For the first time, climate conferences directly address the issue of switching away from fossil fuels responsible for global warming (Shutterstock)

At the end of a critical year that has seen many extreme weather events such as forest fires, droughts and devastating floods, and temperatures reaching record levels, the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) concluded its work in Expo City Dubai, UAE, the oil country that is the third largest producer of crude oil in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The parties to the agreement agreed on a roadmap to shift away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of climate change, at the end of an additional day of the conference's agenda that saw intense negotiations that stretched into late at night, and these negotiations centered on whether the final document would include a call for "phasing-out" or "phasing" out fossil fuels after failing to do so as scheduled, as they faced strong resistance from oil-producing countries that see The possibility of reducing emissions without completely dispensing with fossil sources.

This is the first time that climate conferences have directly addressed the issue of shifting away from the use of fossil fuels responsible for global warming on the planet, a key demand by many countries in this year's talks.

In three decades of U.N. climate talks, no member states have made such a crucial promise, although many have warned that the deal still has major flaws.

The agreement was approved by 197 countries plus the European Union, after a draft was introduced earlier this week that angered many countries, because it made no mention of a "phase-out" or "phase-out" of oil, coal and gas, although the final agreement also made no mention of this and gave countries plenty of room to maneuver in their transition away from these fossil fuels.

COP28 agreement in Dubai does not oblige to eliminate fossil fuels, but calls for specific measures to achieve the energy transition (Shutterstock)

COP28 Agreement

COP28 includes the first global outcome to assess progress towards the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, which are to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C at the end of the century compared to the pre-industrial period, review countries' commitments to reduce emissions every five years, and provide climate-related financing to developing countries.

The COP28 Final Document recognizes that reaching the Paris Agreement's target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C without exceeding or exceeding a defined threshold requires deep, rapid and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030, 60% by 2035 compared to the 2019 level, and net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

But the new agreement does not oblige countries to phase out fossil fuels altogether, but rather calls on states parties to take eight types of actions to achieve an energy transition away from fossil fuels:

  • First, triple the world's renewable energy capacity and double the global annual rate of improving energy efficiency by 2030.
  • Second, accelerate efforts to gradually reduce coal-based energy.
  • Third, accelerate global efforts toward zero-emission energy systems and the use of carbon-neutral, low-carbon fuels well in advance of the middle of the century.
  • Fourth, move from the use of fossil fuels in energy systems in a fair, orderly and equitable manner, and accelerate work on this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in line with science.
  • Fifth, accelerate zero-emission, low-emission technologies, including renewable energy, nuclear energy, reduction and removal technologies such as carbon capture, use and storage, especially in hard-to-mitigate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production.
  • Sixth, accelerate and significantly reduce emissions other than carbon dioxide globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030.
  • Seventh: Accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on several tracks, including infrastructure development and rapid deployment of zero-emission and low-emission vehicles.
  • Eighth: Phasing out as soon as possible inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or equitable transitions.

American activist Lisipnya Kangogam protests fossil fuel mining (Shutterstock)

What else has been achieved?

COP28 made history on its first day of operation, with the announcement of the implementation of the "Loss and Damage" fund, which raised about $800 million, a long-awaited demand announced at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference in Egypt last year to compensate countries affected by the effects of climate change and the least greenhouse gas emissions, and will be managed by the World Bank, which could become operational in less than three months.

The UAE announced the creation of a $30 billion global climate solutions fund, designed to close the climate finance gap and facilitate access to it at an affordable cost, and aims to stimulate the collection and investment of $250 billion by 2030.

The outcome of the conference was more than $85 billion to support climate action funds in energy and investment in the green economy, life, livelihoods and adaptation.

It has also made commitments to replenish the Green Climate Fund, and the United States has pledged another $3 billion to support it. During the conference days, the World Bank announced an increase in climate finance by $9 billion annually between 2024 and 2025.

The first days of the conference also saw the signing of the COP28 Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action, the first agreement of its kind in the history of climate conferences, with more than 150 supporting countries signatories.

More than 130 countries supported COP28's pledge to triple production capacity and renewables, some 135 countries supported the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health to accelerate action to protect people's health from increasing climate impacts.

Closing plenary session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai (French)

Fears and gaps

Although COP28 has been highly praised by world leaders, relevant organizations and civil society, as it highlights for the first time the real culprits of the climate crisis, there are fears that serious loopholes will be left that will provide the fossil fuel industry with a way out of escape from unsafe technologies and unproven methods such as carbon capture and storage, and nuclear energy.

Carbon capture and storage involves the technology of capturing carbon dioxide from emission sources, transporting it and then storing or burying it in a suitable deep underground location.

Developing countries continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy, income and employment, and need strong guarantees to receive adequate financial support in their urgent and equitable transition to renewable energy.

Although the agreement leaves open loopholes that would allow coal, oil and gas to continue, some climate experts say it actually marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.

While the agreement does not commit countries to phase out fossil fuels, it opens the door for further negotiations and bargaining in the future, with the assurance that states will link their words to deeds, and that this transition will occur within the next few years before disaster strikes.

Source : Al Jazeera