What happened at COP28
COP28 - our daily updates
30 November - Opening Day
Yesterday, ahead of the opening of COP28, the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, recorded a video message to stress the importance of this COP. This happens every year since as each year ticks by, emissions keep rising and risks and damages from climate change keep rising with them. But this time, the message took a particularly serious and bleak tone, remarking how “everyone is on the frontlines” and “no country is immune” from climate change. Whilst this COP is mired in controversy already, it seems there are leaders at the table affording it the seriousness it deserves – and this can be cause for a quiet, cautious optimism for the two weeks ahead, as we get underway.
As is tradition, the opening stages of the conference saw COP27 President Sameh Shoukry handing over the Presidency to the COP28 President to start proceedings. Before beginning formal proceedings, the COP paused in remembrance two deeply-respected figures: climate scientist Saleemul Huq, and UK diplomat Pete Betts, who died earlier this year.
Once proceedings were underway, the first major breakthrough of the COP came unexpectedly early, with a huge breakthrough on loss and damage. At COP27 last year, whilst agreeing that there would be a fund for losses and damages of climate change, nobody could agree which countries would pay in, or which would receive payouts, from it.
Now, however, Germany, Japan, the UAE, UK, USA and others all announced contributions totalling around $430m (USD) for poorer countries who disproportionately feel the impacts of climate change. The announcement was met with a standing ovation by the delegation, and represents the culmination of 30 years’ debate and negotiation over loss and damage funds.
We’ve been covering COPs for a few years now, and that was, for sure, the largest breakthrough we’ve seen on day one of the conference.
01 December - World Climate Action Summit
The World Leaders Summit takes place on agenda days one and two, at each COP. This is the part of the COP that receives the most press coverage, since it’s the time when world leaders make big speeches to the delegation and to the world.
King Charles delivered a thought-provoking speech, referring back on his decades of support of environmental causes, culminating by reminding us all that “the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced $2bn (USD) of funding for climate projects in the UK, which is apparently additional to the $2bn (USD) he also announced at the G20 two months ago, which was for the Green Climate Fund. He used his speech at the COP to lambast ‘lofty rhetoric’ and ‘divided debates’, including calling-out China for increasing its emissions since 1990.
Further speeches from world leaders included from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the host country, the UAE, as well as UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India.
Interestingly, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was announced onto the stage as ‘the President of the COP30 host nation’, even though it hasn’t quite been formally decided that this will be the location for the 2025 conference. Despite the lack of formalities, it’s clear that COP30 will be hosted in Belém, Brazil, and the bigger question remains as to the host country for COP29, next year’s conference, which is still undecided.
World leaders also announced today an agreement on the future of food and agriculture. At least 130 countries including Brazil, China and the USA have signed up to the UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action. This will commit them to consider emissions from agriculture in their Nationally Determined Contributions (the national action plans for reducing emissions), as well as appreciating the interlinkages between food systems, food security, and global emissions. Given that agriculture, forestry and land use is responsible for around 18% of global emissions, this declaration is frankly severely overdue – and it’s still very vague.
02 December - World Climate Action Summit
Today was the second and final day of the ‘World Climate Action Summit’ – the opening salvo of the COP, dedicated to the world leaders’ forum and its many speeches.
Pope Francis had been due to speak today, though stayed home due to illness – sending the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin to speak in his place. The powerful speech urged world leaders: “May we be attentive to the cry of the earth, may we hear the plea of the poor, may we be sensitive to the hopes of the young and the dreams of children! We have a grave responsibility: to ensure that they not be denied their future.”
There’s been lots more announcements today, so we’re trying to keep on top of things:
- US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, announced that the US (alongside six other countries) would join the Powering Past Coal Alliance, committing to close all coal-fired power plants. The UK has been part of this Alliance since 2017, alongside around 50 other countries and many more sub-national governments and organisations.
- 118 countries have committed to treble the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030, in an initiative led by the EU, USA and UAE. This is a positive step, though the expansion of renewable energy is only half the story: we also need to stop burning fossil fuels. Speaking of which…
- 50 oil and gas companies including ADNOC, the state-owned oil company controlled by the COP28 hosts, the UAE, signed the ‘Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter’, pledging to reach net-zero emissions from the production of oil and gas by 2050. If this sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is: the Charter only includes emissions from the production of oil and gas – not the burning of it for use (which is of course where the vast majority of the emissions come from!).
- Separately, over 20 countries committed to trebling global nuclear energy capacity by 2050. Signatories to the nuclear pledge included Canada, Czechia, Finland, the UK, and the USA.
03 December - Health, Relief, Recovery & Peace
The Presidency’s “thematic days” are only so helpful in understanding what’s going on at COP28 on any given day. With tens of thousands of attendees, lots of different things happen across the COP, both within and well beyond the topic of the day.
In keeping with today’s Presidency theme though, over 120 countries announced a joint Declaration on Climate and Health. This Declaration acknowledges the role of climate change on public health, and came alongside the announcement of $1bn (USD) funding for health-related climate action.
Today there was more informal consultation over Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which governs countries’ ability to cooperatively make emissions reductions through carbon markets. The two things to keep an eye out for are Article 6.2, which discusses bi- or multilateral carbon credit trading, and Article 6.4, which discusses the launch of a global carbon market overseen by the UN, which would largely take the place of the previous Clean Development Mechanism. On Article 6.4, the informal consultations discussed categories of carbon credits eligible under the new mechanism, and whether ‘avoidance’ is distinct from ‘reduction’ (at Ecologi, we simplify this by referring to all carbon credits that reduce or avoid emissions as avoidance credits, to prevent confusion with direct emissions reductions that businesses make for themselves).
Probably the story with the biggest backlash today was the coverage of a recording of the COP28 President, Sultan Al Jaber, telling a meeting with SHE Changes Climate that there is “no science out there, no scenario out there, that says that the phase out of fossil fuels is what’s going to achieve 1.5ºC.” We know this sentiment to be untrue – since all modelled climate pathways that lead to less than 1.5ºC warming with limited overshoot require “rapid and deep and in most cases immediate” emissions reductions in all sectors, including “transitioning from fossil fuels” to renewable energy sources. Whilst according to the IPCC the use of carbon capture and storage could delay the inevitable demise of fossil fuels, there is no long-term future for them if we are to keep warming to near 1.5ºC.
04 December - Finance, Trade, Gender Equality, Accountability
Early on today, on Finance Day, we saw two major breakthroughs in the voluntary carbon market – the market which allows companies like Ecologi and our community to voluntarily fund carbon credits from projects which avoid or remove greenhouse gas emissions. With apologies in advance for the abbreviations and acronyms in our update today…
At an event provocatively titled Restoring Confidence in Voluntary Carbon Markets, the Science-based Targets initiative (SBTi), the Voluntary Carbon Market Integrity initiative (VCMI), the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol), and the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM) came together to create “unity across the standard-setters” and drive “end-to-end integrity”. This is important, because up to now, the different standard-setters have had different approaches which have caused confusion, and more critically, inaction from businesses – with the SBTi previously arguing that businesses funding climate action is important, but secondary to directly reducing their emissions, and the VCMI and ICVCM arguing that businesses must both directly reduce emissions and fund climate action to plug the gaps in their efforts. If the standards-setters can speak with one voice, this will increase clarity and confidence for businesses, and most importantly will accelerate the transfer of climate finance from the private sector to where it is needed the most.
Separately, six independent carbon standards including Gold Standard, Verra’s VCS, and the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) have committed to a cooperation agreement where they will share their learnings and best practices, establish common principles and frameworks, and provide greater transparency on the use of their carbon credits.
And finally, predictably, the COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber responded to the backlash from yesterday, saying “I have said over and over that the phase down and the phase out of fossil fuel is inevitable.” We probably haven’t heard the last of this story – let’s see what the rest of the week brings.
05 December - Energy, Industry, Just Transition, Indigenous Peoples
As the days go by, this embattled COP is seeing more and more stories questioning its integrity. Fossil fuel-affiliated lobbyists and executives represent a total of over 2,400 delegates in Dubai, far higher than Glasgow (COP26) or Sharm El Sheikh (COP27). Despite yesterday’s theme of Gender Equality, only 15 out of the 133 attending world leaders are women, and male delegates vastly outnumber female delegates. As was predicted before the Conference started, climate activists are reporting being shut out of the conference.
There are, however, quiet rumblings of progress. Draft texts of the Global Stocktake are starting to be published which show negotiating positions, and crucially, the phasing out of fossil fuels is one of the options on the table. It’s clear already that, come the end of the two week Conference – when we reach the inevitably drawn-out negotiating tug-of-war – this is where the most critical dividing line will fall. It will be notable whether the phase out (or indeed phase down) of fossil fuels is affixed with the qualifier “unabated” – a small addition which nonetheless would provide fossil fuel executives with an enormous loophole to leap into.
Around the COP today, a group of dairy producers came together as the ‘Dairy Methane Alliance’ to commit to report and reduce methane emissions. Agriculture causes around 40% of global methane emissions, and methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas. The European Investment Bank pledged to embed the principles of a just transition into its operations by 2024, as well as committing to both mitigation and adaptation funding in some of the most vulnerable places around the world.
The Subsidiary Bodies are preparing for the end of the first week of the COP, and negotiators describe a “nervy” atmosphere as negotiations for the first set of draft texts conclude and are handed over to the Presidency, and as preparations for the second week get underway. Everything is feeling quite up in the air.
06 December - Multilevel Action, Built Environment, Transport
The daily summary of negotiations from the IISD described the tone for how today developed: “Negotiations continued well into the afternoon to try to ready texts for the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) close. Closing statements revealed a general dissatisfaction with the state of negotiations on several issues.”
There’s clearly some frustration about the processes being followed. For example, on the Global Stocktake, the Subsidiary Bodies have presented draft conclusions to the CMA (the Conference of the Parties to the Paris Agreement) for further guidance – but the versions of the draft texts forwarded to the CMA don’t include all the feedback provided by the parties, and there still isn’t consensus on them.
We do now have some clarity on how the remainder of the COP will proceed – there will be a plenary session from the COP28 President on Friday morning to outline the proposed schedule for the remaining week. Meanwhile, a bleak new Global Tipping Points report was published today by the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, finding that we are on the brink of breaching at least five climate tipping points, with more to come if we continue on our current trajectory of well over 1.5ºC warming by the end of this century.
Tomorrow (Thursday) is the COP’s only rest day, where negotiations and many formal events will pause. Here’s hoping that it provides delegates with a welcome break before we embark again in earnest toward the crescendo of this particular Conference – and here’s hoping that that will create a positive environment for agreeing on meaningful climate policy.
07 December - Rest Day
Rest day usually falls on a Sunday, but this year due to the unusual timing of the COP it falls today, Thursday. The rest day is well-earned: for delegates, negotiators and all other kinds of attendees, the two week Conference is exhausting. Given the disappointments and frustrations of the past couple of days, it can also have the benefit of giving everybody a little breathing space to recover from the first week, before the second and most important week is upon us.
As our coverage will focus ever more on the policy side in the coming week, and the exact wording of the final cover decision, we are using Rest Day to do a bumper round up of some of the vital climate voices speaking up at the COP and elsewhere.
Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate and German activist Luisa Neubauer have been in Dubai as part of the growing group calling for a phase-out of all fossil fuels. Neubauer has spent much of the COP keeping the pressure on the German government to deliver on previous promises of a full phase-out of fossil fuels. Nakate has been speaking incredibly powerfully at the Conference. We recommend watching this speech in full, though here’s a snapshot:
“All of the flashy announcements about promised funding and scaling renewables and tree planting will sadly mean little, if countries continue to expand fossil fuel development. … The success of COP28 will depend upon whether or not leaders have the courage to call for a just and equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels, without excuses or exceptions.”
Our friends at Earth Minutes have been working out of the Children and Youth Pavilion for the past 8 days, documenting and amplifying youth voices and platforming young people’s demands of their political leaders.
There have been a number of calls from concerned scientists, businesses, and NGOs for politicians to do more.
A number of climate scientists from the IPCC called for further powers to prescribe climate policy to governments. Professor Sonia Seneviratne of ETH Zurich, who was the lead author on the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5ºC in 2018, was quoted in the Guardian, saying “At some point we need to say that if you want to achieve this aim set by policymakers then certain policies need to be implemented …. As climate change becomes worse and worse, it is becoming more difficult to be policy relevant without being prescriptive.” At the moment, the way the system works is for the UNFCCC and its COPs (which remember are made up of political leaders, diplomats and negotiators) to take into account the IPCC findings alongside their political and legal obligations, but it has no obligation to implement any specific policies about particular findings within the science. That’s not to mention that IPCC reports do have something of a political element, since their final wording is negotiated by consensus.
Over 800 business leaders, climate scientists and NGOs have written an open letter to the COP28 President calling for a “rapid response plan to the Global Stocktake”. Posted with the inspiring title of The Transformation is Unstoppable, and signal-boosted under the hashtag #LaterIsTooLate, the letter was coordinated by the B Team, and was signed by hundreds, from corporate and political leaders to youth activists – including Christiana Figueres, Johan Rockström and Xiye Bastida – as well as NGOs and corporations, from WaterBear to WWF. Earthrise Studio also shared the letter, and are also on the ground in Dubai, calling out the record-breaking number of fossil fuel lobbyists in attendance, and speaking to former US Vice President Al Gore about his advice to youth today.
08 December - Youth, Children, Education & Skills
Youth Day is always an important thematic day at the COPs, not least because children and youth are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the youth of today will bear the brunt of the negative impacts of the climatic changes their predecessors caused. A 2021 study found that the majority (almost 60%) of surveyed young people are worried about climate change, including 45% who reported that climate anxiety impacts their daily lives. Young people rated governmental responses to climate change poorly, and reported feelings of betrayal on the part of their political leaders. Including youth within the COP itself is one way to give agency to young people who are frightened by climate change, and rightly angry at the inaction of the politicians. You can hear from some of the young people attending COP through our friends at Earth Minutes on Instagram.
YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC, published a Youth Stocktake, assessing the inclusion of young people by the Parties to the COP, and providing recommendations for further action on youth inclusion. They include improving monitoring data availability, structuring and institutionalising youth inclusion activities, enhancing trust-building measures, and mobilising funding for youth-specific programmes.
In the Blue Zone today, Sultan Al Jaber hosted the plenary session to discuss the state of play. He proposed pairs of ministers from various countries would lead consultations on specific issues going forward. There’s still a great deal of work to be done on two of the most critical issues: the Global Stocktake (GST) and the Global Goal for Adaptation (GGA), and it appears the Presidency’s approach is to pass anything still unresolved tomorrow afternoon to the “Majlis”, a large, singular group. It’s fair to say that there’s still frustration and confusion, but there does seem to remain some small optimism that some of the remaining impasses can be resolved.
We’ve seen one of today’s versions of the draft text for the Global Stocktake, and there is a long way to go, and a sizable distance between negotiating positions. The text contains ‘Options’ – where a clause in the final draft could take one of a number of different forms, put forward by different Parties or groups of Parties. To provide one example, on mitigation, one of the Options: recognises the science of keeping warming under 1.5ºC (specifying 43% emissions reductions relative to 2019 by 2030, 60% by 2035, and net-zero by 2050), resolves to achieve peak emissions by 2025 and invites Parties to announce when their peak emissions will be. The other Option for the same clause uses no prescriptive language or statistics at all, making only a short mention of the global carbon budget, and “the need for a fair share of the global carbon budget for all countries”. There is work ahead of us, that’s for sure.
09 December - Nature, Land Use and Oceans
As we reach this stage of the process, where final negotiations on the cover text are taking place, the process becomes more opaque from the outside (and frankly, on the inside too). We’ll try to bring all the updates we can.
There seems to be agreement on the guidance for the Green Climate Fund, as well as providing support to developing countries in greenhouse gas reporting under the Paris Agreement. However there’s still lots of ground to cover for Article 6 (carbon markets) and the mitigation work programme. We’re beginning to think that, despite a lot of big announcements, the story of this COP after it’s over will centre entirely around its success or failure in securing the phase-out of fossil fuels.
On the topic of today’s Presidency theme, there was a large breakthrough in a commitment to align the agendas of the climate COPs (those of the UNFCCC, like this one) with the COPs from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This is a huge step forward in championing nature conservation and restoration, and recognising that natural and climate systems are intrinsically interlinked – something that environmental science has been telling us for decades.
10 December - Food, Agriculture & Water
Today on Agriculture Day, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation launched the snappily-titled Global Roadmap for Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) without Breaching the 1.5ºC Threshold. The Roadmap documents 120 actions to transform food production and end world hunger.
As the thematic days are ending, and the remaining work of the COP is contained almost entirely in the final negotiations, many of our friends and colleagues who have been present in Dubai over the past couple of weeks are starting to head home. As they travel back, many are reporting feeling a quiet optimism and resolve that there is still everything to play for. Remaining in Dubai, the ‘Maglis’ – the singular council, coordinated to finalise negotiations – coalesced to try to close the remaining gaps.
All eyes are now on the final text.
11 December - Final Negotiations
From now, we’ll update this page several times per day until we have a final cover text from the COP. Things move very quickly at this stage of the process, so bear with us.
10:00 GMT. Early today, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, returned to Dubai to deliver another urgent appeal to the Parties:
We are in a race against time … there are still large gaps that need to be bridged. Now is the time for maximum ambition and maximum flexibility. … Specifically, I ask Parties to ensure maximum ambition on two fronts: first, ambition on reducing greenhouse gas emissions; second, on delivering climate justice.
Guterres, receiving a question from the BBC after his speech, noted that “a central aspect … of the success of this COP will be for the COP to reach a consensus on the need to phase-out of fossil fuels”. We think he’s right: whilst there have been plenty of announcements at this COP about pledges and agreements, this COP will be remembered by whether it manages to get fossil fuel phase-out across the line or not.
12:30 GMT. As we wait for the draft text former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, who is also Chair of the Elders, has accused Saudi Arabia of ‘holding the talks hostage’. The Saudi delegation and OPEC were accused over the weekend of trying to jeopardise the potential ‘phase-out’ wording of the cover text. We’re expecting a new version of the text to be published shortly – no word on exactly when just yet.
13:30 GMT. Okay. A draft text has appeared, and there will be a plenary at 8pm local time (4pm GMT). At our first look, this version of the text doesn’t look ideal. We’re still poring over the details and we’ll update when we’ve had the chance to digest it, but the details on our most salient question (will we have a ‘phase-out’ call in the text?) are:
- No, it doesn’t look like we will. “Phase out” and variations (phase-out, phasing out etc.) don’t appear in the text at all.
- Most of the fossil fuel language is in clause 39, which specifies “rapidly phasing down unabated coal” and “phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. You’ll remember this is word-for-word what was agreed two years ago at COP26 in Glasgow – so its inclusion doesn’t represent any progress.
- The strongest push on fossil fuels is found in clause 39(e) which calls upon Parties to “take actions that include, inter alia, reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner so as to achieve net zero by, before, or around 2050 in keeping with the science.” This is strong-ish, but it’s a long way down from the unequivocal call for a just phase-out of fossil fuels that we were all hoping for.
We’ll keep reviewing the text to see what we can uncover. And let’s see what the plenary brings in a few hours’ time.
16:00 GMT. There has been a lot of pushback on the current draft text. The Guardian has collected a comprehensive list of many of the voices on the ground – the vast majority of whom are giving negative views on the draft text.
Simon Evans, of the ever-brilliant CarbonBrief, notes that hardly any of the verbs in this draft actually call for action – instead being all “notes”, “recognises” and the like. It is, fundamentally, a weak text. Representatives of the EU, of the US, and of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), have come forward to say that the current text is unacceptable.
It’s unclear what the next steps will be. Nevertheless, the current feeling is that there will be another draft text, probably in the morning, and that there is a small hope that the strength of feeling against the watered-down text might be enough to push this next draft back in the right direction.
At this stage, it’s possible that we could still be here in two or three days’ time.
18:00 GMT. It’s 10pm in Dubai at the moment, and there is currently a human chain, led by youth activists, outside the negotiating hall – reminding negotiators of what’s at stake. As of now, frantic discussions are underway. Each Party is only allowed one minister and one support staff alongside them in the negotiating room – a rule being strictly enforced by UN security.
The position of the USA, the EU, AOSIS and others remains that the current draft text is unacceptable. It looks like we’re heading into a real tussle over the text, which could go either way: this could be the first COP since 2009 where an agreement could not be reached during the Conference.
Unless something big happens shortly, this will be our last update for the night. More updates to come in the morning!
12 December - Final Negotiations
08:00 GMT. Morning! We spent some time poring over the draft Global Stocktake last night and as a UN document, it’s not the best. There are duplicated clauses, clauses that don’t make sense, and lots of formatting errors. It’s quite a sloppy draft.
Urgent negotiations continued into the night last night to improve on it, as hundreds of Parties laid out their criticisms of the draft text. Two positions evolved on either side of a crystal clear dividing line.
On the one side, from what we gather, are Parties and Party groups like the AOSIS, the EU, and the USA. Broadly, they argue that the draft text is far too weak on fossil fuels and that we need to be more assertive with the ambition and realistic about the mechanisms for delivering on 1.5ºC.
On the other side are Parties and Party groups like Bolivia, China, the G77 and Saudi Arabia. They argue that the text deviates too far from the requirements of the Paris Agreement (the Global Stocktake, which this text is a draft of, is mandated by the Paris Agreement) and that there is insufficient call on richer countries to support poorer countries to develop without the use of fossil fuels.
In theory, the COP is supposed to end today. We think that’s vanishingly unlikely – but who knows what’s going to happen.
08:15 GMT. A quickfire update this morning. The Presidency spoke to delegates just now to update that “the text we released was a starting point for discussions”, and that by releasing the previous draft, we have been able to see Parties’ red lines moving forward. This is quite a cavalier approach, though there’s no doubt that the strategy did its job, if that’s the case: it’s become very clear, very quickly where there are red lines.
It also suggests that the next version – whenever it arrives – is likely to look very different to the previous one.
12:30 GMT. There’s no sign of a new draft text just yet. Frustrating news is coming through that the UK’s Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Graham Stuart, has left Dubai and returned to London – despite the COP being right in the middle of its most crucial phase. News sites in the UK are noting that his return to the UK coincides with the Parliamentary vote on the government’s controversial and unpopular Rwanda immigration bill. Either way, leaving the climate talks at this stage is not a good look.
18:15 GMT. Well, then. Today has been and gone, and we have no new draft version of the Global Stocktake to show for it. Throughout the day, hurried negotiations have been taking place, press conferences have been pushed back and cancelled, and then, about an hour or so ago, the feeling began to coalesce around the acceptance that it will be tomorrow before we see another text. Whilst John Kerry (the US Climate Envoy) has told journalists that the language around fossil fuels is looking stronger in the latest version, there hasn’t been anything published yet. Lots to play for tomorrow, it seems.
13 December - Final Negotiations
07:00 GMT. Will this be it? We have a new draft text. Firstly, let’s summarise a couple of the obvious changes since the previous version:
- “Calls upon Parties to take actions that could include…” becomes → “Calls on Parties to contribute to the following global efforts…”
- “Reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels…” becomes → “Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy sources…“
The transitioning away from fossil fuels is further than previous COPs have gone. But it’s weaker than the previous version which was more specific about reducing both production and consumption of fossil fuels.
The clause about “Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions” is still in there (reminiscent of the Glasgow text) and is still very weak. In this wording, it allows countries to keep fossil fuel subsidies if they can argue that they are efficient – or even if inefficient, if they can argue that the subsidies address either energy poverty or just transitions. The loopholes are so big the clause will be virtually worthless in reducing any fossil fuel use.
The plenary is about to start. Let’s see if this is the draft text that gets agreed, or whether there will be more twists.
07:20 GMT. The text has been agreed. Hearing no objections in the room, the “UAE Consensus” as Sultan Al-Jaber has named it, has been adopted by all Parties. Here’s what he said:
“We have delivered a comprehensive response to the global stocktake. We have delivered a robust action plan to keep 1.5ºC in reach. It is a balanced plan that addresses emissions…. It is built on common ground. It is strengthened by full inclusivity. It is a historic package to accelerate climate action. It is the UAE consensus.”
The plenary room was filled with applause, and much of the rest of the plenary will be filled with congratulatory speeches. Though it’s possible that a lot of the sentiment is driven by relief that agreement was reached and negotiations are finally over – rather than the content of the agreement.
Remember though, each COP is not just about the final cover text – but all the other pledges and commitments made. The loss and damage fund, which was agreed on the first day of the COP (and feels like a lifetime ago!) was historic on its own. The statement of unity from the standard-setters in corporate net-zero was, as well. And now we have a final cover text that – for the first time ever – calls for a transition away from fossil fuels.
There’s plenty of things to criticise this COP about, but there’s also plenty of big things that it’s achieved.
10:30 GMT. Following the announcement of the agreement of the text, diplomatic speeches took place from the Parties, congratulating the Presidency and thanking the negotiators. These are all normal proceedings at the end of the COP process.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, however. Small island nations in particular have been vocal in their criticism of the final text. Incredibly, the representative from Samoa began their speech by saying that “We didn’t want to interrupt the standing ovation – but we are confused. It seems you just gavelled the decision and the small island states were not in the room”. This is sure to raise serious questions about the COP process – and whether the text has authority if the Presidency can declare consensus, if that consensus (according the Parties) hasn’t been reached.
Despite this, the text was passed, and we have a new multilateral environmental agreement to add to the pile: the UAE Consensus. Everyone’s a bit unhappy with its contents, and lots of people are disappointed that it didn’t live up to its potential, but many are happy that there was an agreement at all – especially after a particularly turbulent negotiation process over the last couple of days.
We are going to leave our running coverage there. We’ll be back with more analysis in the coming days and weeks, to pick apart this historic COP process and think about what’s next. Thanks so much for following along!