COP28 Comes to its Crescendo in Drive for Fossil Phase-out

  • Throughout the day Monday, hopes seemed to rise for something historic.
  • At the press conference of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, high level ministers from a half dozen countries called for “ambitious and clear language on fossil fuels,”
  • Commenting on the draft text, activists asserted that most countries support the stronger phase-out language, and that a small group is opposed.

The UN’s COP28 conclave, based in an enormous exhibition centre in Dubai Expo City, with small daily protests permitted on the premises, is coming to a denouement. Many of the almost 200 nations in the negotiations, and the environmental groups observing the negotiations, are pleading for language in the final ‘Global Stocktake’ document – the primary document of the summit – that calls for a clear end to fossil fuels, while big players appear to be jockeying for position and control over the outcome. It opened last week with a slew of major announcements and pledges in the first few days. Now, it appears a few nations are resisting strong ‘phase out’ language in the final communique.

In the initial euphoria of major announcements, COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber saw unique momentum. Although speaking defensively at a press conference, in which he reiterated his commitment to “keeping 1.5 within reach,” Al Jaber said the Dubai event will be historic, marking a “major inflection point…our opportunity to deliver a real, tangible paradigm shift,” as he announced over $57 billion in new commitments.  

Eleven pledges and declarations were announced, including the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter endorsed by 52 companies, the centerpiece of which is a voluntary commitment to cap methane leaks and flaring by 2030. John Kerry, the top US climate envoy, speaking to reporters last Wednesday, dismissed the sudden visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia and the UAE as inconsequential to the UN summit. Instead, he was upbeat, saying he felt a new urgency at the talks. He listed numerous accomplishments, including some 120 countries pledging to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030, and the US and five other countries (including the UAE) pledging to triple nuclear energy by 2050.