Draft Reveals Urgent Need for Global Agreement on Fossil Fuel Phase-Out at COP28
A draft document has shed light on the ongoing discussions and proposals within the United Nations climate talks, COP28, highlighting the urgency to establish a global agreement aimed at phasing out fossil fuels while ramping up renewable energy and efficiency measures. The draft emphasizes the need to use more renewables like wind and solar power and reduce energy consumption, but it drops the direct mention of a fossil fuel phase-out. Over 100 countries gathered in Dubai to support the phase-out, but if the draft does not receive widespread support, negotiators may have to debate the issue again.
The draft introduces ambitious objectives for renewable energy and efficiency, building upon the milestone decision made at COP27 to address coal specifically. While attempts were made by over 80 countries at COP27 to expand this to encompass all fossil fuels, their efforts were thwarted by a handful of opposing nations. COP28 aims to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency enhancements by 2030, translating to 11,000 GW of renewable energy and an average annual rate of energy efficiency of 4.1%. This commitment is backed by 123 countries in a recent pledge, highlighting the immediate need for a rapid transition.
However, concerns have been raised regarding a paragraph in the agreement advocating for scaling up abatement and removal technologies such as CCUS. The scientific community highlights the limitations of these technologies, including scalability and affordability, in fighting climate change.
The debate at COP28 intensifies with two options presented for the phaseout of fossil fuels. Option 1 emphasizes a straightforward approach: “An orderly and just phase out of fossil fuels.” Option 2 invites the potential to phase out “unabated fossil fuels” and “rapidly reduce use to achieve net-zero CO2 in energy systems by or around mid-century.” Climate experts have pointed out that separating the discussions on scaling up renewables and efficiency from fossil fuel phase-out raises an issue. Parties need to unify these aspects into a cohesive strategy centered on replacing fossils with renewable alternatives. Emphasis on accelerated coal phase-out gains support but is not enough without addressing oil and gas, experts add. The failure to include all fossil fuels will be deemed ineffective and inequitable, underscoring the need for a comprehensive approach.
One specific area that clearly speaks of moving away from fossil fuels is the transportation sector. The draft proposes “rapidly increasing the deployment pace for zero-emission vehicles” (ZEVs), which would involve putting an end to fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Several alternatives for ZEVs currently exist, including battery-powered vehicles and hydrogen-powered vehicles. However, there is a need to broaden discussions beyond electric vehicles to include public and active transportation as well.
Financial support is crucial for the phase-out of fossil fuels. The current draft’s text specifies financial support based on the COP27 agreement. Earlier this year, BloombergNEF reported that global clean energy transition investment rose by 31% in 2022, reaching $1.1 trillion. The renewable energy and electrified transport sectors received the most funding. While this is a significant achievement, more funds, exceeding $3 trillion, are needed by the end of the decade to reach net-zero emissions. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen the current draft’s financial support package for a successful fossil fuel phase-out.
There are also suggestions to integrate energy transition considerations into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and long-term strategies under the Paris Agreement. This highlights the interconnectedness of climate goals and energy transitions. As COP28 progresses, it is critical to address the fossil fuel phase-out language to shape an effective and equitable energy package that the world needs to steer towards a decarbonized and sustainable future.