Cop28 forced into extra time in search of a deal

Final talks expected early on Wednesday

Cop28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber with EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra. Photo: EU climate commissioner
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Talks at the Cop28 climate summit were headed into extra time on Tuesday with a new draft deal expected early on Wednesday after many countries criticised a previous version as too weak because it omitted a “phase-out” of fossil fuels.

The race to seal a deal caps about a fortnight of tough negotiations with talks moving into the early hours of Wednesday.

The Cop28 Presidency late on Tuesday said consultations with all parties would continue until 3am on Wednesday and a draft is unlikely to come until after that.

A German delegation spokesman says he is expecting a plenary session about 8am on Wednesday.

We want this Cop to mark the beginning of the end of fossil fuels and will keep pushing for that
Wopke Hoekstra, the EU's climate commissioner

Countries are expected to be asked to back a revised stocktake document then.

"Overnight and throughout today, the Cop28 President and his team have been engaging in extensive consultations with a wide representation of negotiating groups and parties," a presidency representative said.

"This is to ensure everyone is heard and all views are considered. He is determined to deliver a version of the text that has the support of all parties. Consultations will continue until 3am."

Cop28 director general Majid Al Suwaidi earlier said the presidency wanted to include a "historic" mention on the future of fossil fuels in the next draft text for a possible deal, but it was up to the almost 200 parties to break the deadlock.

Exhausted negotiators are trying to agree on a plan to curb climate change in a year on track to be the warmest ever, with extreme weather events becoming more common.

But the draft Cop28 deal released by the presidency was rejected by many sides, including the US, Europe and vulnerable small island states despite including language on fossil fuels for the first time at a climate summit.

Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change.

Language telling countries of eight options they "should" take to cut emissions was considered not to be robust enough and, while the draft text didn’t call for a “phase-out” of fossil fuels, it did mention reducing their use.

This middle ground appeared to be an attempt to bridge contentious fault lines on the issue that have appeared at the summit over the past few days.

Mr Al Suwaidi acknowledged the draft did not address the concerns but it “expected this” and wanted the draft text to “spark conversations”.

“What we have seen since is that the parties have deeply held and deeply split views … especially on the language around fossil fuels,” he said.

The National speaks to Cop protester Licypriya Kangujam

The National speaks to Cop protester Licypriya Kangujam

Talks were mostly behind closed doors as efforts grew to break the deadlock. But late on Tuesday other agenda items were starting to make progress.

New draft texts were emerging on technical matters related to finance and loss and damage, giving hope that an end to the summit could be in sight.

Deals at UN climate summits must be passed by consensus. Then it is up to individual countries to deliver on the deal, through national policies and investments.

But time is now running out. Wopke Hoekstra, the EU's climate commissioner, has met Cop28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber as the bloc pushes for tough language on a fossil fuel phase-out.

"Our work at Cop28 continues. We discussed the European Union's position with the Cop President," Mr Hoekstra said on X.

"We want this Cop to mark the beginning of the end of fossil fuels and will keep pushing for that, together with our partners in the High Ambition Coalition, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Umbrella Group."

Countries are locked in a series of meetings to break the deadlock.

“Most of the attention is on the fossil fuel text," said Bob Ward, from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics.

"On this, I think Saudi Arabia may hold the key because there are a large number of countries that want stronger language.

"However, the fossil fuel text is just one of many areas on which there are disagreements.”

Sven Harmeling, global policy lead at the Care Climate Justice Centre, said it was difficult to predict what would happen in the closing hours.

"Negotiators are working with the presidency behind the scenes to revise the text," said Mr Harmeling. "Cops very rarely finish on time and negotiations of such importance should not be rushed.

"We hope that countries will reach a consensus on a phase-out of fossil fuels in line with the science on 1.5ºC. Negotiators must seize this opportunity."

Cassie Flynn, global director of climate change at the UN Development Programme, said all the momentum of the past two weeks needs to land in a text that is ambitious and reflects the needs of all parties.

“This tension is going to play out in these hours and potentially days,” said Ms Flynn.

“The Cop Presidency will have to be thinking in a way that is creative, thinking in a way that helps countries find landing zones they need.

“The pressure is on.”

Updated: December 13, 2023, 5:04 AM