Cop28 agrees historic deal to 'transition' the world away from fossil fuels with oil and gas 'phased out'

13 December 2023, 05:53 | Updated: 13 December 2023, 09:54

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, left, claps after passing the deal
COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, left, claps after passing the deal. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A climate change deal to "transition away" from fossil fuels has been agreed at Cop28, although it stops short of calling for oil and gas to be "phased out".

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The resolution, agreed at the Dubai conference on Wednesday, says countries will "[transition] away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade".

But Cop28 president Sultan Al-Jaber warned that "an agreement is only as good as its implementation", adding: "We are what we do, not what we say".

The resolution was adopted at around 7.30 UK time on Wednesday morning. It comes after an initial draft did not include any decisive calls for action on global warming, sparking anger among some.

More than 100 countries had called for 'phasing out fossil fuels' to be included in the final text after an initial draft was released.

Read more: 'Hope of the world' rests on Dubai climate summit, King Charles tells Cop28

Read more: Judge me on results, not for how long I was at Cop28, pleads Rishi Sunak - after spending just 12 hours at climate talks

Delegates walk into a meeting at Cop28 early on Wednesday morning
Delegates walk into a meeting at Cop28 early on Wednesday morning. Picture: Alamy

The text says that countries would transition in such a way as to reach net zero by 2050. Carbon emissions will peak in 2025, although some countries like China will be able to reach their peak emissions later.

Drafting discussions went well into the early hours of Wednesday morning. Some eyebrows were raised by the fact the text does not include the word "oil" once, and only features "fossil fuels" twice.

This is the third version of the text, and is more prescriptive than the previous draft. Actions previously presented as an optional "could" changed to the direct "calls on parties to".

Any resolution had to be agreed by all 198 countries at the conference, which was supposed to end on Tuesday.

A man holds a sign that reads end fossil fuels
A man holds a sign that reads end fossil fuels. Picture: Alamy

Union of Concerned Scientists climate and energy policy director Rachel Cleetus said the deal was "definitely an improvement" over earlier versions that environmental advocacy groups like hers criticised.

UN Foundation senior adaptation adviser Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio said: "Overall, I think this is a stronger text than the prior versions we have seen.

"But it falls short in mobilising the financing needed to meet those targets."

Emilie Beauchamp of the International Institute for Sustainable Development said: "If we can't agree on a strong signal on adaptation, where do we go from here?... adaptation has been relegated to the broom closet of these negotiations."

'We are in a race against time', says UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres at Cop28

Stephen Cornelius, WWF Deputy Global Climate and Energy Lead, said ahead of the deal being agreed: "This draft is a sorely needed improvement from the last version, which rightly caused outrage.

"The language on fossil fuels is much improved, but still falls short of calling for the full phase out of coal, oil and gas.

"The text calls on all countries to be guided by IPCC climate science and the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5C, but the guidance is not fully aligned with this aim. For a liveable planet we need a full phase out of all fossil fuels."

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