Opinion Features COP28 Focus

All eyes on the final summit text as COP28 enters crucial last-mile negotiations

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Chiranjib Sengupta

Managing Editor

Energy Connects

Dec 11, 2023

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COP28 President Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during a Majlis-style conversation at the UN Climate Change Conference at Expo City Dubai on December 10. (Photo by COP28/ Christopher Pike).

The COP28 Presidency and top UN officials have urged all stakeholders convened at the annual UN climate summit in Dubai to work harder and be flexible to reach an agreement on tackling climate change – including wording, for the first time, on the future of fossil fuels.

The urgent calls came over the weekend and on Monday as COP28 entered the decisive phase of negotiations over the final text of the summit, including the first ever Global Stocktake (GST) of the Paris climate goals. The UN climate summit is scheduled to run until Tuesday, December 12, but extensions due to protracted negotiations are common at COP.

In order to speed up decision-making and consensus among all the stakeholders, COP28 President Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber on Sunday convened a special majlis (informal gathering) of government ministers from nearly 200 countries – designed to allow the free flow of conversations about stakeholder positions and break the impasse over the future of oil and gas.

“We need to find consensus and common ground on fossil fuels, including coal,” Dr Al Jaber told the summit. “We need to also come to terms with the sources of finance and support” for adaptation and a just transition. He told negotiators from around the world that there were “still more areas of divergence than agreement” and that the “window is closing to close the gaps”.

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According to the latest version of the COP28 negotiating text released on Friday, countries were still considering options that ranged from agreeing to a “phase out of fossil fuels in line with best available science” to a broader phase out “of fossil fuels in line with best available science, the IPCC's 1.5 pathways and the principles and provisions of the Paris Agreement”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres seemed to weigh in on the second version during a press conference at COP28 on Monday, reiterating the calls for a “just, equitable and orderly” energy transition.

“We are in a race against time. Our planet is minutes to midnight for the 1.5 degree limit. And the clock keeps ticking,” Guterres said. “It’s time to go into overdrive to negotiate in good faith and rise to the challenge set by COP President Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber,” he added.

Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also underscored the urgency of the situation on Monday. “Everyone is focused on getting an outcome in the next 24 hours. Everything is on the table for an outcome that is responding to the climate crisis. Now it’s up to the Parties,” he told reporters at the summit.

The COP28 conference comes at a critical time for the clean energy transition and global efforts to tackle climate change, with energy stakeholders focusing on tripling global renewable power capacity, double the rate of energy efficiency improvements and commitments by the fossil fuel industry to align activities with the Paris Agreement.

In comments to summit delegates, OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais earlier said: “We need realistic approaches to tackle emissions. One that enables economic growth, helps eradicate poverty and increases resilience at the same time.”

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