Cop28: Agreement to phase out fossil fuels would be huge for humanity, says Gore

Climate crisis: Putting a fossil fuel company CEO in charge of Cop28 is ‘totally ridiculous’, says former US vice-president

An agreement by countries to phase out fossil fuels would be “one of the most significant events in the history of humanity”, according to Al Gore, amid wrangling by governments at Cop28.

It would be a “welcome surprise” if world leaders agreed at the climate talks to call for an end to fossil fuels, but such a declaration would have “enormous impact” upon the world, Mr Gore told the Guardian at the gathering in the United Arab Emirates.

“If there were a decision here to surprise the world to say: ‘OK we get it now, we’ve made enough money, we will get on with what needs to be done to give young people a sense of hope again and stop as much as suffering as possible and start the phase-out of fossil fuels’, it would be one of the most significant events in the history of humanity,” the former US vice-president said.

Mr Gore, now a prominent advocate for action on the climate crisis, welcomed the establishment of a loss-and-damage fund for developing countries worst hit by heatwaves, droughts, floods and other disasters but added the amount of money committed to it by rich countries is a “pittance” and that the crucial element at the Dubai gathering would be an agreement to wind down fossil fuels.


“There is only one measure of success for Cop28: will it include a commitment to phase out fossil fuels or not,” he said. “If it does include such a commitment it will be a smashing success; if it does not it will be a failure.”

More than half of the 200 countries that are represented at Cop28 have signalled they would support agreement language that mentions a phase-out of fossil fuels.

John Kerry, the US climate envoy, has said it is “hard for anybody to understand” why the primary cause of the climate crisis would be allowed to continue, while António Guterres, secretary general of the UN, urged leaders on Friday to unambiguously back the end of oil, coal and gas. “Not reduce. Not abate. Phase out,” Mr Guterres said.

However, the consensus format of these UN summits means that countries have to all assent to the text of an agreement and it is understood that countries such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia are uncomfortable with a compact that would call time on fossil fuels.

Oil companies, many posting record profits, are planning large expansions in drilling, including Adnoc, the national oil company of the UAE which is headed by Sultan Al Jaber, who is also president of Cop28. Mr Al Jaber has strenuously denied allegations that he is using the climate summit as a way to further oil and gas deals for Adnoc.

Mr Gore, however, said that Adnoc is “one of the dirtiest companies, it’s one of the least responsible companies” and that the appointment of Mr Al Jaber to head Cop28 has been damaging.

“They made a mistake, let’s be honest, in angling to put a fossil fuel company CEO in charge of this Cop28,” he said. “I mean it’s absurd. It’s totally ridiculous.”

On Sunday, 123 countries signed the first Declaration on Climate and Health, which included galvanising finance for climate and health solutions, and a commitment to incorporate health targets in their national climate plans.

The UAE announced an “aggregated” funding commitment of $1 billion towards the implementation of health-focused climate activities, money which comes from agencies including the Green Climate Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation.

However, it is unclear how much of this money is new money, and it’s also unclear whether it will take the form of grants or yet more debt for vulnerable nations. The declaration acknowledged that reducing climate health impacts will require emission reductions, but there is not a single mention of fossil fuels.

Elsewhere, Bill Gates’s advanced nuclear reactor company TerraPower and the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned nuclear company ENEC said on Monday they have agreed to study the potential development of advanced reactors in the UAE and abroad.

The memorandum of understanding comes amid a push by the UAE to expand its nuclear energy capacity, and a pledge by over 20 nations at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai to triple nuclear deployment this decade to fight climate change. – Guardian