Global Consensus at COP28 Historic Agreement for a Fossil-Free Future

Global Consensus at COP28 Historic Agreement for a Fossil-Free Future

DUBAI, December 13, 2023- Representatives from almost 200 countries agreed on Wednesday at the COP28 climate summit to begin lowering global usage of fossil fuels to escape the worst effects of climate change, a first-of-its-kind agreement signalling the end of the oil age.


The agreement reached in Dubai after two weeks of intense bargaining was intended to send a strong signal to investors and policymakers that the globe is united in its determination to abandon fossil fuels, which scientists say is the last best option for averting global disaster.


The pact was dubbed “historic” by COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, but its true success would be determined by its execution.


“We are what we do, not what we say,” he told the summit’s crowded plenary. “We must take the steps necessary to turn this agreement into tangible actions.”


Several countries applauded the agreement for achieving something unattainable in decades of climate discussions.


“This is the first time that the world has come together around such a clear text on the need to transition away from fossil fuels,” said Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.


More than 100 countries campaigned hard for strong language in the COP28 accord to “phase out” the use of oil, gas, and coal, but were met with strong opposition from the Saudi Arabia-led oil producer group OPEC, which maintained that the world can reduce emissions without avoiding specific fuels.


This debate drove the summit into a full day of overtime on Wednesday, and some observers were concerned that the talks would break down.


Members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries own about 80% of the world’s proven oil reserves, as well as approximately one-third of global oil output, and their governments rely largely on those profits.


Meanwhile, small climate-vulnerable island states were among the most outspoken advocates of wording to phase out fossil fuels, which had the support of major oil and gas producers like the United States, Canada, and Norway, as well as the EU bloc and scores of other governments.


“This is a moment where multilateralism has actually come together, and people have taken individual interests and attempted to define the common good,” said US climate envoy John Kerry after the agreement was signed.


Anne Rasmussen, the Alliance of Small Island States’ principal negotiator, called the agreement “unambitious.”


“We have made an incremental advancement over business as usual, when what we really need is an exponential step change in our actions,” she went on to say.


She did not, however, openly object to the pact, and her remarks received a standing ovation.

Dan Jorgensen, Danish Minister for Climate and Energy, marvelled at the deal’s circumstances: “We’re standing here in an oil country, surrounded by oil countries, and we made the decision to move away from oil and gas.”



The agreement stipulates that there must be “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner … so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”


It also asks for a tripling of renewable energy capacity globally by 2030, as well as increased efforts to minimise coal use and accelerate technology like carbon capture and storage that help clean up difficult-to-decarbonize industries.


A Saudi Arabia representative welcomed the agreement, saying it would help the world limit global warming to the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) target set in the 2015 Paris agreement, but reiterated the oil producer’s stance that tackling climate change was about reducing emissions.


“We must use every opportunity to reduce emissions regardless of the source,” he went on to say.


Several other oil-producing countries, including the summit’s host, have lobbied for a role for carbon capture and storage in the deal. Critics contend that the technology is still expensive and unproven at scale, and that it is a ruse to justify further drilling.


Former US Vice President Al Gore praised the accord, but noted that “the influence of petrostates is still evident in the half measures and loopholes included in the final agreement.”


Now that the agreement has been reached, governments must deliver through national policies and investments.


Climate-conscious administrations in the United States, the world’s largest producer of oil and gas and the top historical emitter of greenhouse gases, have struggled to push laws aligned with their climate pledges through a split Congress.


Last year, U.S. President Joe Biden won a huge win in this area with the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy subsidies.


increased public support for renewables and electric vehicles has fueled significant expansion in their deployments from Brussels to Beijing in recent years, along with improved technology, falling costs, and increased private investment.


Nonetheless, oil, gas, and coal continue to account for around 80% of the world’s energy, and predictions about when global consumption will peak vary widely.


The Union of Concerned Scientists’ policy director, Rachel Cleetus, hailed the agreement but highlighted that it does not commit rich countries to providing additional finance to help developing countries pay for the transition away from fossil fuels.


“The finance and equity provisions… are seriously insufficient and must be improved in the time ahead in order to ensure low- and middle-income countries can transition to clean energy and close the energy poverty gap,” she went on to say.

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