The next few days could be the world’s last chance of keeping global heating within safe limits, nations meeting for the Cop28 UN climate summit have been told.
With talks in Dubai now entering their final phase, the world’s governments are still far apart on the central question of whether to phase out fossil fuels.
Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s climate minister, who has been charged with one of the key roles in forging an agreement among deeply divided governments, said: “We cannot negotiate with nature. The climate cannot compromise. No well meaning words will change a single thing unless we act. This week may be our last opportunity to bring us on course to keeping 1.5C alive.”
Jørgensen, along with the South African minister Barbara Creecy, will chair negotiations on the global stocktake, a process under the 2015 Paris climate agreement that assesses progress – or the lack of it – towards meeting the treaty’s goals of holding global temperature rises “well below” 2C and “pursuing efforts” to keep them to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
It is well established that the world is far off track to stay within those limits, which scientists say are vital to staving off the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Average temperatures for this year are likely to break records and come close to the 1.5C threshold, and on current trends the world will hit 3C of heating, rendering swathes of the planet effectively uninhabitable.
For those reasons, the global stocktake will also contain recommendations to governments for a “course correction”, asking them to change policies and bring in measures that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically. The latest draft was published on Friday, and is currently being examined, but there are likely to be more iterations of it before the end of the talks.
Romain Ioualalen, global policy manager at Oil Change International, a pressure group, said: “It shows unprecedented momentum for an agreement on phasing out all fossil fuels, owing to the relentless pressure from people and governments that are aligned with the science. The Cop president emphasised again today that 1.5C is his north star – and he must deliver on that promise with a Cop decision to build a fast, fair, full and financed fossil fuel phase-out rooted in equity, and enabled by governments redirecting trillions in finance from fossil fuel industry handouts to the real solution: renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
As well as phasing down fossil fuels, countries are being asked to triple global renewable energy generation and to double energy efficiency. The former is already likely to be met, on current trends, and the latter should save money amid high fossil fuel prices and a cost of living crisis around the world.
Developing countries are also concerned that a target to double the amount of finance they get to help them adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis has also not been met. Stiell called for more progress on this issue. “I don’t want to see diversions and political tactics that hold climate adaptation hostage,” he warned.
Failure to agree a phase-out of fossil fuels at the UN Cop28 climate summit would push the world beyond the crucial 1.5C temperature limit and into climate breakdown, the UK’s former climate chief has warned.
Alok Sharma, who was president of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, said it was vital that governments made a clear commitment in the next few days to eliminate coal, oil and gas.
“If you’re going to keep 1.5C alive, you’re going to have to have language on a phase-out of fossil fuels,” he told the Observer in an interview. “And you’re going to need to accompany that with a credible implementation plan.”
He urged governments to act. “We are running out of time. The window on 1.5C is closing fast, and unless we are willing to act now, with the urgency that this issue demands, we will lose that 1.5C,” he said. “We are literally in the last chance saloon to save our children’s future.”
More than 190 governments are meeting in Dubai for the final days of the Cop28 summit, which runs until Tuesday, with the question of whether to phase out fossil fuels at the top of the agenda. At least 100 countries are in favour of a phase-out, but some major fossil fuel producers – including Saudi Arabia, China and India – are opposed.
Sharma was credited with keeping 1.5C “alive” against the odds at the Glasgow summit he led in 2021, when he managed to forge a deal among more than 190 squabbling countries that focused on the goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Greenpeace: COP28 must answer the call for a fossil fuel phase out
Dubai, UAE – As COP28 resumes for a second week, negotiators will be faced with answering the call for a commitment to a Fossil Fuel Phase Out in Dubai. Never before have we heard so many voices, coming from so many directions to seize the moment and commit to phasing out oil, coal and gas. And never before have alternative formulations on fossil fuel phase out made it this far into a draft text. But there are still no guarantees on a decision on fossil fuels, so all is in play.
Kaisa Kosonen, Head of the Greenpeace COP28 delegation said: “We are here to make fossil fuels history. By now governments know they can’t leave this summit without an agreement to end fossil fuels, in a fast and fair manner. Now the question is what is the package of solutions, support and cooperation that will get us over the finishing line. It’s clear that developed countries are the ones that need to take the lead here.
The solutions are ready – a fast and fair transition to renewable energy is possible – but it won’t happen fast enough unless we push the fossil fuel industry out of the way.