COP Draft Document Excludes 'Fossil Fuel Phase Out'

By Outlook Planet Desk December 12, 2023

COP28: The latest draft of the global stocktake has raised concerns as it supplants the "phase-out of fossil fuels" with a “historic agreement” to "reduce production and consumption." The evolving text is facing resistance, underscoring the importance of strong language to support energy transition and scaling of renewables

COP Draft Document Excludes 'Fossil Fuel Phase Out'
Various nations, along with the European Union, have underscored the significance of a deal to "phase out all fossil fuels" as a key indicator of success for COP28. Shutterstock

The latest draft of the global stocktake, a pivotal document for COP28, has raised eyebrows as it excludes any mention of a "phase-out of fossil fuels." The document, released as climate talks in Dubai entered their final hours, suggests a significant pushback from fossil-fuel-dependent economies against a complete phase-out.

However, the draft does introduce a potential breakthrough by hinting at the possibility of an agreement to reduce the "production and consumption of fossil fuels"—a historic move in the context of UN climate conferences.

Several nations and the European Union had underscored the importance of a deal to "phase out all fossil fuels" as a marker of success for COP28. The COP28 Presidency, in a statement, expressed optimism about the draft, calling it a significant step forward and leaving the decision to the participating countries.

The updated global stocktake draft, serving as the foundation for countries' new action plans to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, reflects resistance from fossil-fuel-reliant economies such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq against a complete fossil fuel phase-out. Observers speculate that this exclusion might be reversed if nations vigorously advocate for it and commit to increased financial support for poor and developing countries.

Earlier drafts had presented four options for a "fossil fuel phase-out," but none made it to the latest version. Instead, the new draft lists eight possibilities that "could" effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the "reduction of both consumption and production of fossil fuels in a just, orderly, and equitable manner to achieve net-zero emissions by, before, or around 2050 in keeping with science."

The text also addresses coal specifically, suggesting a rapid phase-down and limitations on new and unabated coal power generation. Approximately 40 percent of global CO2 emissions come from coal, with oil and gas contributing to the remaining percentage.

India, heavily reliant on coal for about 70 percent of its power generation, plans to add 17 gigawatts of coal-based power generation capacity in the next 16 months. The draft emphasises the importance of tripling global renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency rates by 2030.

While the document calls for scaling up technologies, including underperforming ones, to capture CO2 emissions, it is noteworthy that language regarding the obligation of developed countries to provide finance is absent in the adaptation section.

The COP28 negotiations, initially marked by widespread consensus on the need to phase out fossil fuels, faced resistance from a minority of countries, causing delays in finalising the text. Strong language supporting the energy transition and the scaling up of renewable energy in developing countries is crucial to overcoming this resistance.

The Earth's global surface temperature has risen by 1.15 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, primarily due to CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. Achieving a complete fossil fuel phase-out necessitates significant financial and technological support from developed countries to help emerging economies transition to renewables.

Despite statements from most countries supporting a fossil fuel phase-out, a small yet influential minority has been blocking the text, raising concerns among climate experts. The new draft, described by some as a "watered-down menu of compromises," has sparked disappointment among certain nations, emphasising the urgent need for a concrete commitment to phasing out fossil fuels.

In a parallel development at COP28, a group of countries, led by Denmark, Finland, and Panama, launched the Group of Negative Emitters, aiming to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit. This ambitious initiative involves cutting emissions, protecting and expanding forests, and investing in new technologies to achieve negative emissions. The move underscores the ongoing global efforts to explore innovative solutions beyond mere net zero emissions.