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Warm(ish) welcome for the COP28 fossil-fuel accord

13 December 2023

Questions remain about funding and speed of transition


COP28 delegates welcome the signing of the accord early on Wednesday. From left: the US climate envoy, John Kerry, embraces the climate minister of Denmark, Dan Jørgensen, alongside the Saudi Arabian energy minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman, and China’s climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua

COP28 delegates welcome the signing of the accord early on Wednesday. From left: the US climate envoy, John Kerry, embraces the climate minister of De...

CHRISTIAN groups have welcomed an international agreement, the first of its kind, in Dubai, on a transition away from fossil fuels. The speed and scale of this transition remains in question, however. Developing countries represented at the COP28 climate summit say that there is a lack of funding to help them to decarbonise their economies.

Although this was the 28th COP, the words “fossil fuels” had never previously been included in a final-outcome agreement. Patrick Galey, a senior fossil-fuels investigator at Global Witness, wrote on social media: “Imagine a global process to tackle malaria where it took 30 years for the word ‘mosquitoes’ to appear in decision texts, then that being hailed as a win. That’s how low the bar has been set for climate talks and fossil fuels.”

Talks at the two-week summit ran through the night and ended on Wednesday morning, nearly 24 hours after the proposed closing time.

The final agreement calls on countries to make a commitment to “transitioning away from fossil fuels” and to accelerating action in this “critical decade” to achieve net zero by 2050. It is hoped that this will send a political signal to investors, markets, and the world at large that countries are committed to decarbonising the global economy.

Christian Aid’s senior climate adviser, Joab Okanda, said: “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.”

A Tearfund ambassador, Laura Young, said: “Despite this mixed outcome, we’ve seen unprecedented support for the clean-energy transition. The science is clear, the solutions exist, and the momentum is growing. Leaders and negotiators also publicly recognised, with greater honesty and clarity than ever before, the vital need to end the fossil-fuel era. The scales are starting to tip, but the hour is late.”

The UK, along with EU nations, regretted the fact that stronger language on a fossil-fuel “phase-out” was not settled on. Rachel Kennerly, a climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said, however, that the UK’s stance did not match its current policies on fossil fuels in the North Sea.

Rishi Sunak may like to claim that the UK is showing global leadership on this issue,” she said, “but under his premiership key climate policies have been watered down, his international promise to cut UK emissions by a third has veered dangerously off course, and he has declared an ambition to ‘max out’ North Sea gas and oil.”

Countries also agreed to treble renewable-energy capacity globally and double the annual rate of energy-efficiency improvements by 2030, besides accelerating “efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power”.

On the first day of the meeting, nations formally established the “loss and damage fund” to help to compensate vulnerable communities that have suffered losses because of climate change. But the initial round of financial commitments to the fund were limited, and it expected that they will need to increase.

The focus of next year’s summit in Baku, Azerbaijan, will be: increasing climate finance to address loss and damage; helping people adapt to climate change; and accelerating decarbonisation in the global South.

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