- COP28 reaches deal to reduce fossil fuels consumption.
- Sultan Al Jaber, summit president, calls the accord historic.
- Deal does not go far enough for small island states.
- OPEC wanted to focus on fuels and emissions, not fuels.
DUBAI (Reuters), Dec 13 – Representatives of nearly 200 countries agreed on Wednesday at the COP28 Climate Summit to reduce global consumption of fossil energy to avert climate change. This was a historic agreement that signals the end of the age of oil.
After two weeks of intense negotiations, the deal reached in Dubai was intended to send a strong signal to investors and policymakers that everyone is united by the desire to move away from fossil fuels. Scientists say this is the best way to stave off a climate catastrophe.
Sultan Al Jaber, the COP28 president, called this agreement “historic”, but said that it would only be successful if it was implemented.
He told the packed audience at the summit: “We are not what we say, but what we do.” “We must make this agreement a reality by taking the necessary steps.”
The deal was hailed by several countries for achieving something that had been elusive over decades of climate negotiations.
Espen Barth Eide, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Norway, said: “This is the first time the world has united around a text that makes it so clear about the need to move away from fossil fuels.”
More than 100 countries pushed for strong language to be included in the COP28 Agreement that would “phase out” the use of oil, coal and gas. However, the Saudi Arabian-led oil producing group OPEC was adamantly opposed, arguing that emissions can be reduced without shunning certain fuels.
This battle forced the summit to extend the day on Wednesday and some observers were worried that the negotiations would come to a deadlock.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members control about 80% of the proven oil reserves in the world, along with a third of the global oil production. Their governments are heavily reliant on these revenues.
The small island states that are most vulnerable to climate change were the loudest supporters of the language used in the EU treaty to phase out fossil-fuels. They 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 governments.
John Kerry, the U.S. climate ambassador, said that after the agreement was passed: “This is an example of multilateralism in action. People have put aside their individual interests to try and define the common good.”
Anne Rasmussen – the lead negotiator of the Alliance of Small Island States – criticized the deal for being unambitious.
She said, “We’ve made incremental progress over the business as usual. What we need is a step change exponential in our actions.”
She did not object formally to the pact and her speech was met with a standing applause.
Dan Jorgensen, Danish Minister of Climate and Energy, marveled over the deal’s circumstances: “We are standing in an oil-producing country, surrounded with oil-producing countries, and yet we decided to move away from gas and oil.”
REDUCTION OF EMISSIONS
According to the deal, “transitioning from fossil fuels is required in order to reach net zero energy by 2050, as per science.”
The report also recommends a global tripling of renewable power capacity by 2030. It calls for increased efforts to reduce the use of coal and accelerates technologies like carbon capture and storage, which can help clean up industries that are hard to decarbonize.
Saudi Arabia’s representative welcomed the agreement, saying that it would help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. However, the oil producer reiterated its stance on climate change, which is about reducing emission.
He said, “We should take every opportunity to reduce our emissions, regardless of their source.”
Other oil producing countries, such as the host of the summit, the UAE, advocated that carbon capture be included in the pact. Critics claim that the technology is expensive and has not been proven at scale. They also argue that it’s a false alarm to justify continuing drilling.
Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, also welcomed the agreement. However, he said that “the influence of petrostates remains evident in the half-measures and loopholes in the final deal.”
After the agreement is reached, it’s up to each country to deliver through their national policies and investment.
The United States is the world’s largest producer of oil, gas, and greenhouse gases. Climate-conscious administrations struggle to pass legislation that aligns with their climate pledges in a divided Congress.
Last year, U.S. president Joe Biden won a major victory in this area with the passage of Inflation Reduction Act. This act contained hundreds of millions of dollars of clean energy subsidies.
In recent years, the rapid expansion of renewables and electric cars has been fueled by a growing public interest in them, from Brussels to Beijing, as well as improved technology, falling costs and increased private investment.
Oil, gas and coal account for about 80% the world’s total energy. However, projections differ widely as to when the global demand will reach its peak.
Rachel Cleetus is the policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. She praised the deal on climate change, but pointed out that it did not commit the rich countries to provide more funding to help the developing countries finance the transition from fossil fuels.
She said that the equity and finance provisions were “seriously insufficient” and needed to be improved to allow low- and mid-income countries to transition to clean energy, and to close the energy gap.
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Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Richard Valdmanis. Katy Daigle. Gerd Doyle. Sharon Singlet.