After bringing fossil fuels under the global spotlight for the first time, COP28 has fallen short of delivering an urgent call for its phase-out or phase-down in the penultimate draft text of the first-ever Global Stocktake released late on Monday. The issue has rocked the climate talks at the UN climate summit with nearly half of the countries demanding a strong language on fossil fuels.
The Small Island Nations and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) expressed their concerns over the new draft, terming it as a ‘watered-down’ version of the previous one released on Friday. This is the fourth time the draft has been revised. A deal on the phase-out of all fossil fuels (abated/unabated) was expected to be a key outcome of the summit, which comes at a crucial time when the world has already warmed by over 1.1℃.
“The language on fossil fuels is weak and completely insufficient. It does not refer to a phase-out at all. Any text that compromises 1.5℃ will be rejected,” said Cedric Schuster, Environment Minister of Samoa, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.
“We came here to fight for 1.5 and for the only way to achieve that: a fossil fuel phase-out. What we have seen today is unacceptable. We will not accept an outcome that will lead to devastation for our country, and for millions if not billions of the most vulnerable people and communities,” said John Silk, Minister of Natural Resources and Commerce, Republic of Marshall Islands.
The text is likely to undergo another round of negotiations with pushbacks expected from several countries including the European Union (EU), which demanded strong language on fossil fuels. European Union Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said the EU would walk from the climate talks if the draft COP28 deal is not changed.
The 21-page text is part of the first-ever Global Stocktake and is expected to guide the next phase of climate action for all countries. While the text recognizes the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it falls short of giving clear directions to meet their climate targets.
SINGLES OUT COAL YET AGAIN, FOCUS ON CCUS
The text shows no urgency to reduce the burning of gas and oil used largely by the developed countries, but singles out coal yet again, and calls upon countries to rapidly phase down unabated coal and put limitations on permitting new and unabated coal power generation. Unabated coal usage refers to the absence of any experimental technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCUS). This is likely to be contested by countries in the Global South especially India which depends on coal to meet the growing energy needs of its 1.3 billion population.
“The updated Global Stocktake text furthers the differential treatment meted to the developing south and the developed world. Fossil fuels have to be only ‘reduced’ in a just, orderly, and equitable manner, while unabated coal has to be ‘rapidly’ phased down and there need to be limitations on new and unabated coal power generation. There is no need for a just and orderly transition for coal,” said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Fellow, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
NO HEADY PROGRESS ON ADAPTATION FINANCE
The text also fails to make any significant progress on climate finance by not holding developed countries accountable for meeting their pending finance commitments. A clear definition of climate finance is still awaited as well as a roadmap for adaptation finance.
“Adaptation has been largely neglected at COP28 so far, but it had the chance to make the course correction with the Global Stocktake text. Instead, the call for a roadmap for delivering in the doubling of adaptation finance has been taken out,” said Alex Scott, Climate Diplomacy and Geopolitics Programme Lead at E3G.
According to experts, the draft text fails to deliver a strong, ambitious climate action resting on terms like “could”, instead of “must”, as several countries have not upheld even the voluntary commitments. “The text lacks punch and decisiveness. It refers to large energy transformation moves like tripling of renewable energy and doubling of energy efficiency, inter alia, along with expanding nuclear and carbon capture, both of which have proven to be un-scalable, risky, and not the preferred choice. By including everything, the outcome could mean less,” said Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends.
This is the fourth draft of the Global Stocktake text and is likely to go through another round of revision on the final day of the two-week-long conference. The negotiators are racing against time to achieve consensus on critical climate issues. “We have made progress, but we still have a lot to do. I want you to deliver the highest ambition on all agenda items, including on fossil fuel language,” said COP28 President Dr Sultan Al-Jaber.