A draft sheds light on the ongoing discussions and proposals within the United Nations climate talks, COP28, emphasizing the urgency to establish a global agreement aimed at phasing out fossil fuels while ramping up renewable energy and efficiency measures.
The draft highlights the need to use more renewables like wind and solar power and reduced use of energy, but drops the direct mention of fossil fuel phase out.
Over a 100 countries came to Dubai to support the phase out. If the draft would not get widespread support, negotiators may have to debate again. The text brings the following notable aspects to the fore:
Exploring Bold Objectives for Renewable Energy & Efficiency
Last year’s COP27 marked a milestone as it was the first time a COP decision specifically addressed coal. But despite attempts by 80+ countries at COP27 to expand this to encompass all fossil fuels, their efforts were thwarted by a handful of opposing nations.
Building upon this foundation, COP28 introduced ambitious objectives: to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency enhancements by 2030.
That translates to 11,000 GW of renewable energy and an average annual rate of energy efficiency of 4.1%. This reflects a commitment backed by 123 countries in a recent pledge, outlining the immediate need for a rapid transition.
However, concerns arose regarding a paragraph in the agreement advocating for scaling up abatement and removal technologies such as CCUS. The scientific community highlights the limitations of these technologies, e.g. scalability and affordability, in fighting climate change.
Weighing Options for Fossil Fuel Exit
The COP28 debate intensifies with two options presented for the phaseout of fossil fuels.
Option 1 emphasizes a straightforward approach: “An orderly and just phase out of fossil fuels”. Option 2 invites the potential to phase out “unabated fossil fuels” and “rapidly reducing use to achieve net-zero CO2 in energy systems by or around mid-century”.
Climate experts pointed out that separating the discussions on scaling up renewables and efficiency from fossil fuel phase out raises an issue. They said that parties need to unify these aspects into a cohesive strategy centered on replacing fossils with renewable alternatives.
Emphasis on accelerated coal phase out gains support but is not enough without addressing oil and gas, experts add. Failure to include all fossil fuels will be deemed ineffective and inequitable, underscoring the need for a comprehensive approach.
But the agreed option at COP28 only noted coal while leaving out oil and gas:
“…the IPCC suggests a pathway involving a reduction of unabated coal use by 75% from 2019 levels by 2030”.
One specific area that speaks of clearly moving away from fossil fuels is in the transportation sector. “Rapidly increasing the deployment pace for zero-emission vehicles” (ZEVs). This involves putting an end to fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
Several alternatives currently exist for ZEVs, including battery-powered vehicles and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Still, there remains the need to broaden discussions beyond electric vehicles to include public and active transportation, too.
The Need for Financial Backing
When it comes to financial support, substantial money is a must to phase out fossil fuels. Interestingly, the current draft’s text specifying financial support only adopts the COP27 agreement, as seen below.
Earlier this year, BloombergNEF reported that global clean energy transition investment rose by 31% in 2022, at $1.1 trillion. Renewable energy and electrified transport sectors got the most funding.
While that’s quite an achievement, more funds are needed (>$3 trillion) until the decade’s end to reach net zero emissions. This means strengthening the current draft’s financial support package for a successful fossil fuel phase out.
Finally, there are suggestions to integrate energy transition considerations into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and long-term strategies under the Paris Agreement. This underlines the interconnectedness of climate goals and energy transitions.
As COP28 progresses, clearly addressing the fossil fuel phase out language will be critical in shaping an effective and equitable energy package the world needs to steer toward a decarbonized and sustainable future.