Civil society groups push for deadline in phasing out of fossil fuels at Cop28

They want a global phase-out of all fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest, with rapid decline in use by 2030

With talks at Cop28 due to resume on Friday and a final push for a proposed decision text over the weekend, civil society groups and climate non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are stepping up calls for an unequivocal declaration on phasing out fossil fuels.

The message to global leaders from their ranks was spelt out by Shady Khalil of the environmental group Greenpeace MENA (Middle East and North Africa).

As civil society, we came here with the demand that governments address the main cause of the climate crisis – coal, oil and gas. The test for the success of the GST [global stocktake] at this Cop is an agreement for the full, fast, fair, and funded phase-out of all fossil fuels,” he said.

The stocktake is a two year review of how the world is performing on key actions under the 2015 Paris Agreement, identifying emissions gaps. All countries are required to set out how they are going to step up actions in responding to shortfalls – which applies to the vast majority of the parties.


Speaking on behalf of Climate Action Network, which represents more than 1,900 civil society organisations in 130 countries, Mr Khalil said: “The global stocktake will make or break our chance of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees.”

This meant having a meaningful end-date for fossil fuels. “By or around mid century” is not enough for an actionable outcome, he said. “We need a global phase-out of all fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest, with rapid decline in fossil fuel use by 2030.”

Ireland and the EU is supporting the phase-out of all fossil fuels, a position that is attracting increasing support from other countries, notably small islands and other less developed states, but petrostates are likely to resist this over the coming days. The GST text submitted to the Cop28 presidency includes a range of options on phase-out.

Mr Khalil said this had to come as a package with significantly scaled-up, grants-based public finance from developed countries “consistent with scaled-up energy transition goals and access to solar and wind technology” for developing countries.

“The phase-out must be full. Don’t fall into a trap of dangerous distractions and reject loopholes, like ‘unabated’,” he said.

The groups have called for stronger language “on differentiation and equity reflecting the need for developed countries to go first and fastest in this phase-out, in addition to providing the public finance required”.

Addressing Cop28 delegations on Wednesday night, he said: “We need all parties to make this Cop a historic moment for humanity. You can bring justice to millions impacted today and future generations to come.”

With almost all the major issues still unresolved and no new text updates, countries and governments need to step up and build a “high ambition coalition” to deliver these essential outcomes, according to the energy think tank E3G. The UAE presidency is under pressure to demonstrate leadership and shepherd parties through next week’s challenges “with inclusion and transparency”, it said.

There are plenty of battles ahead, particularly around the GST and fossil fuels, it said. As well as the inclusion of language on fossil fuels, Cop28 chief executive Adnan Amin told Bloomberg News there remains a lot of work to do on climate finance and adaptation as the presidency tries to bridge gaps between the priorities of advanced and developing economies.

Commenting on progress so far, US climate envoy John Kerry said: “We’ve had a pretty damn good week here in Dubai already. We have some tough issues next week, but I think we have people of good faith who know that this is an international negotiation of consequence. And people will measure who steps up.”

In a notable development separate to the conference, Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday visited UAE and Saudi Arabia, his first visit to the Middle East since the Ukraine war started. Energy was believed to be the main agenda item.

He is facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court over the war in Ukraine, though neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE has signed the ICC founding treaty, meaning they don’t face any obligation to detain Putin over the warrant accusing him of being personally responsible for the abductions of children from Ukraine during his war on the country.

Asked to comment on Mr Putin’s presence in UAE, and what it meant for negotiations at Cop28, Mr Kerry replied: “I think by virtue of what he’s done in Ukraine, his presence may encourage people to do what Europe has done, which is the most rapid move to a different kind of fuel.”

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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