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COP28: New draft deal omits 'phase out', calls on countries to 'transition away' from fossil fuels

The last document of the COP28 also omitted 'phase out' of fossil fuels, triggering criticism from various countries, including the US. Despite fossil fuels heavily driving climate change, countries have been reluctant in heavily reducing the use of oil, gas and oil.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Dubai Updated on: December 13, 2023 9:53 IST
COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber.
Image Source : REUTERS COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber.

The latest draft deal of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) called on countries to "transition away" from the use of fossil fuels, but stopped short of mentioning the process of "phase out", which earlier drew criticism from the United States, the European Union and climate-vulnerable countries.

Laying the steps to combat climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions in line with the 1.5 degrees Celsius, the document mentioned, "accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power", "transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner" and "phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions".

The new COP28 deal also called on countries to triple renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. In a first, the document includes a clear reference to the use of all fossil fuels.

However, it remains uncertain whether this new deal will be sufficient for the agreement to be adopted. In previous COP summits, countries have been reluctant to move away from the use of oil, gas and coal, which has created international divisions.

Challenges to agreement on oil

A coalition of over 100 countries has pushed for an agreement that would promise an eventual end to the use of oil for the first time. However, these efforts have met stiff opposition from the oil producer group Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, who led the call for a paradigm shift, urged the nearly 200 countries at the talks to redouble their efforts to finalise a deal ahead of the scheduled close of the conference on Tuesday, saying they "still have a lot to do".

It is widely considered that emissions from fossil fuels are by far the main driver of climate change, but 30 years of international climate negotiations have never resulted in a global agreement to cut their use. The last text triggered protests from dozens of delegates who stood in near silence and were seen forcing the negotiators to come up with a better deal.

"We're not where we're meant to be in terms of the text. Many of us have called for the world to largely phase out fossil fuels, and that starts with a critical reduction this decade," said US Special Climate envoy John Kerry.

Funds crunch

The last text also fell short of expectations in the area of climate finance, acknowledging that the finance required for adaptation "remains insufficient" and the gap between the funds available and the actual financial support needed is "widening". This did not clarify anything 

According to a UN report released last month, developing countries require USD 215-387 billion annually for climate adaptation, but they are only receiving about USD 21 billion. This financial shortfall has led to frustration among poorer and developing nations most affected by climate change.

Zambia's Environment Minister Collins Nvozu, speaking on behalf of the African group, on Saturday said adaptation is a matter of survival for Africa and an agreement on a global goal of adaptation would be the most important outcome for Africa from COP28.

Meanwhile, Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav earlier asserted the need for countries to establish a clear definition of climate finance, adding that a lack of clarity affects the transparency and trust of other nations. "I strongly believe this is the most crucial outcome we should all strive for," he said during a high-level ministerial meeting on climate finance.

(with inputs from agencies)

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