Deep divisions at final phase of UN climate talks over fossil fuels

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As the 2023 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 28th session of the Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP28) comes to a close, some of the major topics are still being discussed behind closed doors, such as the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and the Global Stocktake — the main outcome of the summit with “weak language” to phase out fossil fuels and promoting renewables. Many climate negotiators and observers told IANS on Tuesday for the GGA, for example, there are still questions around the feasibility of timelines and means of implementation. For the Global Stocktake, negotiations include next steps, funding, and implications for mitigation measures but due to huge pressure from a small number of petro-states the new draft text is a step backwards.

The Loss and Damage Fund has now been established, but many questions remain here, too, such as how much funding will be available in the long run, how it can be accessed, etc. Climate justice leaders from organisations representing impacted indigenous and frontline communities, who have participated, tracked, and intervened in the two-week-long climate summit, continue to call upon world leaders to pass and adhere to globally binding agreements, including an immediate and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels, dirty energy, and to commit to direct climate finance and reparations for communities that are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

“How could a Presidency so outwardly committed to consulting all parties and ‘inclusivity’ produce a Global Stocktake text so messy and unbalanced? How could a Presidency so ‘laser focused’ on getting this right leave 190 plus countries so perplexed?” asked a negotiator from Guyana. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) group proclaimed they would not sign their own “death warrant”, while the EU asserted late last night it is ready to walk away if the text doesn’t improve. Says an evidently cheesed off German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan: “We have received a completely unbalanced text that has been released by the COP presidency, particularly the language on fossil fuels, on coal is completely unacceptable to the European Union and to many other countries and parties.”

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“We are here as long as it takes to get the clear signal that is needed to the world to phase out fossil fuels, to get the clearest signal we can and really to build a better future that is resilient.” Responding to the Global Stocktake draft text, which is under intense negotiations throughout last night, Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, told IANS: “The latest Global Stocktake text on fossil fuels represents a significant regression from previous versions. Astonishingly, it has dropped explicit language on phasing out fossil fuels, opting instead for a vague commitment to ‘reduce both consumption and production’ by 2050.

“This is a clear indication of the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying power, influencing global policies to favor prolonged fossil fuel use. If we fail to issue a decisive and strong directive from COP28, we stand at the precipice of crossing the crucial 1.5 degree Celsius warming threshold. “Such a scenario would unleash catastrophic consequences globally, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable communities.” Saying the COP28 Presidency has been clear from the beginning about their ambitions, COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber said: “This text reflects those ambitions and is a huge step forward. Now it is in the hands of the parties, who we trust to do what is best for humanity and the planet.”

Small island developing states are very concerned by the current draft text, saying it has “weak language on fossil fuels and completely insufficient as doesn’t refer to a phase out at all.” “Any text that compromises 1.5 degrees will be rejected,” AOSIS Chairs Minister, Cedric Schuster of Samoa, told the media, voicing deep worries regarding the process and content of the Presidency’s draft text on the Global Stocktake. Former US Vice President Al Gore said the COP28 is, “on the verge of complete failure as this obsequious draft reads as if OPEC dictated it word for word.”

For Andreas Sieber, Associate Director of Policy and Campaigns, 350.org: “The COP28 draft text resembles a disjointed wish list, far from the stringent measures required to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The presidency, displaying a troubling lack of leadership, has notably weakened commitments to phasing out fossil fuels and promoting renewables. By framing actions as ‘could’ instead of ‘shall’, and with weak language on short-term declines and renewable targets, this draft falls short. “Nations committed to climate action must reject this weakened proposal, insisting on transformative changes for a meaningful impact on global warming.” As Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans neatly summarises: “The whole energy package is loose.”