Home Tech A Brilliant COP Agreement? It Depends Who You Ask

A Brilliant COP Agreement? It Depends Who You Ask

by Elijah
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After tense and lengthy negotiations, delegates at the United Nations COP28 climate conference have agreed on a deal that calls on countries to transition away from fossil fuels. It is the first time that countries have agreed to such a transition and marks a major step forward in climate ambitions. But delegates have warned that parts of the text are still not strong enough, and that the real work of cutting greenhouse gas emissions still lies ahead.

“While no one here will see their views fully reflected, the fact is that this document sends a very strong signal to the world,” US climate envoy John Kerry said in a speech at the end of the conference. “We must commit to keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming within reach,” he said, referring to the climate target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Going into the conference, many delegates had hoped that the final agreement would ask countries to phase out fossil fuels altogether – perhaps an unlikely prospect given that this COP was hosted by the United Arab Emirates, a major oil-producing state and member of the OPEC. A previous design of the agreement was greeted with widespread disappointment because it included only a weak reference to “reducing both consumption and production” of fossil fuels and a list of actions that countries “could” take to reduce emissions.

The final agreement reinforces the ambition of this earlier draft, specifically calling for “deep, rapid and sustainable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” that would keep global warming below the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. The text also calls for a tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and a substantial reduction in global emissions of non-carbon dioxide by 2030 – gases such as methane, which very high global warming potential.

“It’s a brilliant turnaround from the text of two days ago, and the negotiators have pulled a rabbit out of the hat,” said Piers Forster, interim chairman of Britain’s Climate Change Committee. “By dropping the controversial language about phasing out and continuing unabated (fossil fuels), they have been able to speak language this decade about the necessary transition away from fossil fuels. This gives all 198 countries the mandate to go home and implement strong domestic policies to influence transformative change.”

Since the final text must be agreed by all parties at the conference, this agreement is full of compromises that will leave many countries disappointed. “This was the best deal politically possible,” said Jennifer Allan, senior lecturer in international relations at Cardiff University and an attendee at COP28. “Countries are relatively equally unhappy.”

“We have come to the conclusion that the necessary course correction has not been achieved. We have made incremental progress from ‘business as usual’, when what we really need is an exponential step change in our actions,” Samoa representative Anne Rasmussen, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said after the final decision on the conference.

The stakes at this year’s conference were higher than at most COPs, says Forster. It was the first time countries came together to publish the Global Stocktake – a report on how much progress countries are making towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and where further action is needed. The global inventory also helps countries refine their own emissions reduction plans, which are submitted every five years to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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