From the Editors of E – The Environmental Magazine
Dear EarthTalk: What resolutions if any did negotiators agree on at the recent COP28 climate talks in Abu Dhabi? Are environmental advocates happy with the results? — Joe Watson, via email
International negotiators from 199 countries met in Abu Dhabi in late 2023 for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) to try to find common ground on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing cataclysmic climate change. Whether and how to phase out fossil fuels took center-stage, as did calls for increased renewable energy development, more help for climate-afflicted less-developed nations, and the creation of national adaptation plans.
So, what exactly did negotiators agree on? For one, they cited fossil fuels specifically as the cause for our ramp up in global temperatures. With a vast majority of the countries in attendance (127) now backing a phase out, environmental advocates were hoping it would be institutionalized in the agreement, but the final written draft employed weaker language, calling for “transitioning away” from fossil fuels.
“The current terminology—‘transitioning away’—is somewhat ambiguous and allows for varying interpretations,” says Climate Action Network International’s Harjeet Singh. Although “transitioning away” may be a step in the right direction, COP28 didn’t call for getting rid of fossil fuels altogether and the language may be too soft to make countries act as quickly as many think they should.
Another step in the right direction was the creation of a loss and damage fund, essentially a form of climate reparations. “Loss and damage” refer to destruction caused by climate change. The fund relies on wealthy countries’ generosity and is voluntary. UAE and Germany each contributed $100 million while other countries collectively chipped in an additional $570 million.
Another positive outcome of COP28 is the oil and gas decarbonization charter which 50 oil companies signed onto, each pledging to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. These companies are responsible for only 40 percent of total global oil and gas output, but their commitment can still make a big dent in global fossil fuel production and consumption. Some 100 countries agreed to triple their renewable energy production by 2030. Parties also agreed to a national adaptation plan to try to meet requirements by 2030.
Another key issue is lack of funding. Less developed countries desperately need funds if they are to meet their COP28 aspirations, and the $770 million raised so far is a drop in the bucket given the needs. Another criticism is the lack of near-term targets, making the monitoring of progress more difficult.
Sweden’s famous youth climate activist, Greta Thunberg, describes COP28 as “another betrayal and a stab in the back” and she isn’t the only one who feels this way. But others remain optimistic that the groundwork laid at COP28 can help make COP29 next year an agreement we can all be happy about. “We didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai but this outcome is the beginning of the end,” says Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
CONTACTS: Indigenous people and climate justice groups say Cop28 was ‘business as usual’, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/dec/13/indigenous-people-and-climate-justice-groups-say-cop28-was-business-as-usual; COP28: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Dubai, https://www.carbonbrief.org/cop28-key-outcomes-agreed-at-the-un-climate-talks-in-dubai.
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