The draft, which is still being negotiated, proposes to “reduce” rather than “phase out” fossil fuels, a significant retreat from previous commitments to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
The removal of language specifying a “phase-out” of fossil fuels has faced criticism from climate-vulnerable nations, branding it a “missed opportunity” to take decisive action to avert catastrophic climate change.
Moreover, the draft’s use of the word “could” instead of “shall” suggests that the outlined measures are not mandatory, leaving ample room for interpretation and inaction, potentially emboldening fossil fuel producers who have long resisted stricter emissions’ reduction measures.
The relevant section of the draft text acknowledges “the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions,” while simultaneously calling upon parties to take actions that “could” include, among other things:
(a) Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030;
(b) Rapidly phasing down unabated coal and limitations on permitting new and unabated coal power generation;
(c) Accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emissions energy systems, utilising zero and low carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century;
(d) Accelerating zero and low emissions technologies, including, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies, such as carbon capture and utilisation and storage, and low carbon hydrogen production, so as to enhance efforts towards substitution of unabated fossil fuels in energy systems.
(e) Reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner so as to achieve net zero by, before, or around 2050 in keeping with the science;
(f) Accelerating and substantially reducing non-CO2 emissions, including, in particular, methane emissions globally by 2030;
(g) Accelerating emissions reductions from road transport through a range of pathways, including development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low emission vehicles;
(h) Phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible.
“The Marshall Islands did not come here to sign our death warrant,” said John Silk, minister from the Marshall Islands. “We came here to fight for 1.5C and for the only way to achieve that: a fossil fuel phase out. What we have seen today is unacceptable.”
Recent scientific research highlights the grave threat posed by rising sea levels to the Marshall Islands’ existence. Sea levels have been consistently rising at a rate of 3.4 millimetres (0.13 inches) per year. Even a modest one-meter rise would severely impact Majuro Atoll, home to over half the nation’s population.
For now, the world waits to see whether the almost 200 countries attending the event will come to a final agreement on the text.
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