December 13, 2023

COP28: Lack of Legally Binding Measures on Fossil Fuels an Historic Failure

Wealthy Countries Fail to Deliver Needed Funds for Adaptation and “Loss and Damage”

After decades of resistance, the concluding statement of COP28 finally named fossil fuels as the main cause of the climate crisis, but failed to establish even minimally legally binding requirements to phase them out, Climate Rights International said today.

“The poverty of low expectations should not blind us to the failure of COP28 to come up with commitments commensurate with the existential threat of climate change,” said Brad Adams, Executive Director at Climate Rights International. “The mere mention of fossil fuels, while a step forward in recognizing the need to decarbonize, is insufficient to claim success. Sadly, COP28 has simply provided an a la carte menu to wealthy and high-emitting countries who can continue to issue pious words while continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels at a record pace.” 

While a long overdue step in the right direction, the final outcome falls far short of what is required, Climate Rights International said. Rather than calling for the full phaseout of fossil fuels needed to avert the worst impacts of the human-induced climate crisis, the statement calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels,” providing neither benchmarks nor deadlines. Inclusion of references to “transition fuels” and carbon capture technologies creates loopholes for the fossil fuel industry that undermine the deep and rapid reductions in fossil fuel use that the scientific consensus has made clear is necessary to protect people and the planet.

The final COP28 statement calls for the transition to be “fair and equitable,” but it fails to require adequate financial support for developing countries to help them transition to renewable energy or pay for loss and damage. If wealthy countries continue the pattern of promising much but providing little in climate finance, a just and equitable transition will be impossible.

COP28 included a massive presence of fossil fuel interests, including more than 2,450 fossil fuel lobbyists. The president of the conference, Sultan Al Jabar, leads one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies and publicly questioned climate science during the conference. Shockingly, next year COP29 will be hosted by Azerbaijan, another petrostate with a poor track record on human rights.

“Countries must now go beyond the COP28 outcome statement and put forward ambitious and legally binding plans to phase out fossil fuels and reach Net Zero emissions,” said Adams. “Wealthy and high emitters such as the United States, China, European Union, Russia, and the Gulf states must also urgently provide the funds necessary to enable developing countries to transition away from fossil fuels.”

Photo Credit: Protest to end fossil fuel use. Photo by: Alisdare Hickson via Flickr (CC 2.0).

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