During the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai on Wednesday, delegates from nearly 200 nations reached a significant moment. They approved the ultimate ‘Global Stocktake’ text, which notably, for the first time in COP history, explicitly highlights the necessity to “transition away” from fossil fuels as a critical step in addressing climate change. The Global Stocktake serves as an evaluation of advancements in addressing global warming since the inception of the Paris Agreement in 2015. The outcomes of the inaugural global stocktake were deliberated upon during the proceedings in the final two days of COP28 . The fifth version, potentially the conclusive one, of the Global Stocktake (GST) text was formally introduced and unanimously endorsed at the closing plenary of COP28 on December 13, 2023.
“COP28 also needed to signal a hard stop to humanity’s core climate problem – fossil fuels and their planet-burning pollution. Whilst we didn’t fully turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this is clearly the beginning of the end. At every stage climate action must stride forward side-by-side with human development, dignity and opportunities for all. We’ve heard the concerns from Samoa and all island states. Island States made it clear from the floor that this consensus does not go far enough to protect their populations and the planet. The fact they received the longest standing applause is a clear indication these views are widely shared,” said Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary, UN Climate Change.
Serving as the focal point of the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), the GST text underwent rigorous scrutiny, particularly for modifications in language, accountability, and acknowledgment of differentiated pathways. Despite a day-long extension beyond the initial timeline, country Parties engaged in further discussions on the text. COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber commended the collaborative efforts of nations and organisations, praising the revolutionary nature of the adopted text.
It all started with the Paris Agreement enveloping the Climate Concerns, COP28 marks a pivotal moment in the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, focusing on translating key details negotiated in recent years into actionable steps. As we navigate a crucial decade for climate action, the urgency is underscored by the UN’s latest scientific findings, indicating a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is essential to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
COP28 did serve as a platform to globally address this imperative, shaping revised Nationally Determined Contributions by 2025, fostering a green transition, and advancing the overarching goals of the Paris Agreement.
COP28 encapsulates the yearly gatherings of the Convention, Paris Agreement, and Kyoto Protocol decision-making bodies. Delegates from all member states convene in these forums to engage in discussions and make decisions on diverse climate-related topics, fostering global collaboration on crucial environmental agendas. The stance that held people’s attention was on Global Stocktake.
Fossil fuels, derived from ancient organic matter, release carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned, contributing significantly to global warming. Besides CO2, burning fossil fuels produces harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and soot, posing serious health risks. Soot, in particular, can lead to respiratory issues like asthma and lung cancer. Worldwide, air pollution-related health problems cause approximately 7 million deaths annually.
Also read: 1.5 Degrees Celsius Plan At COP28
Reducing fossil fuel use not only addresses long-term climate change but also has immediate benefits for human health and ecosystems. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that each additional 1000 GtCO2 emissions contribute to a 0.27°C to 0.63°C increase in global surface temperature. This tight correlation underscores the urgency of mitigating anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to prevent widespread disruptions in weather patterns, habitats, and biodiversity. The question remains: if we halt fossil fuel use today, can we effectively curb temperature rise, or are we entrenched in irreversible conditions?
This development emerged with the inclusion of acknowledgment for carbon capture storage solutions, particularly in challenging sectors, a move championed by the European Union. This addition aims to prevent the misuse of abatement technology as a justification for expanding fossil fuel production.
In the context of mitigation efforts, the latest text omits the timeframe of 1850-2019 concerning the depletion of the carbon budget due to historical emissions. However, it explicitly highlights the pre-2020 shortcomings of developed countries in meeting recommended emissions reductions. This emphasis was advocated for by developing nations such as India, the African Group of Negotiators (AGN), Group of 77, and China, facing opposition from the United States, EU, Australia, and Canada.
The Global Stocktake, a comprehensive evaluation of global climate action, analysed over 1,600 documents from diverse sources and engaged with scientists, governments, cities, businesses, farmers, Indigenous groups, and civil society. Released in September, its key findings revealed a substantial gap from achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals, signaling an urgent need for stronger action before the second Global Stocktake in 2028. The Synthesis report highlights the imminent threat of global temperatures surpassing 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, it also presents a roadmap for governments, outlining critical areas for immediate action and advocating for systemic transformations to significantly reduce emissions, enhance resilience, and secure our future.
India stands firm on three critical points—swift reductions in coal usage, achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century, and discontinuing fossil fuel subsidies—as apparent red lines in the climate negotiations. The nation emphasises transparency, asserting the need to continue using coal to address its developmental needs and adhere to established nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
R.R. Rashmi, a Distinguished Fellow at TERI, said in a statement, “The (conclusive) decision underscores the necessity for a systematic and fair shift within all energy frameworks but specifically targets the reduction of unabated coal plants. This aspect appears to disadvantage developing nations.” Another pivotal aspect of the climate agreement is its acknowledgment of “transitional fuels”, which emit lower carbon levels compared to fossil fuels. These fuels are seen as potential facilitators of the energy transition while upholding energy security.
Majid Al Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28, acknowledges the formidable challenges faced in the current COP agenda. He highlights the collective effort to formulate a comprehensive plan addressing the gaps between the current state of global climate action and the necessary measures to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.