COP28: UAE Consensus calls on parties to transition from fossil fuels

Parties agreed to a landmark text named the UAE Consensus that sets out an ambitious climate agenda to keep 1.5°C within reach

In Summary

• Under the total action agenda at COP28, over $85 billion in funding has been mobilized, and 11 pledges and declarations have been launched and received historic support.

• Major Action Agenda achievements, which sit apart from the negotiated text, include the launch of ALTÉRRA, the UAE’s $30 billion catalytic private finance vehicle, which seeks to mobilize a total of $250 billion for global climate action.

COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al Jaber.
COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al Jaber.

After two weeks of deliberations and intense haggling over contentious issues, COP28 came to a close on Wednesday in Dubai, with its president, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, terming it historic.

He said parties agreed to a landmark text named the UAE Consensus that sets out an ambitious climate agenda to keep 1.5°C within reach.

“The world needed to find a new way. By following our North Star, we have found that path,” Al Jaber said during his closing speech.

“We have worked very hard to secure a better future for our people and our planet. We should be proud of our historic achievement.”

Al Jaber said he promised a different sort of COP.

“A COP that brought everyone together—private and public, civil society and faith leaders, youth, and indigenous peoples. Everyone came together from day one. Everyone united, acted and delivered.”

The UAE Consensus calls on parties to transition away from fossil fuels to reach net zero and encourages them to submit economy-wide Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

This includes a new specific target to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030, and builds momentum towards a new architecture for climate finance.

The UAE Consensus, which follows a year of inclusive diplomatic engagements and two weeks of intense negotiations, reflects the COP28 presidency’s goal to provide the most ambitious response possible to the global stocktake and delivers on the central aims of the Paris Agreement.

Throughout the COP28 process, Al Jaber and the COP28 Presidency team expressed determination to deliver “a plan that is led by science" and to define a new way for this and future COPs based on the inclusion of diverse people and elevating the needs of the Global South.

“It is a balanced plan that tackles emissions, bridges the gap on adaptation, reimagines global finance, and delivers on loss and damage,” Al Jaber said.

"It is built on common ground. It is strengthened by inclusivity, and it is reinforced by collaboration. It is an enhanced, balanced, but makes no mistake, historic package to accelerate climate action.”

COP28 delivered negotiated outcomes to operationalise loss and damage, securing $792 million of early pledges, providing a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation, and institutionalising the role of the Youth Climate Champion to mainstream youth inclusion at future COPs.

Under the total action agenda at COP28, more than $85 billion in funding has been mobilised, and 11 pledges and declarations have been launched and received historic support.

The ‘COP28 UAE Declaration on Agriculture, Food, and Climate' embeds sustainable agriculture and food systems in the response to climate change. It has received endorsements from 158 countries.

The ‘COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health' to accelerate the development of climate-resilient, sustainable, and equitable health systems has been endorsed by 144 countries.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, World Wide Fund for Nature Global Climate and Energy Lead and COP20 President, said the Earth is down but not out as countries agree to transition away from fossil fuels.

“A decision to transition away from fossil fuels is a significant moment. After three decades of UN climate negotiations, countries have at last shifted the focus to the polluting fossil fuels driving the climate crisis. This outcome signals the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel era.”

Vidal said it is unfortunate that the outcome suggests a role for dangerous distractions such as large-scale carbon capture utilisation and storage and ‘transitional fuels’.

“For a liveable planet, we still need a full phase-out of all fossil fuels and will continue working towards that.”

David Manley of the Natural Resource Governance Institute said the agreement shows the international community is ready to attack the climate crisis head-on, offering hope for the millions of people suffering the brunt of ravaging climate impacts.

"The COP28 decision signals that fossil fuels have reached a tipping point, and the bets that state oil companies in sub-Saharan Africa have made on further production are now even riskier."

Manley said their research suggests that the national oil companies in the region are projected to invest $35 billion, which is incompatible with the Paris Agreement objective.

"Now is the time for governments and state oil companies to seriously reassess their investments. An equitable global shift away from fossil fuels now rests on wealthy countries, who must lead on delivering phaseout and provide the finances necessary to unlock energy transitions in African countries that are highly dependent on fossil fuel production for export revenues, jobs and energy security." 

The text from the COP sends clear signs of the end of the fossil fuel era, calling on countries to “transition away” from fossil fuels, “accelerating in this critical decade,” and setting a “net zero” end point for 2050.

It also agrees on the tripling of renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency by 2030 ambition, but without quantification or equity, in what experts see as a compromise for countries that do not want quantifications.

Power Shift Africa director Mohamed Adow said for the first time in three decades of climate negotiations, the words 'fossil fuels' have made it into a COP outcome.

“We are finally naming the elephant in the room. The genie is never going back into the bottle. Future COPs will only turn the screw even more on dirty energy," he said.

"But even with this strong signal, we cannot embark on unproven and expensive technologies like carbon capture and storage that fossil fuel interests will attempt to use to keep dirty energy on life support.” 

Adow said the transition is neither funded nor fair.

“There is not enough finance to help developing countries decarbonise. This process may have delivered an agreement to move away from fossil fuels, but it has failed to deliver a plan to fund it.”

Adow said finance is where the whole energy transition plan will stand or fall.

“We also need much more financial support to help vulnerable people in some of the poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate breakdown. Unless finance is provided, developing countries will not be able to do it."

Joab Okanda, Christian Aid’s Pan Africa senior adviser, said it is clear that the era of fossil fuels is coming to a close.

“We may not have driven the nail into the coffin here at COP28, but the end is coming for dirty energy.”

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