COP 28 deal: How impactful it is likely to be and what to expect from COP 29

The COP28 deal was lauded by many as “the beginning of the end of fossil fuels”. However, some observers were critical of the move, saying the deal had “a lot of room for interpretation”. A look at what the experts think about the outcome of the first Global Stocktake and what is in store at COP29.

Akriti Anand
Updated15 Dec 2023, 03:22 PM IST
The first Global Stocktake deal at COP28, termed the UAE consensus, was adopted unanimously on Wednesday.
The first Global Stocktake deal at COP28, termed the UAE consensus, was adopted unanimously on Wednesday.(@COP28_UAE/X)

In the first-ever Global Stocktake, nearly 200 countries adopted the COP28 deal that called for a "transition away from fossil fuels". A huge round of applause reverberated through the room full of negotiators at the summit in Dubai on Wednesday as COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber gavelled through the "historic" agreement. This was for the first time that there was a "language on fossil fuels in the final agreement", said Jaber.

 

The final draft of COP28 called for a "transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science".

The first Global Stocktake deal at COP28, termed the UAE consensus, also urged countries to accelerate efforts toward the phase-down of unabated coal power, which is a climb down after India and China strongly resisted the singling out of coal.

Experts divided over COP28 deal | Here's what they said

While the outcome of the first Global Stocktake was lauded by many as "the beginning of the end of fossil fuels", many experts condemned the climate deal, calling it "a huge letdown".

ALSO READ: COP28 Summit in Dubai: Indian climate activist Licypriya Kangujam storms stage. Know more about her

Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa said the “text lays the ground for transformational change". However, Jean Su from the Center for Biological Diversity said the text “moves disastrously backwards from original language offering a phaseout of fossil fuels."

European Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra said, "This COP will mark the beginning of the end of fossil fuels. The text we have in front of us sets in motion an irreversible, and accelerated transition away from fossil fuels."

 

Now, "whether this is a turning point that truly marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era depends on the actions that come next and the mobilization of finance required to achieve them," former US Vice President and climate activist Al Gore posted on X.

Meanwhile, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, also noted that for the first time, "there is a recognition of the need to transition away from fossil fuels – after many years in which the discussion of this issue was blocked."

ALSO READ: COP28 sees many firsts — From sustainable fashion show to faith pavilion | Top 5 picks

The loopholes in COP28 deal for fossil fuel use

Many observers and experts raised concerns that the call to move away from fossil fuels was only within the energy sector, leaving out reference to polluting plastics and fertilisers, AFP reported.

UN climate chief Simon Stiell said the COP28 deal leaves "a lot of room for interpretation". According to AFP, he warned that "loopholes leave us vulnerable to fossil fuel-vested interests, which could crash our ability to protect people everywhere against rising climate impacts".

In a post on X after achieving the "landmark" deal, Simon Stiell said, "We didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era, but this is clearly the beginning of the end. We must get on with the job of putting the Paris Agreement fully to work."

Meanwhile, Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), said, "The exclusive focus on rapidly phasing down unabated coal, as opposed to all fossil fuels, heightens the risk of exacerbating the North-South global divide."

Moreover, "There’s a pretty deadly, fatal flaw in the text, which allows for transitional fuels to continue” — which is a code word for natural gas that also emits carbon pollution — the Associated Press reported while quoting Center for Biological Diversity energy justice director Jean Su.

How impactful the COP28 deal is likely to be

CEEW CEO Arunabha Ghosh said COP28 "has largely disappointed on all fronts". In a statement on Wednesday, he said, "It hasn't sufficiently raised climate ambition, held historical polluters accountable, or established effective mechanisms to finance climate resilience and a just low-carbon transition for the Global South," Ghosh said.

He, however, noted that the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage fund on the first day marked a noteworthy success.

When asked about how impactful the "transitioning away from fossil fuels" is likely to be, CEEW Fellow Vaibhav Chaturvedi said, "A clear message on phasing down of all fossil fuels would have been preferred".

He said the "most important progress has been made on the front of operationalisation of the loss and damage fund". However, "with reference to the 1.5 Degrees Celsius-aligned pathway, the COP28 was a huge letdown," he told Livemint.com.

"It failed to hold the developed world accountable for lack of action and ambition, and consequently the world is still way off the 1.5 Deg C pathway. So, on some aspects, especially adaptation and loss and damage, there will be some progress, but not much on aspects related to the 1.5 Degrees Celsius ambition," Chaturvedi added.

Meanwhile, Aditi Balbir, co-founder of EcoRatings, said it is most likely that emissions will continue, and we will breach the 1.5 degrees target unless the world takes quick action and allocates more capital to the climate cause.

"Newer technologies like carbon capture techniques may be what saves the day," she added. However, several critics say the technology remains expensive and unproven at scale, and say it can be used to justify continued drilling.

However, Sandiip Bhammer, Founder & Co-Managing Partner, Green Frontier Capital, had a contrasting view on carbon capture techniques. He said, "...the reliance on controversial technologies like carbon capture and storage introduces concerns about possible loopholes that could weaken the impact of this transition."

Bhammer also noted that a key shortfall common in most COP meetings is the lack of a definitive deadline for phasing-out fossil fuels. He opined that "the success of these measures largely depends on their implementation and the steadfast political commitment of individual countries to uphold their pledges".

What's expected at COP29?

Now, all eyes are on COP29 which is set to take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, next year.

COP28 noted the "growing gap" — estimated at almost £6 trillion ($7.5 trillion) to 2030 — between the needs of developing countries facing increasing climate impacts and mounting debts, and the help provided for them to achieve their climate goals.

However, observers noted a lack of detail, setting the stage for finance to become the key issue for 2024, both at COP29 talks to be held next year in Azerbaijan, and in other areas like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, AFP reported.

Besides this, Ghosh said the urgency of the climate crisis demands immediate reforms be made to the COP process to ensure that accountability, implementation, and climate justice become central to all efforts.

Meanwhile, Chaturvedi said that one can "expect that in the next few COPs, the screws will be tightened further and phasing out of fossil fuels will remain on the top of the agenda".

(With inputs from agencies)

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First Published:15 Dec 2023, 03:22 PM IST
HomeNewsworldCOP 28 deal: How impactful it is likely to be and what to expect from COP 29

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