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A step in the right direction: COP28 nations agree to ‘transition away' from fossil fuels

13/12/2023

Men and women standing behind desk on stage, clapping hands, in front of audience of people standing up Photo: COP28 / Christopher Pike
COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber and other participants celebrating the announcement of the climate summit’s final agreement that calls for a transition away from fossil fuels

Photo: COP28 / Christopher Pike

The 198 nations at the COP28 climate summit have agreed for the first time ever to ‘transition away' from fossil fuels. However, environmental campaigners and some governments remain critical of the announcement as New Energy World went to press this morning, saying it does not go far enough.

Commenting on the final pact, which recognises the need for deep, rapid and sustained reductions if the world is to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C, COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber said: ‘Together we have confronted realities and we have set the world in the right direction’. No previous COP has agreed to a concerted move away from oil, gas and coal, with last year’s pact focusing on a phasing down of unabated coal power.

 

A draft agreement seen earlier in the week had signalled that the ‘strong words’ being called for the phasing out of fossil fuels production might not be forthcoming, with the text instead saying nations should ‘reduce the consumption and production of fossil fuels in a just, orderly and equitable manner’ after opposition from oil and gas producing countries led by Saudi Arabia. The US, European Union, the UK and small island nations were among those who had criticised the draft plan, saying it didn’t go far enough and was not acceptable.

 

Protestors also gathered at Expo City, Dubai, to express their anger at the diluted language used in the draft text. Negotiations continued last night, with the final text agreed in the early hours of this morning.

 

Earlier this week the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that pledges made during COP28 on renewables, energy efficiency and methane, while important steps for decarbonising the sector, remained insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The agreements called for a tripling of global renewable power capacity by 2030 and a doubling of energy efficiency improvements every year to 2030, while some 50 oil and gas companies pledged to cut methane emissions and eliminate routine flaring by 2030 under the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter.

 

But even if all these pledges were delivered in full, global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions would only reduce by about a third of the emissions gap that needs to be bridged to get the world on a pathway compatible with meeting the 1.5°C target set under the 2015 Paris Agreement, under the IEA’s net zero by 2050 scenario, it said.

 

Meanwhile, in other COP28 news over the past week:

  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the latest country to join the Powering Past Coal Alliance which is calling for action to phase out unabated coal in order to meet the 1.5°C goal (over 10 new members joined over the course of COP28).
  • Spain, Kenya, and Samoa joined the ranks of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) group of nations that have pledged to phase out domestic oil and gas production.
  • Australia and Norway joined the Clean Energy Transition Partnership, a group of countries which have committed to end international financing of fossil fuels and instead provide support for renewable energy.
  • A new Global Cooling Pledge was announced, backed by 63 countries including the US, Canada, and Kenya, which calls on nations to reduce emissions from air conditioning and refrigeration by at least 68% by mid-century, against a 2022 baseline.
  • Over 10 countries joined what was billed as the first-of-its-kind consortium aiming to secure 5 GW of battery energy and storage systems (BESS) commitments by the end of 2024.
  • Some 20 countries (mostly European and North American countries) signed a pledge to triple their nuclear energy capacity by 2050, which will mean that nuclear energy could go from meeting 10% of the world’s current electricity needs to almost a third within 25 years.

 

See next week’s mini issue of New Energy World to read a full analysis of the outcomes of COP28 and expert comment on the conference.