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Historic COP28 Climate Summit Agreement Signals End of Oil Age

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Dubai, December 13, 2023 – A historic agreement was reached on Wednesday at the COP28 climate summit, as representatives from nearly 200 countries committed to reducing global consumption of fossil fuels. The deal, struck in Dubai after two weeks of intense negotiations, marks a significant step towards breaking free from the shackles of the oil age and addressing the impending climate crisis.

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, addressing a crowded plenary, called the agreement “historic” and emphasized that its true success would depend on the commitment to tangible actions. “We are what we do, not what we say,” Al Jaber remarked, underscoring the necessity of translating the accord into concrete measures.

The agreement sends a powerful signal to investors and policymakers globally, signifying a united front in the pursuit of a fossil fuel-free future, a move crucial to staving off climate catastrophe, according to scientists. Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, expressed optimism, stating, “It is the first time that the world unites around such clear text on the need to transition away from fossil fuels.”

The negotiations faced a significant hurdle as more than 100 countries pushed for strong language in the agreement, advocating for the explicit “phase-out” of oil, gas, and coal. However, they encountered formidable opposition from the Saudi Arabia-led oil producer group OPEC, which argued that emissions could be slashed without shunning specific fuels.

The deadlock led to a day-long extension of the summit, raising concerns of a potential impasse. Small climate-vulnerable island states, along with major oil and gas producers such as the United States, Canada, Norway, and the EU, were among the most vocal supporters of language calling for the gradual phasing out of fossil fuels.

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“This is a moment where multilateralism has actually come together, and people have taken individual interests and attempted to define the common good,” remarked U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, reflecting on the collaborative effort that resulted in the groundbreaking agreement.

Despite widespread approval, Anne Rasmussen, the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, criticized the deal as unambitious. “We have made an incremental advancement over business as usual, when what we really need is an exponential step change in our actions,” she stated. However, her speech drew a standing ovation, indicating a collective acknowledgment of the challenges faced during the negotiations.

Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Dan Jorgensen marveled at the circumstances surrounding the deal. “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,” he noted, highlighting the symbolic importance of the agreement.

The COP28 agreement outlines a commitment to “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly, and equitable manner so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.” Additionally, the deal calls for a tripling of renewable energy capacity globally by 2030, expediting efforts to reduce coal use, and advancing technologies such as carbon capture and storage to address hard-to-decarbonize industries.

While the deal received praise, critics argue that it includes half-measures and loopholes. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore welcomed the agreement but pointed out the continued influence of petrostates evident in these aspects.

Now that the deal is struck, the responsibility falls on individual countries to deliver through national policies and investments. In the United States, the world’s top producer of oil and gas, climate-conscious administrations have faced challenges passing laws aligned with their climate vows through a divided Congress.

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The global energy landscape, where oil, gas, and coal still account for about 80% of the world’s energy, presents a complex challenge. Mounting public support for renewables and electric vehicles, along with improving technology and rising private investment, has driven rapid growth in their deployments. However, projections about when global demand for fossil fuels will peak remain uncertain.

Rachel Cleetus, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, praised the climate deal but noted that it does not commit rich countries to offer more financing to help developing countries pay for the transition 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 said, underscoring the importance of addressing global disparities in the fight against climate change.

The COP28 agreement stands as a beacon of hope in the global fight against climate change, signaling a collective determination to shift away from fossil fuels. As countries now grapple with the challenge of implementation, the world watches to see if this historic agreement will indeed be the turning point needed to secure a sustainable future.

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