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Battle lines – COP28 daily

The expert level of COP28 ended on 6th December, with the ministerial level starting on the 8th, when governments will have 5 working days to reach a consensus on the appropriate course of action in response to the escalating threats faced by the world. There is a day of rest within the two weeks to think over the global battle lines and conflicts of interest. Some countries persist in their refusal to acknowledge the issue at hand, which pertains to the continued burning of fossil fuels and widespread mistreatment of nature. The reputation of the UNFCCC process is facing a significant threat in Dubai, more so than ever before.

The current Global Stocktake texts exhibit a cumbersome nature. They are excessively lengthy, fragmented, elusive and contain numerous inconsistencies and loopholes. The text briefly mentions a global target for ‘fossil fuel phaseout’ in paragraph 35, but it refrains from providing a specific timeline, despite the clarity of scientific evidence on this matter.

The United States (US) made nearly 200 revisions and comments, with one comment specifically mentioning the use of a ’broadsword’ as a metaphorical expression. The European Union (EU) emphasised the need for clear and precise language regarding fossil fuels while advocating for a triple increase in renewable energy sources and a twofold improvement in energy efficiency. This global pledge has already been endorsed by more than 123 countries at COP28. Malawi is firmly committed to maintaining the 1.5C target, saying that we cannot backtrack from it and expects the Green Climate Fund to fulfil its obligations with regard to financial support. Brazil expressed concerns regarding unilateral trade measures related to climate change and their potential impact, like the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and the Deforestation Regulation of the EU, or the Inflation Reduction Act of the US. Saudi Arabia strongly opposed paragraph 35, which pertains to the phasing out of fossil fuels, saying that it was a ’trauma’ and raised objections to references to human rights. Iran supported Russia’s stance on utilising natural gas as a transitional or bridging fuel due to its affordability and accessibility. China echoed Brazil’s concerns about the rise of unilateral actions and emphasised the importance of addressing the CBAM of the EU. India also opposed paragraph 35, arguing that it should not impose policy prescriptions that must be adhered to, saying: ‘no policy prescriptive mandate to be respected’.

The controversy surrounding fossil fuel phaseout and the use of ‘abatement’ technologies stems from various factors. The 1.5C pathway of the International Energy Agency emphasises significant reductions in the use of unabated fossil fuels, allowing only a minimal role for abated fossil fuels. While there are several pathways to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, they all require a decline in fossil fuel consumption. In summary, this contentious issue arises due to differing perspectives on the feasibility, effectiveness and potential drawbacks of abatement technologies in comparison to a complete phaseout of fossil fuels.

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