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COP28 climate delegates agree to 'transition away' from fossil fuels

United Nations climate negotiators at COP28 summit in Dubai approved a deal to "transition away" from fossil fuels and phasing out burning oil, coal and gas.

United Nations climate change negotiators came to an agreement Wednesday to "transition away" from fossil fuels during the COP28 annual summit hosted in the United Arab Emirates. 

Acting quickly, leaving no time for critics to engage in floor debate, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, who is also CEO of the UAE’s oil company, swiftly gaveled approval Wednesday of a central document that takes aim at the burning of coal, oil and gas without asking for comments. 

"It is a plan that is led by the science,’’ al-Jaber said, according to The Associated Press. "It is an enhanced, balanced, but make no mistake, a historic package to accelerate climate action. It is the UAE consensus… We have language on fossil fuel in our final agreement for the first time ever."

The deal, which also calls for tripling the use of renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency, marked a milestone for the summit that’s been debating the issue for nearly 30 years. 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement championing the deal to phase out fossil fuels, warning critics that the move is "inevitable whether they like it or not." 


"For the first time, the outcome recognizes the need to transition away from fossil fuels – after many years in which the discussion of this issue was blocked," Guterres said in closing out the Dubai summit that stretched from Nov. 30 until this week. "Science tells us that limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees will be impossible without the phase out of all fossil fuels on a timeframe consistent with this limit. This has been recognized by a growing and diverse coalition of countries."

"To those who opposed a clear reference to a phase out of fossil fuels in the COP28 text, I want to say that a fossil fuel phase out is inevitable whether they like it or not," Kerry added. "Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late."

President Biden’s special envoy on climate change, John Kerry, said the agreement demonstrates multilateralism can still work despite what the world sees with wars in Ukraine and Israel. 

"I am in awe of the spirit of cooperation that has brought everybody together," Kerry said, according to The Associated Press. "This document sends very strong messages to the world."


Kerry previously indicated that the United States "largely" supports phasing out the burning of coal, gas and oil to limit the average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius about preindustrial levels, the New York Times reported. The globe has already warmed to 1.2 degrees Celsius, according to the newspaper. "We’ve got to do what the science tells us to do, and the science has been clear," Kerry told reporters earlier during the summit on Dec. 6. 

United Nations Climate Secretary Simon Stiell told delegates Wednesday their efforts were "needed to signal a hard stop to humanity’s core climate problem: fossil fuels and that planet-burning pollution. Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end," according to the AP. Stiell added the adopted deal is a "climate action lifeline, not a finish line."


After the deal was gaveled in, Samoa's lead delegate Anne Rasmussen, who was speaking on behalf of small island nations, rebuked how they weren't even in the room when al-Jaber said the agreement was complete, according to the AP. She said that "the course correction that is needed has not been secured," criticizing the agreement as a business-as-usual approach instead of exponential emissions-cutting efforts. She said the deal could "potentially take us backward rather than forward." Meanwhile, Bolivia also reportedly criticized the deal as a new form of colonialism. 

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