(Bloomberg) -- A draft deal at the COP28 climate in Dubai called on countries to cut their consumption and production of fossil fuels as the hosts tried to craft a compromise less than 24 hours before the summit is due to end.
The 21-page agreement would, if adopted, be the first specifically calling for reduced use of all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, marking a historic shift in the UN treaty that governs the global fight against against change. But for many countries it doesn’t go nearly far enough, falling short of a complete phase out and offering nations loopholes and opt-outs.
Sultan Al Jaber, the oil executive appointed by the United Arab Emirates to run COP28, delayed the publication of the draft text by almost ten hours on Monday while he sought compromise. A broad coalition supports phase out language, but that’s adamantly opposed by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ nations. The text also called for reduction of fossil fuel use to be “just” and “orderly” — adjectives designed to appease more cautious countries.
“We have made progress, but we still have a lot to do,” Al Jaber told a plenary session of the summit after the draft was published. “You know what remains to be agreed, and you know I want you to develop the highest ambition on all items, including on fossil fuel language.”
Talks are officially scheduled to conclude Tuesday, bringing to a close a two-week summit that’s focused on whether countries would be willing to shift away from the oil, gas and coal that have powered the global economy for more than a century. Nations will now provide the UAE with their thoughts on the latest text, which encourages them to triple renewable energy capacity and double the rate of energy efficiency gains this decade.
“This is the first COP where the word ‘fossil fuels’ are actually included in the draft decision,” said Mohamed Adow, the director of Power Shift Africa. “This is the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.”
But while there was praise for the inclusion of language on all fossil fuels for the first time, the reaction of many countries pushing for the stronger action showed consensus was some way off.
“The Republic of the Marshall Islands did not come here to sign our death warrant,” said John Silk, head of delegation for the Marshall Islands, a nation at risk from rising sea levels. “What we have seen today is unacceptable. We will not go silently to our watery graves.”
The EU, a big player in the COP process, said the draft fell well short. Wopke Hoekstra, the EU’s climate commissioner, said it was “clearly insufficient” and that days of talks could remain in order to make the language on phasing out fossil fuels stronger to keep the Paris goal of 1.5C alive.
“There is a great majority of countries who want and demand more in terms of phasing out” fossil fuels, Hoekstra told reporters. “This is the decade in which it needs to happen,” he added, referring to cutting emissions.
There was no initial reaction from Saudi Arabia and other other members of the Organization of Petroleum Countries, who’s economies largely depend on oil and gas revenue.
The text also presents some actions — from tripling renewables to reducing the consumption and production of fossil fuels — as options, rather than prescribed steps.
Those options in the draft text are preceded by the phrase: “take actions that could include.” That qualifier “makes all the listed actions optional for nations,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The text is “extremely disappointing, concerning, and nowhere close to the level of ambition people around the world deserve,” she said.
Other key elements of the draft included the first agreement to go beyond carbon dioxide by targeting methane and other potent greenhouse gases with substantial reductions by 2030. That follows a voluntary pledge for a 30% global reduction in methane first introduced by the US and EU two years ago. The move is significant because methane, fluorinated gases and nitrous oxide are far more powerful at warming the earth’s temperature.
A framework on how to adapt to climate change — known as the global goal on adaptation — was given stronger references to finance and the need to close the gap in adaptation funding and global adaptation needs.
--With assistance from Alfred Cang, Akshat Rathi, Jessica Shankleman and Jennifer A. Dlouhy.
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