Dec 8, 2023 - Energy & Environment

"Work really begins" as COP28 hits crunch time

Dan Jørgensen, Barbara Creecy, COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, Simon Stiell at a press conference on Dec. 8. Photo: Handout/UNFCCC

Dan Jørgensen, Barbara Creecy, COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber and UNFCCC chair Simon Stiell at a press conference today in Dubai. Photo: Handout/UNFCCC

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The COP28 climate talks are shifting into high gear in the second week of the summit.

The latest: Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, who heads the talks, has handed off sections of a potential agreement to pairs of ministers who must wrestle with negotiators over the final text.

The intrigue: A key flashpoint will be over how the final text prescribes a decline in the use of fossil fuels and a corresponding increase in renewable energy sources.

State of play: At a press conference on Friday, al-Jaber and ministers from several countries called for the most ambitious outcome possible, presenting a united front as they headed into the toughest rounds of negotiations so far.

  • "Here is where the work really begins," al-Jaber said.
  • Top UN climate official Simon Stiell pushed negotiators to adopt the most ambitious text possible, given how severe the consequences of climate change already are.
  • "We need to remember one thing: We cannot negotiate with nature. The climate cannot compromise," said Dan Jørgensen, Danish minister for climate energy and utilities.
  • He will co-chair the negotiations on the text that is likely to include language on a fossil fuel "phase out" or "phase down," or some other permutation.

Zoom in: The latest draft text that emerged Friday afternoon local time preserved the most aggressive option of calling for a "phase out" of fossil fuels in line with climate science findings.

  • But several countries were already objecting to this language during an evening session.
  • Finding a diplomatic "landing zone" for this language and other contentious topics will require walking a tightrope between satisfying demands from nations seeking a strong outcome, such as the EU, much of Africa, small island nations and others, without tripping the red lines of major energy-producing countries like Saudi Arabia.
  • The UAE, with working relationships that span geopolitical divides, could prove to be uniquely well-suited to pull off these talks. However, the impartiality of al-Jaber, who is also the CEO of state oil firm ADNOC, was called into question during the summit's first week.

The bottom line: The world is closer than ever to a historic agreement on reducing fossil fuel emissions, scaling up climate finance, and providing more resources for climate adaptation. But many questions remain.

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