COP28 Climate Summit: The End Of The Fossil Fuel Era Has BegunMaría Mendiluce
This article was first published in Forbes.
COP28 was shrouded in controversy from the outset. The decision to choose a petrostate to host a climate conference was always going to raise questions.
The outcome from Dubai is far from perfect, but COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber has succeeded in planting the seeds of a move away from oil, coal and gas. The agreement by countries that fossil fuels need to be replaced with clean energy is historic. Now the hard work of implementation begins.
Leading businesses came to COP28 with a call for the phase out of fossil fuels, the tripling of renewable capacity and the doubling of energy efficiency. Their voices were loud and clear and their message was heard, even if the language around fossil fuels in the final text talks of “transition” rather than a “phasing out”, as progressive companies and the vast majority of countries had supported.
The fact the text also recognises the need to follow a 1.5C aligned trajectory, references emissions peaking at the latest before 2025 and the need to get to net zero by 2050 is welcome.
And the inclusion of food and nature in the COP text is important given that a third of emissions comes from this sector. The pledge to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 and the commitment by over 150 countries to put food in their next climate plans, so-called nationally determined contributions, is significant. Progressive businesses are already taking steps to ensure their supply chains do not lead to the loss of forests and that the products they use come from sustainable agricultural practices.
However, for all companies, industries and countries to be able to genuinely begin the transition away from fossil fuels, governments must give a clear steer in their climate plans, which the text says should be delivered from late 2024, showing how they will implement and manage the change they have agreed.
They also need to show much more precisely how the transition will be paid for. The final text agreed in Dubai includes very little detail about finance. The document acknowledges the need for significant investment, but includes no concrete numbers. This omission will need to be corrected quickly if the transition is to be delivered in line with climate science and all countries, including the poorest, are able to adopt cleaner technologies.
Today can be the dawn of a new era. The agreement in Dubai is the skeleton on which a different future can be built, but planning for this future needs to begin immediately. COP30 in Belen (Brazil) will be the next important milestone when the NDCS should be updated. With the GST clearly acknowledge that we are off track to meet the climate objectives, everyone should focus on the job in hand of electrification and rolling out renewables, whose falling cost trajectory is acknowledged by the COP28 text, and ridding the world of oil, coal and gas.