Return to the caves: COP28 moves forward with its goal of ending fossil fuels

The conference agreements come after the president of the organization claimed that there is no scientific evidence behind the promotion of this policy.

The 28th Climate Change Conference (COP28) approved this Wednesday what would be a roadmap to move towards the end of the use of fossil energy. Although the draft agreement does not speak of an immediate end to fuels, it states it is "An unprecedented reference to transitioning away from all fossil fuels to enable the world to reach net zero by 2050."

The COP28 Presidency has been clear in its intention to ensure that the agreements made at COP28 are delivered and followed through to COP29 and COP30, with mechanisms to track progress against implementation. Already, the Presidency has signed an agreement with Brazil, the host country of COP30, to deepen collaboration and increase climate ambitions by COP30.

Conference president Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber said that with the call "the foundations are built to achieve a historic transformative change. For the first time, we have language about fossil fuels in a statement."

China and Europe celebrate the agreement

The European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Change Action, Wopke Hoekstra, claimed that the conference would be the beginning of the end of fossil fuels. "For the first time in 30 years, we could be approaching the beginning of the end of fossil fuels. We are taking a very, very significant step" to limit warming to 1.5°C, Hoekstra said in statements reported by AFP news.

US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry welcomed the conference's decisions. The representative of the Democratic government insisted that "it is reason to be optimistic."

China has a similar position. The country declared that developed countries must take the lead in the energy transition. In addition, it stressed that financial support must be provided to developing nations.

"Developed countries have an unwavering historical responsibility for climate change and therefore must take the lead to embark on the 1.5°C path before the rest of the world," said Chinese Vice Minister of Environment, Zhao Yingmin, to COP28.

"We need to be real serious," warns the president of COP28

The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, called on the countries participating in the conference to "conclude the conference with an ambitious outcome that demonstrates decisive action and a credible plan to keep 1.5-degree goal alive, protecting those on the frontlines of the climate crisis," according to an official statement.

The celebrations for the progress towards the end of fossil fuels come after the president of COP28 claimed that there is no scientific evidence behind the push to eliminate fossil fuels. Sultan al-Jaber also explained that advancing such a policy would not allow sustainable development but would take the world back in time.

"There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5. A phase-down and a phase-out of fossil fuel in my view is inevitable. That is essential. But we need to be real serious and pragmatic about it," Al Jaber said during a meeting that was recorded by the Center for Climate Reporting and reviewed - for the first time - by The Guardian.

Taking the world back into caves

Al Jaber made these statements during a panel in which Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and current chair of the Elders Group, asked him to lead the push to phase out fuels. Additionally, Robinson accused Al Jaber and the state oil company he runs, ADNOC, of increasing its use of fossil fuels. In response to the accusation, Al Jaber highlighted that his approach is based on achieving a pragmatic strategy.

"Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves," Ahmed Al Jaber said during the conversation.