Cop 28: Focus on ‘global stocktake’ as countries push for phase-out of fossil fuels

‘When 1.5 degrees is your North Star, fossil phase-out is inevitable,’ Eamon Ryan tells meeting in Dubai

Countries pushing for the phase-out of fossil fuels at Cop28 are banking on the outcome of a “global stocktake” in the hope it will enable the measure to get across the line at the climate talks.

The stocktake, the first-ever conducted at a Cop, is required under the Paris Agreement to identify gaps in emission reduction targets by countries. They – and the Cop28 itself – must then set out how they are going to respond to stay within a 1.5 degrees rise in global temperatures in the coming days.

More than 100 countries out of more than 190 gathered in Dubai have already supported phase-out on the basis this is the only course to stay within 1.5 degrees – Cop28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is leading the negotiations, has said 1.5 degrees is his “North Star”.

“When 1.5 degrees is your North Star, fossil phase-out is inevitable. There are enough proven oil and gas reserves to cook the planet. The focus now has to be on the mosaic of finance solutions to deliver a fast and fair clean energy,” Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan told a meeting of countries in the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance on Tuesday.


The issue then is, he said, providing as much as detail on possible on “how is that done? How is that planned? How is that structured? What’s the alternatives?”

Detail was also needed on the finance behind switching from fossil fuels to clean energy, particularly the level of supports for developing countries, Mr Ryan added.

“There needs to be detail on the levels of abatement [to use carbon capture technology]… What’s the real figure? There will be different views on that. That’s where we can unmask that it’s not a get-out-of-jail card for fossil fuel industries,” he said.

The latest draft of the negotiating text on the stocktake was published overnight on Monday showing progress though big decisions have still to be taken. There is language committing nations to phase-out, but the option of the text being deleted completely cannot be ruled out.

Of concern to climate groups and some national delegations is that Saudi Arabia is attempting to introduce references to carbon capture and storage at every opportunity and also trying to add the word “emissions” after fossil fuels in any reference to their phase-out or phase-down.

Lord Browne, a former chief of BP, warned that private sector oil companies were not the main issue when it came to a phase-out of fossil fuels – most hydrocarbon extraction in the world is done by states, through nationally owned companies such as Adnoc, the UAE national oil company of which Sultan Al Jaber is chair. He said it was doubtful whether states with fossil fuel reserves would agree to end using them.

“With the clocking ticking down to the end of the first week, now’s the time for champions of the most ambitious outcomes to keep up the pressure in the negotiations,” said Tom Evans, policy adviser with think tank E3G.

“We need to see governments coming out strongly for priorities like a fossil fuel phase-out, more action on adaptation and driving total finance system transformation to unlock more money for climate. With sharp divisions between parties, there’s a high chance that we get stuck – so, above all, we need to see the UAE presidency’s game plan for taking this forward next week,” he added.

In her first comment since a row erupted over the Cop28 president’s controversial response to her questions on fossil fuels, chair of the Elders Mary Robinson reiterated the need for their phase-out based on what science says is required.

She posted on X: “A successful Cop28 is not about a single individual or nation, but the collective will and concerted efforts of all countries in these negotiations. The science compels: phase out fossil fuels rapidly, accelerate renewable energy adoption, and radically scaled up finance.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times