COP28 organisers say agreement signals “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era

Wed 13 December 2023 View all news

The latest UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) ended in Dubai with what the United Nations described as the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era. The agreement, it says, lays the ground for a swift, just and equitable transition, underpinned by deep emissions cuts and scaled-up finance.

Negotiators from nearly 200 Parties came together in Dubai with a decision on the world’s first ‘global stocktake’ to ratchet up climate action before the end of the decade – with the overarching aim to keep the global temperature limit of 1.5°C within reach.

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said: “Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.

"Now all governments and businesses need to turn these pledges into real-economy outcomes, without delay.”

The global stocktake 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 stocktake calls on Parties to take actions towards achieving, at a global scale, a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements by 2030. The list also includes accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power, phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, and other measures that drive the transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, with developed countries continuing to take the lead.

The two-week-long conference began with the World Climate Action Summit, which brought together 154 Heads of States and Government. The parties reached a historic agreement on the operationalization of the loss and damage fund and funding arrangements – the first time a substantive decision was adopted on the first day of the conference. Commitments to the fund started coming in moments after the decision was announced, totalling more than $700m to date.

Climate finance was a key element of COP28. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) received a boost to its second replenishment with six countries pledging new funding. Total pledges now stand at a record $12.8bn from 31 countries, with further contributions expected.

However, these pledges are far short of the trillions that are expected to be eventually needed to support developing countries with clean energy transitions, implementing their national climate plans and adaptation efforts.

Stakeholder views on the outcomes of COP28 were mixed. Most said that some progress has been made but many that it is too slow to meet crucial targets.

On some of the specifics, Gareth Redmond-King of ECIU said that the loss and damage fund "establishes an important principle". While initial pledges were relatively small in the face of the growing need, contributions by a number of richer countries - led by the host, UAE - set the tone for contributions to be based on ability to pay.

Redmond-King said it is significant that the words "fossil fuels" were included in the final text and there was mention of a phase out subsidies supporting their production.  

"This sends a powerful signal to markets and investors globally that fossil fuels are on their way out; that renewable-tripling and energy efficiency rate-doubling represent the future of energy. Which means that, if as many of the 100+ high ambition nations as can, put their policy and investment where their ambition is, then the existing global momentum towards clean transition can only increase, at pace."

Carbon Brief also lauded the inclusion of the need to transition away from fossil fuels in the final text.

However, they said, "many countries walked away from the talks frustrated at the lack of a clear call for a fossil-fuel 'phase-out' this decade – and at a “litany of loopholes” in the text that might enable the production and consumption of coal, oil and gas to continue". 

"Despite an early breakthrough on launching a fund to pay for 'loss and damage' from climate change, developing countries were left disappointed by a lack of new financial commitments for transitioning away from fossil fuels and adapting to climate impacts."

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