In a first, UN climate talks address need to stop burning fossil fuels: negotiators

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) closed with an agreement that signals the "beginning of the end" of the fossil fuel era, feel observers

Representative image (photo: IANS)
Representative image (photo: IANS)


For the first time, the UN climate talks have addressed the need to stop burning fossil fuels. Also the COP28 marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era, said climate negotiators and observers on Wednesday.

Responding to the outcomes, UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Simon Stiell, in his closing speech to the two-week climate change conference (COP28), 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 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) closed with an agreement that signals the "beginning of the end" of the fossil fuel era by laying the ground for a swift, just and equitable transition, underpinned by deep emissions cuts and scaled-up finance.

In a demonstration of global solidarity, negotiators from nearly 200 parties (nations) 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 degrees Celsius within reach.

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 recognises the science that indicates global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut 43 per cent by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. But it notes parties are off track when it comes to meeting their Paris Agreement goals.

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.

In the short-term, parties are encouraged to come forward with ambitious, economy-wide emission reduction targets, covering all greenhouse gases, sectors and categories and aligned with the 1.5 degrees limit in their next round of climate action plans (known as nationally determined contributions) by 2025.

The two-week-long conference got underway with the World Climate Action Summit, which brought together 154 heads of states and government.

Parties reached a historic agreement on the operationalisation 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 gaveled, totaling more than $700 million to date.

There was more progress on the loss and damage agenda with an agreement also reached that the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the UN Office for Project Services will host the secretariat of the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage. This platform will catalyse technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

Parties agreed on targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and 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.

Climate finance took center stage at the conference, with Stiell repeatedly calling it the "great enabler of climate action". The Green Climate Fund (GCF) received a boost to its second replenishment with six countries pledging new funding at COP28 with total pledges now standing at a record $12.8 billion from 31 countries, with further contributions expected.

Eight donor governments announced new commitments to the Least Developed Countries Fund and Special Climate Change Fund totaling more than $174 million to date, while new pledges, totaling nearly $188 million so far, were made to the Adaptation Fund at COP28.

However, as highlighted in the global stocktake, these financial pledges are far short of the trillions eventually needed to support developing countries with clean energy transitions, implementing their national climate plans and adaptation efforts.

In order to deliver such funding, the global stocktake underscores the importance of reforming the multilateral financial architecture, and accelerating the ongoing establishment of new and innovative sources of finance.

Responding to the outcomes, Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, told IANS: "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.

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

Reacting to the final outcome at COP28, Joab Okanda, Christian Aid's senior climate advisor, told IANS: "It is clear that the era of fossil fuels is coming to a close. We may not have driven the nail into the coffin here at COP28, but the end is coming for dirty energy. But there is a gaping hole on finance to actually fund the transition from dirty to clean energy in developing countries. Without that, we risk the global shift being much slower.

"We now need to see rich countries following up their warm words about wanting a fossil fuel phase out with actions to actually bring it about and end their use of coal, oil and gas by the end of this decade. Rich fossil fuel-using countries like the UK will need to decarbonise first, with middle-income countries going next and then the poorest countries after that."

For Linda Kalcher, executive director, strategic perspectives, it was for the first time that the UN climate talks have addressed the need to stop burning fossil fuels. "COP28 marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. This outcome must be harnessed by governments and markets, but clearly signals the beginning of the end for coal, oil and gas in the global economy and the massive growth of renewables."

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