14 Dec 2023

COP28: A historic agreement struck, but will it be enough?

Yesterday, a historic agreement was adopted at #COP28 in Dubai. The UAE Consensus calls for transitioning away from fossil fuels, the first time there has been an explicit mention of reducing the use of fossil fuels in a COP text. Associate Director, Ben Carr, shares an analysis on the deal and questions whether it will be enough.

Ben Carr
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Yesterday, the UAE Consensus was adopted at COP28 in Dubai. Only hours earlier, many were questioning whether a deal could even be reached. Several nations were angered by an earlier draft agreement that failed to include strong wording on fossil fuels. However, the final ‘Global Stocktake’ text was published early Wednesday following a dramatically swift adoption process.

Running to more than 20 pages and nearly 200 clauses, the UAE Consensus “calls on parties to contribute” to take actions including “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”.

In what is being described as a historic moment, this is the first time there has been an explicit mention of reducing the use of fossil fuels in a COP text.

However, developing nations and campaigners have not shied away from critiquing the agreement since the moment the gavel came down on the negotiations. They claim that the deal has a litany of loopholes, appears to placate fossil fuel interests and will ultimately hamper the world from cutting greenhouse gas emissions drastically enough to limit global heating to 1.5c above pre-industrial levels.

They also argue that, despite an agreement on a loss and damage fund, developing nations still require hundreds of billions more in finance to help them transition away from coal, oil and gas. During the summit, the US pledged just over $20m in new finance, while India announced it would double its coal production by the end of the decade.

Despite its imperfections, the deal represents perhaps the biggest step forward since the Paris Agreement of 2015. It signals the start of the end of the fossil fuel era and a global push towards renewable energy.

The hope is that the commitment to triple renewables and energy efficiency by 2030 will see wind and solar replace coal, oil and gas and the requirement for nations to submit stronger carbon-cutting plans by 2025 should, in theory, help to accelerate the transition.

As diplomats and officials leave Dubai, there will be a sense that there is still much more work to be done to achieve the goal of limiting climate change and its impacts. This year was the warmest year on record and 2024 is set to pass the 1.5c threshold, according to The Met Office, and the UN recently warned that global temperatures will rise by 3-5c by the end of the century.

Away from the politics, many will be wondering if the agreement struck today is radical enough to address the scale and pace required to avoid climate breakdown.

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