For the first time in almost three decades of COP climate summits, governments have agreed to “transition away” from fossil fuels in an “historic” agreement.
The draft text, dubbed the “UAE Consensus,” calls upon all parties to contribute to a just, orderly, and equitable “transition away” from fossil fuels in energy systems, accelerating action in this crucial decade to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
While this agreement falls short of the ambitious call to “phase out” all fossil fuels advocated by small island nations like Samoa and the Marshall Islands, it represents a clear recognition of the urgency to ditch fossil fuels and embrace a sustainable energy future.
“We have set the world in the right direction,” said COP28 president Al Jaber. “We have given it a robust action plan to keep 1.5C within reach. It is a plan that is led by the science.”
The announcement, which came after drawn out discussions, has been met with a range of reactions, from cautious optimism to outright criticism.
Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, Espen Barth Eide, expressed enthusiasm, stating, “This is the first time that the world has united around a clear text on the need to transition away from fossil fuels. This has been a long-standing issue, and we have finally tackled it head-on.”
However, not everyone shared this enthusiasm. The Alliance of Small Island States, whose members were not present when the agreement was finalised, raised concerns about “a litany of loopholes” in the text.
Joab Okanda, Senior Climate Adviser for Christian Aid, offered a more nuanced response, commending the agreement while highlighting a critical gap.
“We may not have driven the nail into the coffin here at COP28, but the end is coming for dirty energy,” Okanda said. He continued by acknowledging the “gaping hole” in the money needed to actually fund the transition from dirty to clean energy in developing countries.
Saudi Arabia, with its oil-dependent economy, emerged as a steadfast opponent of a fossil fuel phase-out, fearing the potential demise of its primary industry.
Similarly, developing nations like India and Bolivia expressed concern about committing to such a transition, as they lacked the financial resources to seamlessly transition to clean energy sources without compromising their economic growth.
Recognising the varying capacities of nations to address climate change, the agreement acknowledges the need for tailored support for developing countries to transition to cleaner energy sources. This includes initiatives to triple renewable energy capacity, accelerate zero-emissions technologies, and significantly reduce emissions from road transportation.
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