COP 28: Crossing the Threshold

It was tenuous, unclear until the last moment, but at COP 28 in Dubai the world crossed a critical threshold. Delegates at this conference, some 90,000 in all, agreed that the world must transition away from fossil fuels “in our energy systems, beginning in this decade, in a just, orderly and equitable manner,” to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Yes, there are loopholes in the agreement. More than the 2,400 fossil fuel lobbyists present pushed for gas to be seen as transitional fuel and carbon capture viewed as a technology enabling continued oil production. The science is clear that neither are viable at the present.

Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault called the decision “historic”. I think because for the first time after 30 years of kicking at the can, U.N. climate change negotiations have finally agreed that the fossil fuel era must come to an end.

In his closing statement, Secretary-General António Guterres said limiting global heating to 1.5°C, one of the keystone targets set in the landmark 2015 the Paris Agreement, “will be impossible without the phase out of all fossil fuels”. This is being recognized by a growing and diverse coalition of countries.

Mr. Guterres stressed that much more is needed to deliver climate justice to those on the frontlines of the crisis.

“Many vulnerable countries are drowning in debt and at risk of drowning in rising seas. It is time for a surge in finance, including for adaptation, loss and damage and reform of the international financial architecture.”

He said the world cannot afford “delays, indecision, or half measures” and insisted that “multilateralism remains humanity’s best hope.”

“It is essential to come together around real, practical and meaningful climate solutions that match the scale of the climate crisis.”

The negotiators at COP28 also agreed that the world should triple renewables capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030. The world should also make further progress in relation to adaptation and finance.

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