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COP28: Global Stocktake Calls For Just Phase-out Of Fossil Fuels

A new version of the Global Stocktake was released during the ongoing UN Climate Summit (COP28) provides options for key issues of negotiations, such as mitigation, fossil fuels, equity and historical responsibility


The first Global Stocktake (GST), which will end this year’s meeting, will probably assess how well nations have done thus far in accomplishing the goals of the Paris Agreement. The proposed draught document suggests ways to triple the world’s renewable capacity to 11,000 GW by 2030 when compared to 2022 levels. Additionally, it recommends raising the average annual rate of energy efficiency improvement worldwide to 4.1per cent by 2030 from 2022 levels.

There is room for ‘zero and low emission’ technologies to be widely implemented globally. Low-emission technologies include abatement and removal technologies, such as carbon capture, utilisation, storage, and low-carbon hydrogen production, according to experts.

Some experts have also  pointed out that zero and low-emission technologies are a proxy for natural gas use. The text has options for the orderly and just phaseout of fossil fuels, accelerating efforts towards phasing out unabated fossil fuels and rapidly reducing their service to achieve net-zero CO2 in energy systems by or around mid-century. But, for these, the draft also gives the option of no text.

The IPCC recommends a 75 per cent decrease in unabated coal use between 2019 and 2030 as a means of addressing climate change. There is no information available for option two. Other solutions include accelerating the rollout of zero-emission vehicles and gradually removing wasteful fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term.

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report suggests that historical emissions and the use of the world’s carbon space are not distributed equitably. Developed countries have emitted more greenhouse gases in the past despite having a smaller share of the global population. Therefore, it is necessary to recognise that equitable mitigation action is guided by historical responsibility, with the developed countries taking the lead in mitigation actions.

Acknowledging equity’s significance can encourage the global community to establish even more challenging and ambitious climate targets, which will raise the chances of achieving the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals.

Concerns are raised in the text about 2023 being the warmest year ever recorded. It also notes that the effects of the climate catastrophe are intensifying quickly, highlighting the necessity of taking immediate action to stay below the 1.5°C target.

In order to keep global warming to 1.5°C, the draught recognises that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025. In order to do this, greenhouse gas emissions must be consistently reduced from 2019 levels by 43 per cent by 2030 and 60 per cent by 2035. By 2050, the ultimate goal is to reach a situation in which the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is equal to the quantity that is extracted from it.

While COP28 is still in its early days, leaving out scope for consensus to be reached on some of the critical issues, the draft text shows divergent views could derail the negotiations.

“The most concerning section is on fossil fuels. There are essentially three key options — phaseout of unabated fossil fuels with a timeline of mid-century, or phaseout of unabated coal (no oil + gas) by 2030, or no text on fossil fuels,” the Centre for Science and Environment said.

Governments are encouraged not to use the terms ‘abatement’ and ‘low emissions’ technologies because they are sometimes ill-defined and only apply to carbon capture and storage, also known as “blue” hydrogen/ammonia, or the generation of hydrogen and ammonia with carbon capture.

Rather, they ought to concentrate on reaching an equitable and just agreement to phase out the production and use of fossil fuels, triple the amount of renewable energy used, and double energy efficiency. It is especially crucial that Dubai’s governments take this into account.

“Governments need to reject the language on low emission technologies as it would undermine the whole energy package. ‘Abatement’ and ‘low emissions’ technologies are poorly defined and generally refer to carbon capture on storage — alone or in combination with hydrogen or ammonia (‘blue’ hydrogen/ammonia). Governments here in Dubai need to agree on a just and equitable phase-out of fossil fuel production and use, at least a tripling of renewable energy and a doubling of energy efficiency,” said Fuhr. Noting that there were several good news in the initial days of the summit, experts said the text is nearly doing away with pre-2020 commitments.

“Overall, there have been positive news in the beginning and the Loss and Damage fund has been operationalised which is important. But the initial GST text has a maximalist position and it is nearly doing away with pre-2020 commitments, action and implementation. That is very concerning. Historic responsibility and differentiated responsibilities are a part of Paris Agreement. Developing countries need to ensure these issues are not diluted,” said Manjeev Singh Puri, former climate negotiator and ambassador.

Optional suggestions from country Parties are provided in the second version of the Global Stocktake text, but they are not required to be included. The fact that the phaseout of fossil fuels is indicated as optional, nevertheless, is troubling.

It is imperative that an equitable phaseout of all fossil fuels be mandated by the GST. It is inappropriate to ignore the issue or to single out coal in order to get a positive result. With more than 20 bullet points that need to be prioritised and expanded upon for actionable items, the ‘way forward’ section is now unclear.

The Global Stocktake text has undergone modifications at the US’s suggestion, including the removal of any mention of affluent nations’ duty to contribute to climate change financing. It has, meanwhile, demanded that additional wealthy nations supply the funding.

Many of the recommendations made by the national Parties in the second version of the Global Stocktake text are optional, which has alarmed experts. Rather than focusing only on coal or ignoring the issue completely, they highlight the necessity of a mandate to fairly phase out all fossil fuels. Disconcertingly, the ‘way forward’ section now has over 20 bullet points that need to be prioritised and further elaborated upon for actionable items.

The US has suggested changes to the Global Stocktake language, according to the Centre for Science and Environment, that would exclude mention of affluent countries’ financial responsibilities and instead ask for more nations to be ‘in a position’ to give funding. Additionally, the US has proposed eliminating common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) from the section on enhancing financial flows.

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