COP28: A week in, and fossil fuels and finance dominate

COP28: A week in, and fossil fuels and finance dominate
At the opening of COP28, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said the world is likely to blow through the 2 degree C threshold for global warming / European Commission - Lukasz Kobus
By by Roberta Harrington in Los Angeles December 6, 2023

The first week of COP28 has ended, and climate diplomats must now hammer out the final agreements.

There have been dire predictions and controversy from business and political leaders. 

Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates spoke as the two-week conference opened, saying the world is likely to smash through the 2 degree C threshold of global warming.

“Fortunately, we’ve made enough progress that we’re not going to have the extreme cases like of 4 degrees [Celsius] warming, but we’ll sadly probably even miss the 2-degree goal. So we’ll have adaptation as a priority,” Gates told CNBC.

Fossil fuels are a core issue at COP28, and controversial remarks by Sultan al-Jaber, the oil executive who is leading the climate summit in Dubai, emerged. He had been on video in November saying that “no science” that phasing out fossil fuels is necessary.

He backtracked at COP28, saying: "The phase-down and the phase-out of fossil fuels is inevitable," said Jaber, who is also CEO of the UAE's oil firm ADNOC.

Yet debate is underway, with some 80 countries calling for a formal phase-out of the climate-damaging fuels, while others want a more tepid ‘phase-down’.

The UN climate body overseeing the talks released the draft of a final agreement proposing "an orderly and just phase-out of fossil fuels". The text is virtually certain not to be adopted by all 200 countries attending. Opposition is led by Russia, Saudi Arabia and China, the world's largest carbon emitter, diplomats told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia's energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, in fact told Bloomberg TV on December 5 during COP28 that Saudi Arabia would "absolutely not" agree to even a phase-down.

Money has been a key issue, as expected, with debate at COP28 laying the groundwork for a key decision next year at COP29 on a new financing target, said Bloomberg.

The developing world needs money for the energy transition as well as for adaptation. Trillions of dollars are needed to meet the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement.

“To a lot of developing countries, the finance outcome has become about the restoration of trust in the process,” Adnan Amin, chief executive officer of COP28, told the news service. “So the developing world will want to see some commitments in the agreement on finance,” he said.

Money, along with fossil fuels, is the toughest issue to face the conference.

“The world needs long-term money,” said the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, in a statement by a coalition of climate-vulnerable countries. “We give thanks to the progress made but it does nothing but assuage consciences. Choosing between people and the planet is a false choice. The world has enough funds.”