Cop28: Countries accused of putting forward ‘grab bag of wish lists’

Range of options on ‘phase-out’ of fossil fuels in documentation handed over to Cop28 president

The UN climate talks reached a critical point on Wednesday as negotiators handed over their assessment and text options to the Cop28 presidency amid accusations that some countries are posturing and failing to apply the level of ambition needed.

The main document is the outcome of the “global stocktake” conducted over the past two years which identifies gaps in implementation of the Paris Agreement by signatory countries, and includes options on closing them, especially in keeping global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees.

Cop28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, as facilitator of the UN summit, will now attempt to provide political clarity by refining and seeking agreement on a possible final decision to be submitted to ministerial negotiators for consideration during the final days of discussions next week.

Various possible options on “phase-out” of fossil fuels are included at this point, which means an ambitious outcome remains possible, though an intervention by Simon Stiell, the UN’s climate chief, highlighted major concerns. Countries negotiating at Cop28 must not fall into the trap of point-scoring and “lowest common denominator politics”, Mr Stiell warned at a short press conference. Now all governments must give their negotiators clear marching orders: we need highest ambition.”


“The global stocktake is the vehicle to get climate action on track,” added Mr Stiell, who is executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the structure under the auspices of which the summit is held.

On the global stocktake, a starting text was on the table, “but it’s a grab bag of wish lists and heavy on posturing. The key now is to sort the wheat from the chaff. If we want to save lives now and keep [the] 1.5 [degree temperature] goal within reach, the highest ambition Cop outcomes must stay front and centre”.

Mr Stiell said at the end of next week the Cop needed to deliver a bullet train to speed up climate action. “We currently have an old caboose chugging over rickety tracks. But the tools are all there on the table, the technologies and solutions exist. It’s time for governments and negotiators to pick them up and put them to work.

“There are many options that are on the table right now which speak to the phasing out of fossil fuels,” he said. “It is for parties to unpick that, and come up with a very clear statement that signals the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it.”

The negotiators were all engaging constructively, which was the key thing right now, a view confirmed by Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan, who said having fossil fuel phase-out in the text at this point was “a good first step”. But this needed to be backed up by political direction and means of implementation, including structures and finance for delivery. “There should be a good outcome to Cop28 if things don’t trip up,” he added.

A breakthrough on the stocktake would make agreement on other big agenda items a lot easier, especially on adaptation funding to help vulnerable countries prepare for extreme weathers exacerbated by global warming, according to negotiators who spoke to The Irish Times.

“Finance is the great enabler for climate action. The negotiations must put it front and centre. Let’s be honest – good intentions won’t halve emissions this decade or save lives right now. Only serious progress on finance can deliver frontline results,” Mr Stiell said.

“We’ve said we’ll double adaptation finance – now we have to deliver, including on the details, and set ourselves up to go much further. We must not lose any focus on the global goal for adaptation. Eight billion people are on the frontlines. Right now only 50 countries have National Adaptation Plans. Loss and damage was a win, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think it’s a tick in the box for finance and support at this Cop; more is required. We need enhanced transparency and to deliver our promise to fund climate action across the world.”

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Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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