On Wednesday in Dubai, during the Conference of the Parties (COP28) summit, which is the UN’s main climate Conference, a deal to phase out all fossil fuels was struck.
The COP28 deal states that “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly, and equitable manner […] so as to achieve net zero by 2050 is in keeping with the science.”
UN Secretary General António Guterres said on Wednesday that “whether you like it or not, the phaseout of fossil fuels is inevitable. Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late.”
During the Conference, COP28 members are separated into delegate groups, which usually share similar geographical locations and political and economic interests.
Saudi-Arabia-led oil-producing members of the Climate Conference lobbied hard for a prolonged reliance on mixed energy sources. The oil producer group clashed with approximately 100 other members of the Conference.
They were met with strong opposition from the Alliance of Small Island States, which also pushed for the specific, stronger wording of “phasing out” the fossil fuels in the deal.
On Wednesday, the deal was finally approved by COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber.
But while it’s nonetheless a big win, many worry that the wins might stop there, as stronger phrasing is not enough when stronger implementations are not in place.
The deal was criticised by many, who said that the only thing that seems to be set in stone with this agreement is that it aims at phasing out fossil fuels.
Each country will now need to set targets on their own. Much resistance to comply might once again follow.
There is a certain level of vagueness around the implementation of the deal that many worry about. This vagueness was demonstrated by Al Jaber’s words at the Conference when he said, “Now it is up to you,” to his fellow delegates.
John Kerry, the USA’s climate envoy, said that everyone should be happy with this deal,even if it is not ideal.
“Everyone might have said things a bit differently, but I think this is a cause for optimism. I am in awe of the spirit of cooperation,” he said.
The role of Saudi Arabia
COP28 President and Saudi Arabia’s delegate, Sultan Al Jaber, famously opened the climate change Conference on October 30 by calling all the members to continue burning fossil fuels.
Sultan Al Jaber, apart from being the year’s COP President, is also the CEO of Adnoc, the UAE’s state-owned oil company.
Last month, Al Jaber also said at a live event that he believes there is “no science” behind the need to phase out fossil fuels.
“There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuels is what’s going to achieve 1.5 C,” he angrily said during the event.
1.5 C is a crucial threshold that, when overstepped, might cause irreversible climatic consequences. Scientists and multiple government bodies have reached a consensus regarding this threshold, but many interested in continuous oil production still disagree.
After the deal to phase out fossil fuels was reached at COP, Sultan Al Jaber said that “we are what we do, not what we say. We must take the steps necessary to turn this agreement into tangible actions.”.