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COP28: Over 200 countries agree deal to transition away from fossil fuels

13 December 2023

In a landmark decision on 13 December at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, UAE, nearly 200 countries reached an agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. This move is a first in the history of climate negotiations and marks a significant step towards addressing the escalating effects of climate change.

Image: COP28
Image: COP28

After two weeks of intense and sometimes challenging discussions, the agreement was approved by COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber. The announcement was met with applause and appreciation, with UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell sharing a congratulatory embrace with Al Jaber.

While the agreement does not explicitly commit to the phase-out of fossil fuels – a demand made by over 100 countries at the outset of the talks – it represents a compromise. It urges countries to aid global efforts in transitioning away from fossil fuels in a "just, orderly, and equitable manner," aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Al Jaber emphasized the agreement's alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement, describing it as a comprehensive, balanced, yet historic action plan. This inclusion of fossil fuel language in the final agreement was highlighted as a significant achievement.

The agreement's passage wasn't without its complexities. Confusion arose in the plenary hall due to the lack of anticipated debate over the text, which was released only four hours prior to its approval. The Alliance of Small Island States expressed disappointment, feeling that the process failed to meet their expectations and contained several loopholes.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented on the inevitability of fossil fuel phase-out, stressing the urgency of timely action. US Climate Envoy John Kerry acknowledged the agreement's importance in maintaining the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, while also announcing a commitment between the US and China to update their long-term strategies.

The deal also calls for:

- Tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030.
- Phasing down unabated coal power.
- Developing a list of zero- and low-emission technologies, including renewables, nuclear, and carbon capture technologies.

Despite these advancements, climate justice advocates argue that the text falls short of what is needed for a fair transition, especially in addressing the financial requirements of developing countries transitioning from fossil fuels. Critics also point out loopholes related to technologies like carbon capture and storage.

The agreement reflects a consensus among nearly 200 countries, despite resistance from OPEC.

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