Cop28 bulletin: Fossil fuel phaseout is on the table

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a water feature and people in suits walking through the Cop28 climate conference venue

Around the Cop28 venue in Dubai (Pic: Flickr/UNFCCC/Kiara Worth)


In the early hours of Friday in Dubai, a city surrounded by oil and gas plants, a draft text emerged at Cop28 that opened the possibility of phasing out all fossil fuels.  

Other options are to “phase down” all fossil fuels, to focus purely on coal or to say nothing at all. The coin is in the air.

The text is in response to the global stocktake of progress to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

The draft recognises that current policies have made some progress to avoid the worst climate change scenarios, but “notes with significant concern” that we’re still not in line with the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C and aiming for 1.5°C.  

Russia wants a “phase out” to be removed from the text, saying it would “discriminate” against their economy. The Cop28 presidency has used language suggesting preference for a “phase down” of fossil fuels. 

The global stocktake text also proposes to end fossil fuel subsidies with “fairness”, as well as tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency — two goals that have attracted broad support.  

Some bits did not make it into the draft, observers said. While the text does have a target for cutting emissions by 2030, it does not include a medium-term target for 2035. The IPCC says the world must cut emissions by 60% by then to keep us in with a chance of meeting the 1.5°C target.

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Circus comes to town 

More than 150 world leaders arrived in Dubai for day 2 of Cop28, where they announced modest funding pledges and bids for future Cops – but no new emissions targets. 

Their presence was felt by delegates on the ground. Parts of the venue were blocked for leaders to move, forcing people to take longer routes and cutting off access to a section of the conference. Journalists were told they needed special tickets and escorts to enter the main press conference room. 

The day started with a Climate Ambition Summit. UN chief Antonio Guterres took the stage to urge leaders to agree on a fossil fuel phase out. “Not reduce. Not abate. Phase out – with a clear timeframe aligned with 1.5 degrees,” he said. 

Then came the usual parade of national leaders. They had been urged to keep their speeches to three minutes, but some had a lot to say. France’s Emmanuel Macron and Kenya’s William Ruto went on more than four times the limit. 

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi pitched to host Cop33 in 2028. He announced a “green credits initiative” meant to go “beyond the commercial mindset of carbon credits”, without giving much detail about how. 

Brazilian president Lula da Silva boasted about his wins reducing deforestation by a third in his first year. He did not mention the country’s oil and gas expansion plans for 2030 or setting the stage to join OPEC in 2024. 

Some governments announced contributions to the new loss and damage fund, among them Italy ($108 million) and Canada ($8 million). World Bank CEO Ajay Banga, who will act as interim host of the fund, said the total pledged “isn’t going to get us very far” but money would start reaching people on the ground next year.

graph showing national pledges to the loss and damage fund

While tripling renewable energy was a common message in the leaders’ speeches, wording was less clear about phasing out fossil fuels, said E3G analyst Tom Evans. 

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