short of compelling wealthy nations to fulfill their financial responsibilities,” he added.


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