Tracking COP28’s Most Contentious Agreement

Johnny Wentzel
COP28 globe display

Today is the final day of the COP28 summit in Dubai, and the overused term of the week is “phase”. Not the type of phase that results in died hair, skinny jeans, and My Chemical Romance posters, but whether a “phase-out” or “phase-down” of fossil fuels will be called for in the final summit agreement.

It’s possible that neither term is used, but whatever language is ultimately approved, it will likely be the defining moment of COP28.

Background:  An early draft of the summit deal over the weekend featured the “phase out of fossil fuels in line with the best available science”, the first time such language has been included in any draft COP text ever.

  • Although the language was supported by an alliance of over 100 nations, including Canada, the US, and members of the EU, it was ultimately quashed by apparent pressure from Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries.

Draft after draft

Swinging in the other direction, an updated draft released by the COP28 presidency on Monday was heavily criticized for removing phase-out language, and instead presenting a host of possible climate actions as an a la carte menu rather than a formal direction.

  • This draft, too, was rejected with re-writes and changes occurring into the evening, local time.

There are more drafts to come, with a (un?)happy medium likely to be the final outcome.

Looking ahead: It’s unlikely that COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber will be able to deliver an approved final text by the end of the summit today, and talks could continue into tomorrow and beyond. The hard deadline for the final text is Friday, when Dubai’s Winter City festival starts moving into the Dubai Exhibition Centre.

We’re waiting patiently, as the final document may determine if COP28 will be remembered as the year of the phase out, or the year that a petrostate tried to host a climate conference.