Climate Alarmists Shame COP28 into Overtime Deal to Abandon Fossil Fuels

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber bangs the gavel during a plenary session at the COP28 U.N.
Kamran Jebreili/AP

The COP28 climate conference in Dubai seemed to be heading for an anticlimax on Tuesday, as the last scheduled day of negotiations passed without reaching the top goal of the climate movement: a worldwide agreement to phase out fossil fuels.

The conferees went into “overtime,” however, and were able to hammer out a “historic” deal to “transition away” from fossil fuels in a “just, orderly, and equitable manner” to “achieve net zero by 2050.”

There was still some grumbling about a much weaker agreement than the climate faithful wanted. The coming months will surely be filled with debate about what “transition away” means, compared to the originally desired language of “phase out,” and just how many exceptions will be granted under the rubric of “just, orderly, and equitable.”

The compromise agreement was still good enough to win an ovation for COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is also the head of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) national oil company and was previously regarded as a double-dealing villain by many climate activists. Jaber even got a hug from Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“We have delivered a robust action plan to keep 1.5C in reach. It is an enhanced, balanced, but make no mistake, a historic package to accelerate climate action. It is the UAE consensus. We have language on fossil fuel in our final agreement for the first time ever,” Jaber said when announcing the deal. 1.5 degrees Centigrade is the maximum allowable global temperature increase over the pre-industrial era established by the Paris Climate Accords in 2015.

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed hailed the “historic” agreement and congratulated the negotiators for reaching a compromise that was acceptable to oil-producing nations.

“The conference produced significant results, and we will continue to work hand-in-hand with the global community to advance all efforts aimed at securing a more sustainable future for our planet and its people,” he said.

Not everyone at COP28 was ready to give Jaber a hug. The UK Guardian reported on considerable unease among activists, as the final negotiations looked suspiciously like a mad dash behind closed doors to produce something that would keep the climate conference from looking like a pointless debacle:

Countries from the global south and climate justice advocates said the text fell short of what was needed on emissions reductions and finance to help the most vulnerable cope with worsening extreme weather and heat, and included language that appeared to placate fossil fuel interests.

There was confusion in the plenary hall shortly after the agreement was passed as many parties had assumed there would be a debate over the text. The Alliance of Small Island States, representing 39 countries, said it had not been in the room when the deal was adopted as it was still coordinating its response.

Its lead negotiator, Anne Rasmussen, from Samoa, did not formally object to the agreement and believed the deal had good elements, but said the “the process has failed us” and the text included a “litany of loopholes”. “We have made an incremental advancement over business as usual when what we really needed is an exponential step change in our actions and support,” she said. Her speech was met with a standing ovation.

Some activists told the Guardian that contrary to Jaber’s upbeat assurances, the deal reached at COP28 would not bring the world much closer to the 1.5C temperature limit, but they felt it sent an important message to societies, industries, and financial institutions around the world that fossil fuels are on the way out.

“While nobody here will see their views completely reflected, the fact is that this document sends a very strong signal to the world,” said the Biden administration’s climate envoy, John Kerry.

The Biden administration, incidentally, refused to provide information about the immense carbon footprint of Kerry’s luxury-jet trip to COP28 when asked by Republican senators, even though President Joe Biden signed an executive order in 2021 requiring all federal agencies to carefully track and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Guardian seethed over “language backed by fossil fuel interests” that crept into the COP28 agreement, including provisions for “transitional fuels” like natural gas, and an endorsement of “carbon capture” technology. Hardcore climate activists think natural gas is little better than the dirtiest of fossil fuels, and they dismiss carbon capture as a greenwashing scheme by oil companies.

The Guardian was also peeved that the COP28 agreement dropped its demand for global carbon emissions to peak by 2025, a requirement that China evidently found unpalatable. The left-wing paper was also suspicious that Saudi Arabia and other Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members were comfortable with the compromise deal, seemingly confident that it would not cut deeply into their oil exports.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.