Negotiators grapple with final Cop28 draft deal

Nearly 200 parties asked to back deal on gradual reduction in fossil fuel use over next three decades

Dr Sultan Al Jaber: 'We still have a lot to do'

Dr Sultan Al Jaber: 'We still have a lot to do'
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Climate negotiators from nearly 200 countries will today grapple with a global stocktake document that would lead to a gradual reduction in the use of fossil fuels over the next three decades.

The draft text, published on Monday evening, stops short of calling for a "phase out" of fossil fuels after more than a week of tense talks at Cop28

"We have a text and we need to agree on the text. The time for discussion is coming to an end," said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop President.

"And there is no time for hesitation. The time to decide is now."

European Union negotiators and campaigners were set to call for stronger wording on fossil fuels on Tuesday after criticising the text for being watered down.

We must still close many gaps. We don't have time to waste. We must deliver an outcome that respects the science and that keeps 1.5 within reach.
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop President

The document's backers stress that fossil fuel production and consumption will be reduced by 2050, in line with scientific advice and seeks to avoid contentious language that divides while still achieving a phase down.

The draft text doesn't call for a “phase out” of fossil fuels but instead proposes a series of eight options that countries "could" use to cut warming emissions.

The options included "reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner so as to achieve net zero by, before, or around 2050".

Other actions included tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, scaling up carbon capture and “rapidly phasing down unabated coal”.

If this language survives then it would be the first time fossil fuels are explicitly mentioned in a UN climate summit text decision.

The latest draft came with just hours to go before the summit’s scheduled end at 11am on Tuesday but it is expected the talks will be go on longer as is common at these events and potentially into Wednesday.

"I saw people starting to come out of their comfort zones, and I saw them really engage with each other," Dr Al Jaber said, though he said there was much work to be done on Tuesday as the deadline loomed.

"That said, we must still close many gaps. We don't have time to waste. We must deliver an outcome that respects the science and that keeps 1.5 within reach."

The global stocktake is essentially an assessment of how the world is doing against the goals of the 2015 Paris deal that saw leaders agree to try to limit warming to 1.5ºC on pre-industrial levels. It is expected to be the main outcome from the summit.

Dr Al Jaber has called keeping the 1.5ºC warming goal the “north star” of Cop28.

The language around fossil fuels has proven to be the most divisive, contentious and potentially defining part of the Cop28 summit but this text tries to bridge those divisions.

More than 100 countries including the US and EU wanted to see language on phasing down fuels. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have been historically resistant to such language.

Attendees heard powerful testimony over the past two weeks from countries on the frontlines lines of the climate crisis outlining first hand the devastating impacts they faced due to a warming world. The emissions from burning fossil fuels are by far the main driver of climate change. And many were not happy with the draft text currently on offer.

The European Union’s commissioner for climate action, Wopke Hoekstra, said the draft text was “disappointing”.

"Scientists are crystal clear on what is needed,” said Mr Hoekstra. “At the top of the list is the phase out of fossil fuels. This is never over until it’s over,” he said. "We’ll convey that message to the presidency."

A US State Department spokesperson said “the latest Cop28 draft deal text needs to be strengthened, including on the issue of fossil fuels”.

Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, Samoa's Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Lands, said the text presented a menu of options that states “could” take.

“Could is unacceptable,” said Mr Schuster, who is also chair of Alliance of Small Island States States. “We cannot sign on to a text that does not have strong commitments on phasing out fossil fuels.”

However, other climate experts welcomed the deal as a milestone for UN climate change summits.

“This could be a historic text, which recognises for the first time in the outcome of a United Nations climate change summit that the production and consumption of fossil fuels need to be cut and replaced by cleaner alternatives in order to achieve net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by mid-century,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics.

“It is now vitally important that this text is strengthened, so that it states that countries should, rather than could, cut fossil fuel production and consumption.”

Earlier on Monday top UN figures spoke at the summit to try to galvanise countries to find agreement as the clock ticked down to the summit's culmination.

UN chief says Cop28 will be a success if agreement on phase-out of fossil fuels is made

UN chief says Cop28 will be a success if agreement on phase-out of fossil fuels is made

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, called for parties to reach agreement on the need to "phase out" fossil fuels, while Simon Stiell, UN climate change chief, said countries must “clear blockades in the Cop28 negotiations or risk destroying the process for everyone”.

The UN has warned if urgent action is not taken to curb emissions the world could be headed for warming of 3ºC meaning the lives and livelihoods of billions of people will be affected.

Any agreement at Cop28 is consensus based meaning the close the 200 parties present must agree.

Updated: December 12, 2023, 9:55 AM