COP28 summit agrees to “transition away” from fossil fuels
The COP28 climate summit has, for the first time ever, agreed to "transition away" from fossil fuels. This decision, reached at the summit in Dubai, is seen as a historic step in combating the escalating impacts of climate change.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released the draft text of this agreement early on Wednesday (13th December), following extended negotiations that stretched into the early hours in Dubai.
COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber heralded the agreement, stating: "We have language on fossil fuels in our final agreement for the first time ever." He labelled the accord "historic", signifying its unprecedented nature in nearly 30 years of COP climate summits.
Although the deal is not legally binding, it represents a significant shift in global climate policy, urging all countries to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. This move was not without contention; small island nations like Samoa and the Marshall Islands had initially advocated for a complete "phase out" of fossil fuels, a stance stronger than the agreed "transition away".
The agreement also faces criticism for containing loopholes, such as the allowance of "transitional fuels" like gas, which has disappointed some environmentalists. However, it is still a considerable advancement from previous COP agreements.
Stephanie Baxter, Head of Policy at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said: “We are pleased that COP28 has agreed a new deal to move away from fossil fuels. But there still needs to be a clear timescale for phasing out fossil fuels completely. Low lying islands will be amongst the first to suffer from rising sea levels, but climate change affects everyone. We are already feeling the effects of rising temperatures, and the impact on lives, wellbeing and economies will only deteriorate if action is delayed or watered down. We have the engineering and technological capabilities to deliver. We urge the international community to stick to previous commitments to limit global heating to 1.5°C. All our futures depend on it.”
Key elements of the deal
The deal outlines several critical actions, including:
- Tripling global renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements by 2030
- Phasing down unabated coal and limiting new unabated coal power generation
- Accelerating efforts towards net zero emissions energy systems, utilising zero and low carbon fuels by mid-century
- Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, beginning this decade, to achieve net zero by 2050
- Enhancing efforts towards substitution of unabated fossil fuels in energy systems through accelerated deployment of zero and low emissions technologies
- Substantially reducing non-CO2 emissions, particularly methane, by 2030
- Reducing emissions from road transport by developing infrastructure and rapidly deploying zero emission vehicles
- Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions