Fossil focus: Key points of the Dubai climate deal

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Fossil focus: Key points of the Dubai climate deal

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A woman poses in front of banners against fossil fuels outside Expo City in Dubai on December 12, 2023 during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28. — AFP pic

PARIS, Dec 13 — After nearly three decades of dancing around the chief driver of global warming, UN climate negotiations in oil-rich United Arab Emirates today called for the first time for the world to “transition away” from polluting fossil fuels.

The landmark first for the UN process was laid out in a text designed to respond to the failure so far to meet the Paris deal’s more ambitious — and safer — goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels.

Agreed by almost 200 countries, the COP28 decision “marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era”, said analyst Dave Jones of energy thinktank Ember.

It also calls on countries to come up with more ambitious climate commitments from next year.

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But it leaves “a lot of room for interpretation”, said UN climate chief Simon Stiell, warning that “loopholes leave us vulnerable to fossil fuel vested interests, which could crash our ability to protect people everywhere against rising climate impacts”.

Here are the key points:

Fossils

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Fossil fuels drive some three quarters of all human-caused emissions.

But recognition of the need to stop burning all of them is “unprecedented” in the UN climate talks, said David Waskow at the World Resources Institute.

COP28 calls for a “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”.

Observers said another positive was reference to “this decade” — a crucial timeframe given that the UN’s IPCC climate science panel says emissions must be slashed almost in half by 2030 to keep 1.5C in sight.

COP28 retained language from the Glasgow climate conference two years ago, where negotiators ultimately agreed to “phasedown” unabated coal power — meaning without technology to capture emissions.

Renewables

The Dubai text calls for: “Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030”.

The International Energy Agency has forecast that world demand for oil, gas and coal would peak this decade thanks to the “spectacular” growth of cleaner energy technologies, like wind, solar and batteries, as well as electric vehicles.

In September, the G20 — accounting for some 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions — broke new ground in endorsing the renewables goal.

“For the first time, the world has recognised the scale of ambition required this decade to build the new clean energy system: a tripling of renewables and doubling of efficiency improvements,” said Jones.

The text also gave electric vehicles a boost, calling on countries to move faster to reduce road transport emissions.

Participants attend a COP28 a plenary session at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 13, 2023. — AFP pic

Participants attend a COP28 a plenary session at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 13, 2023. — AFP pic

‘Loopholes?’

Observers raised concerns that the call to move away from fossil fuels was only within the energy sector, leaving out reference to polluting plastics and fertilisers.

The text also says “transitional fuels can play a role” in the shift to clean power — a reference to gas.

It also includes “removal technologies”, particularly in sectors where decarbonisation is particularly challenging, like cement production.

Technologies such as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) — where emissions are captured at source from power plants or factories and injected deep in geological reservoirs or reused—have been touted by hydrocarbon producers.

But experts say they will play only a minor role in decarbonising during this decade.

Friederike Roder, vice president policy and advocacy at Global Citizen, said carbon capture and transition fuels were “distractions and loopholes”.

Finance

COP28 noted the “growing gap” — estimated at almost £6 trillion (RM35 trillion) to 2030 — between the needs of developing countries facing increasing climate impacts and mounting debts, and the help provided for them to achieve their climate goals.

But observers noted a lack of detail, setting the stage for finance to become the key issue for 2024, both at COP29 talks to be held next year in Azerbaijan, and in other areas like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

“The phase out of fossil fuels will only be possible with the right financing package for poor and vulnerable nations,” said Roder.

She commended the decision text for its reference to taxation as one new potential source of climate funding.

COP28 also launched the landmark “loss and damage” fund to help countries cope with climate disasters, with funding up to US$792 million (RM3.7 billion) as of today.

But adaptation funding to help nations build their resilience to future impacts has fallen short in recent years and Roder said the COP28 reiteration of a promise to double adaptation spending amounted to “no progress”.

Nature

COP28 emphasised the importance of nature protections in line with achieving the Paris goals and made specific reference to the role of “halting and reversing deforestation and forest degradation by 2030”.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature welcomed the “strong recognition of the contribution of nature” in the COP28 deal. — AFP

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