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'Phase down' or 'phase out': War of words over Global Stocktake text

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'Phase down' or 'phase out': War of words over Global Stocktake text

The core, flagship Global Stocktake (GST) text remains a fossil fuel battleground. A new iteration may land, believe negotiation observers.

Denmark and South Africa have already been tapped to lead the GST. Others set to be included are Norway, Singapore, Chile, Australia, Egypt and Canada.

However, the talks to phase out fossil fuels hang in balance with Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman saying his country would “absolutely not” accept having the language added to a final deal on fossil fuels.

At this critical juncture, leaders from business and industry, young people, mayors, governors, faith leaders and others are urging countries to collaborate in order to uphold the threshold established by the Paris Agreement: the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.

They call on COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber and all parties to deliver a 1.5 degrees aligned outcome in response to the Global Stocktake — as later is too late.

What does phase out of fossil means for the developing countries?

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, explained Ajit Weekly News that for developing countries like India, the absence of financial support impedes the transition to green energy and undermines their ability to confront climate-related disasters effectively.

“It is untenable for rich countries to shift their responsibilities onto developing nations, especially after decades of unmet commitments and continued reliance on fossil fuels. It is imperative for these nations to change course and endorse outcomes rooted in the principles of equity and justice,” he said.

Explaining further, Harjeet Singh said, “Even as we welcome the landmark decision to operationalise the loss and damage fund, the heart of climate talks now pivot to the critical issues of phasing out fossil fuels, coupled with the urgent need for financial support for mitigation, and adaptation.

“A recurring theme in these negotiations is the palpable resistance of wealthy nations to provide necessary financing, having failed to honour their long-standing obligations.”

Concern about mounting pressure to phase out coal has mainly prevented India from signing the global pledge on renewable energy and energy efficiency at COP28, remarked an Indian negotiator.

And the fossil fuel phase out dates by country are the US — all by 2031; Canada — all by 2031; Britain — coal by 2030, oil and gas by 2031; Australia — all by 2031; the UAE — gas by 2032 and oil by 2033; China — oil and gas by 2031 and coal by 2034; and India — oil and gas by 2031 and coal by 2036.

According to Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific project that tracks climate action and measures of nations, despite achieving substantial progress in installing renewable energy capacity, securing the fourth position globally in 2022, India’s dependence on fossil fuels is still on the rise as it directs coal and gas-fired power plants to operate at peak capacity to meet the rise in seasonal electricity demand brought on by record-hot summers.

Long-term planning is crucial for India to deal with volatile energy demand in response to changing weather patterns. There is a pressing need for India, and the world at large, to prioritise a definitive transition away from fossil fuels, imperative for achieving the country’s broader developmental goals, it says.

“A rapid scale-up of technologies with an effective phase out of conventional technologies are important for India’s long-term commitment for 2070,” said Arupendra Natha Mullick of the TERI.

In the past week, India and China abstained from a pledge taken by 118 nations at COP28 to increase global renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency by 2030. However, India remains committed to substantially increase its non-fossil electricity capacity by 2023.

Last year’s COP27 brought a proposal from India to “phase down” all fossil fuels. That won support of 80 plus nations, but didn’t make it over the line.

Meanwhile, at the COP28 venue civil society groups, including 350.org, the Pacific Climate Warriors, and members of YACAP, the International Trade Unions Confederation, the Indigenous Environmental Network and other partners alongside negotiators staged a walk-in to demand that the final cover text includes a robust energy transition package.

Beyond securing an agreement to triple renewable energy capacity, it is essential that the package includes a full, fast, fair phase out fossil fuels.

Youth leaders representing the Commonwealth’s 56 countries have urged leaders at the COP28 to move beyond speeches and deliver concrete action to safeguard the planet.

Their call is at the heart of a new report launched on December 8 during an intergenerational dialogue organised by the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN) and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The report outlines the climate concerns of young people in the Commonwealth and proposes specific actions for governments to engage them in decision-making, underlining that the “hope of tackling climate change lies with youth”.

During the dialogue, youth leaders expressed disappointment at the lack of action taken by countries in response to a wealth of recommendations they had presented at COP26 in Glasgow.

As countries negotiate the outcomes of COP28, they called on governments to focus on creating conditions that allow young people to share their experiences on climate risks, showcase their work and influence policymaking.

“We need the fossil fuel lobbyists out of climate negotiations, and no more empty promises!” remarked Greta Thunberg, the 20-year-old activist who has become one of the world’s famed climate change campaigners.

Last week at COP28, Colombia became the first Amazon country to join the Fossil Fuel Treaty.

Saying the successes over the past week have given “us a great boost going into this week”, COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber in a remark to the media on Friday said, “But, as I said before, this is where the hard part starts, and the work of the ministerial pairs begins in helping resolve political issues.

“Expectations are high. I hope you have seen the letter that has just been released a couple of hours ago signed by over 1,000 scientists, CEOs, indigenous peoples, mayors, governors, youth, health professionals, and faith leaders, all urging parties to come together around a rapid response plan to the Global Stocktake.

“This is the challenge that parties must rise to, against the clock. In fact, it is fast-moving and we need to adapt and shift gears and move even faster.”

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])

–Ajit Weekly News

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