Nations strike a deal at COP28 to transition away from fossil fuels

   In Dubai on Wednesday, a groundbreaking agreement was reached at the COP28 climate summit, with representatives from almost 200 countries committing to cut down on the worldwide use of fossil fuels. This historic deal marks a significant step towards addressing climate change and signifies the potential end of the era dominated by oil.

After intense negotiations spanning two weeks, the consensus in Dubai aims to convey a strong message to investors and decision-makers. It underscores global unity in the shared goal of moving away from reliance on fossil fuels, a crucial step according to scientists who believe it is our best chance to prevent a climate disaster.

The President of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber, hailed the agreement as "historic," emphasizing that its real triumph lies in its execution.

Speaking to a packed audience at the summit, he stated, "We are defined by our actions, not just our words. It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to translate this agreement into tangible actions."

The deal received applause from various countries for achieving something that has proved elusive in decades of climate discussions.

Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, remarked, "This marks the first instance of global unity around a clear commitment to shift away from reliance on fossil fuels."

Over 100 nations vigorously advocated for robust wording in the COP28 pact to "phase out" the use of oil, gas, and coal. However, they faced formidable resistance from OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, which contended that emissions could be significantly reduced without explicitly avoiding particular fuels.

This clash extended the summit by a full day into overtime on Wednesday, causing concerns among observers that the negotiations might reach an insurmountable deadlock.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) wield significant influence, controlling almost 80% of the world's proven oil reserves and about one-third of global oil production. These countries heavily depend on the revenues generated from these resources.

On the other hand, small island nations vulnerable to climate change were prominent advocates for language promoting the gradual elimination of fossil fuels. They found support from major oil and gas producers like the United States, Canada, Norway, the European Union, and numerous other governments.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry remarked, "This is a moment where multilateralism has actually come together, and people have taken individual interests and attempted to define the common good," following the adoption of the deal.

However, the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, Anne Rasmussen, criticized the agreement as lacking ambition. Despite her concerns, she did not formally object to the pact, and her speech received a standing ovation.

Danish Minister for Climate and Energy, Dan Jorgensen, expressed amazement at the deal's circumstances, stating, "We're standing here in an oil country, surrounded by oil countries, and we made the decision saying let's move away from oil and gas."


The agreement outlines a commitment to "transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly, and equitable manner... to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science."

Additionally, it sets a target of tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030, expediting efforts to diminish coal usage, and advancing technologies like carbon capture and storage to address emissions from challenging-to-decarbonize industries.

A representative for Saudi Arabia welcomed the agreement, asserting that it would aid in achieving the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, as outlined in the 2015 Paris deal. However, the oil-producing nation reiterated its belief that addressing climate change should prioritize reducing emissions from all sources. 

Several other oil-producing nations, including the host country UAE, advocated for the inclusion of carbon capture in the pact. Critics argue that this technology remains costly and unproven at a large scale, viewing it as a questionable justification for continued drilling.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore expressed approval for the deal but noted, "The influence of petrostates is still evident in the half measures and loopholes included in the final agreement."

With the deal sealed, the onus is now on countries to fulfill their commitments through national policies and investments.

In the United States, a country leading in oil and gas production and historically the top emitter of greenhouse gases, climate-conscious administrations have faced challenges passing climate-focused legislation in a divided Congress.

President Joe Biden achieved a significant milestone last year with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included substantial funding for clean energy subsidies.

Growing public support for renewables and electric vehicles, observed from Brussels to Beijing, coupled with advancing technology, decreasing costs, and increased private investment, has driven a rapid expansion of these sustainable technologies.

However, despite this progress, oil, gas, and coal still contribute to about 80% of the world's energy, and predictions on when global demand will peak vary widely.

Rachel Cleetus, the policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, commended the climate deal but pointed out that it doesn't obligate affluent countries to provide more financial support to assist developing nations in transitioning away from fossil fuels.

"The finance and equity provisions... are seriously insufficient and must be improved in the time ahead to ensure low- and middle-income countries can transition to clean energy and close the energy poverty gap," she emphasized.