Cop28 squibs on fossil fuel phase out, but calls for quick transition

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

A new text released by the COP28 climate talks host the United Arab Emirates again squibs on the language of fossil fuel phase out and the petrol-states refused to concede much ground despite the increased urgency of strong climate action.

The new text, released around 2.30pm (AEST) on Wednesday “calls” on parties to support “accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power”, but falls short on providing a date for the end of coal.

It also talks of “accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emission energy systems, utilizing zero- and low-carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century.”

This is expected to fall way short of the expectations of vulnerable countries, and comes after the initial text was roundly rejected by many countries on Tuesday, including Australia which is also speaking on behalf of other western economies including the UK, Canada, the US, and Norway.

COP veterans noted that the use of the term “calls” is the weakest of the languages used in such texts, and allows countries to choose their own paths. Carbon capture is cited as one of the technologies that should be pursued, presumably to “abate” coal fired power despite the failure of that technology over the last half century.

Some analysts suggest that hoping that petrol-states such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia would agree to a “phase out” or even a “phase down” of fossil fuels was too much to ask, and that the call to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 is equally significant.

“While the eventual aim of increasing clean energy is to phase out the vast majority of fossil fuel use, right now accelerating the growth of clean energy seems more important than arguing about the eventual end state,” energy analyst Lauri Myllyvirta wrote on Twitter/X.

“Once global clean energy production is growing at a rate consistent with the tripling, it will become obvious that fossil fuels are on their way out, and that is for the better not just for the climate but also for the economy.”

Melanie Robinson, the global Climate Program Director at the World Resources Institute, was also upbeat:

“This text makes a clear call for the world to transition away from fossil fuels and accelerate action this decade. This would dramatically move the needle in the fight against climate change and overcome immense pressure from oil and gas interests.”

Others were not so sure.

“In terms of signalling the end of the fossil fuel era it’s an improvement on the last text, but the bar was so low it could hardly be worse,” wrote Ed King from the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC).

“There are clear signals that countries agree fossil fuels need to be replaced by clean energy with 2050 as the target year for global net zero (but) references to transition fuels being essential could have been written by a major gas producer.

“The science is clear: gas is a methane heavy fossil fuel, not a transition fuel.”

more to come

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