After COP 28, Dubai

Fossil Fuels and other Items

An old-fashioned manual sewing machine

COP 28 The Final Agreement

There was a great deal of concern from the world community over what would happen in Dubai during COP 28. The world needs a rapid phase out of fossil fuels and the President of the Conference was the CEO of a state oil company. What kind of agreement could possibly come from this Meeting, considering the importance of fossil fuels, and getting rid of them?

The final agreement from the COP 28 said “The United Nations Climate Change Conference closed today with an agreement that signals the ‘beginning of the end’ of the fossil fuel era by laying the ground for a swift, just, and equitable transition, underpinned by deep emissions cuts and scaled-up finance.”

Should We Believe Them?

I think the answer to that question depends on who you are and where you are coming from. The responses to this agreement have been wide-ranging. It went from horror on the one hand, to more or less agreement that it was a reasonable result. With almost 200 different countries attending, it was difficult to come to a compromise that met everybody’s needs.

Examples of comments

Professor Bill McGuire of UCL London said on X (Twitter) that it was “a lot of meaningless claptrap”.

Some of the smaller Pacific Island States were very unhappy. The lead negotiator for the Small Islands Alliance has said that although there were good aspects to the agreement, the process has failed them and the “text contains a litany of loopholes”.

James Dyke of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter was unequivocal. “COP28 needed to deliver an unambiguous statement about the rapid phase out of fossil fuels… Unfortunately, that did not happen,” he said. “That this deal has been hailed as a landmark is more a measure of previous failures than any step change when it comes to the increasingly urgent need to rapidly stop burning coal, oil and gas.” See his and further comments here.

Achim Steiner the head of the UN Development Programme said “Some are understandably frustrated that the agreed language could have been stronger. But it remains the most unequivocal signal to date that the world is moving beyond the fossil-fuel era.”

So far, not great! However, it is the first time in these events that getting rid of fossil fuels has been mentioned. That itself is a big step forward. It may well also mean that investments in fossil fuels will decrease from now on.

How long will we be Drilling for Oil?

A series of offshore oil rigs

This commitment to transition away from fossil fuels came as part of the discussions on the Global Stocktake mentioned in my previous blog “Phase Down or Phase Out?”. As I also stated in that blog the stocktake showed a situation where the world has not achieved the level of cuts to emissions that were promised after the COP in Paris in 2015. Instead it shows us heading towards a temperature increase of about 3°C. A situation that would leave the world in a hellish situation.

There were three key points accentuated in the Chatham House report which I talked about in my last blog. (There were, of course many others of considerable importance.)

  1. The Global Stocktake (mentioned above)
  2.  A Loss and Damage Fund
  3. The Global Goal for Adaptation

Loss and Damage

The phrase loss and damage means the impacts of human-induced climate change affecting people around the world. Damage refers to things that can be repaired, like damaged houses. Losses refer to things that have been lost completely and won’t come back – like human lives. See this article.

People in low-income countries with low emissions tend to suffer more from Climate Change. They have been fighting for a number of years for support from developed countries to rebuild their lives. The richer countries have been very reluctant to discuss this as they fear being held financially responsible for the results of their high emissions. So the setting up of a Loss and Damage fund at this COP has been a bit of a coup for the United Arab Emirates who were running the COP.

It is yet to be seen how much support this fund will receive. But so far it has fallen woefully short of what is likely to be required. The Guardian quotes “The loss and damage in developing countries is estimated by one non-governmental organisation to be greater than $400bn a year – and rising.”


Climate change adaptation means taking action to prepare for and adjust to both the current and projected impacts of climate change.


A traffic sign in flood waters

What is Climate Change Adaptation?

It is seen as the process of adjusting to the worsening effects of Climate Change. Adaptation efforts in developing countries are very underfunded. As they are not seen as profit-making, richer countries are not really interested in investing in those projects. Not unnaturally, developing countries are unhappy about this. It was hoped that this COP would bring some resolution to the problem.

COP 28: A disappointing outcome on the crucial issue of adaptation

The French newspaper Le Monde has said that “While many parties wanted more precise commitments from rich countries to help vulnerable countries cope with the dramatic effects of global warming, this particular issue has been postponed.”

This deal can only be called sufficient according to ClientEarth if the following four conditions for the next steps are met. There has to be:

  1. A fast and clear translation of energy pledges into domestic legislation.
  2. A change to financial systems to align with a 1.5°C future. It also needs a new equitable finance to support developing countries in their transition.
  3. Ambitious and legally-binding new national climate laws.
  4. Clarity on states’ obligations to address the climate crisis in all forms.

So overall, not a wonderful result. However it seems we are globally slowly changing our thinking about how to create a different and better future.

Side Agreements

Chatham House says that as part of COP28 there was “a raft of initiatives, side deals and agreements. These covered food systems transformation*, the tripling of renewable capacity, the doubling of the average annual rate of energy efficiency improvement at a global level, and climate-resilient, sustainable and equitable health systems.” *The final agreement acknowledged for the first time that sustainable agriculture was necessary in the fight against Climate Change.

Should we be upset by this?

At one level – of course we should. It shows considerable greed on the part of the oil companies and rich countries’ lack of belief in of social equity.

However, the structure of these UN based meetings has always been suspect. As Project Drawdown remarked in its recent Webinar it is important that we look at the whole range of issues, many of which are being tackled successfully outside of the COPs. For example, the use of Renewables has exploded globally. China’s carbon emissions are set to fall in 2024. Public awareness is increasing and thousands upon thousands of coalitions and groups are out there fighting for our futures.

So What Can You Do?

One of the key areas where carbon emissions are not going down is in agriculture and change of land use.

We can fairly easily change our eating habits. We can cut down the amount of meat we eat to reduce deforestation. This would also reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from cattle.

We can try to eat more organic food that requires less oil-based fertilisers and pesticides.

We can certainly cut down on our food waste,

If we have a garden we can use our own vegetable compost. Also many towns will remove food waste to make compost which they will sell back to you ready for use.

We can eat seasonally to save long-distance transport of food.

In general we can talk to our family and friends about the global crises we face. We can acknowledge to ourselves that, yes, things are pretty bad.

But we need to acknowledge they are not hopeless and if all of us get involved we can make a difference.

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(Thanks to Annie Spratt, Maria Lupan and Kelly Sikkema for their photos from Unsplash)