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COP 28: Agreement to Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

After an extensive overnight negotiation marathon, a definitive agreement received approval at the UN's COP28 climate conference in Dubai. This historic agreement marks the first-ever global call for a transition away from fossil fuels, signaling a pivotal moment in the international commitment to address climate change.

While not meeting the aspirations of certain countries and environmental organizations that sought a time-bound mandate for the 'phase out' of fossil fuels, the negotiations, skillfully mediated by COP28 President Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, successfully navigated the divide with energy-producing nations. Notably, this included Saudi Arabia, which reportedly aimed to eliminate references to fossil fuels from the text altogether. The outcome significantly improved upon the language initially proposed in a draft on Tuesday evening, which had merely presented fossil fuel reduction as an optional consideration for countries.

The groundbreaking agreement represents a significant advancement from previous COP agreements, which had, at best, urged parties to expedite efforts to 'phase down' unabated coal use and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Specifically, the agreement stipulates:

“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.”

Recognizing this historic achievement, Wopke Hoekstra, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, highlighted the agreement in his remarks during the final plenary of COP28 as a significant milestone.

Environmental groups commended the final deal, although they underscored that the agreement still lacks the ambition required to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. In a statement issued after the agreement, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Climate and Energy Lead, remarked:

“The Earth is down but not out, as countries agree to transition away from fossil fuels, but fall short of consensus on the full phase out of coal, oil and gas at COP28. Nevertheless, a decision to transition away from fossil fuels is a significant moment. After three decades of UN climate negotiations, countries have at last shifted the focus to the polluting fossil fuels driving the climate crisis. This outcome signals the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel era.”

Additional noteworthy accomplishments within the agreement encompassed a global call to triple renewable energy capacity and a commitment to double the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.

During his closing plenary speech, Al Jaber remarked:

“We have travelled a long road together in a short amount of time over the last two weeks we have worked very hard to secure a better future for our people and our planet we should be proud of our historic achievement… we have given it a robust action plan to keep 1.5 within reach.”

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