Home Green Energy COP28: High Ambition Coalition calls for end of fossil fuels

COP28: High Ambition Coalition calls for end of fossil fuels

Activists protesting at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh on November 10, 2022. Actions target sectors accounting for more than 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Photo credit: Gilbert Mwijuke
Activists protesting at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh on November 10, 2022. Photo credit: Gilbert Mwijuke

At the pre-COP28 meeting that ended on Wednesday, the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) – an intergovernmental group of 117 countries – gathered ministers, including from the Pacific nations of Vanuatu and Tuvalu, to discuss the Global Stock Take and reinforced the call for governments to “phase-out fossil fuel production”.

“We are pleased to see this bloc of governments standing up to loopholes that are commonly used to water down negotiated text on fossil fuels,” said Alex Rafalowicz, Executive Director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative.

According to Rafalowicz, it is noteworthy that HAC calls on governments to move beyond the existing commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and put in place a plan to remove them.

“Removing these vague, problematic loopholes and weasel words is critical to align government policy commitments and statements with the transition away from coal, oil and gas that is critically needed,” he said.

Mr Rafalowicz added that other governments must join HAC in avoiding the use of loophole language like ‘unabated’ and instead actually plan to phase out fossil fuel production. He called on them to take the next step by joining HAC members – Vanuatu and Tuvalu – in supporting the negotiation of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to manage this transition in a manner that is fast and fair.

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative welcomed the strong statement on fossil fuels, saying it’s one of the strongest government statements pushing back on some of the common weasel words often used to weaken fossil fuel phase-out commitments, and one that also makes it crystal clear that fossil fuels are at the root of the current climate crisis.

HAC noted that, in order to address the issue of fossil fuel production, governments must work together to drive forward this transition and spur greater international cooperation and encouraged High Ambition Coalition members to build on this leadership.

HAC said the bloc should build on the commitment to ending the expansion of new and existing coal mines and also end the expansion of oil and gas production.

“We need governments to agree to phase out dates for existing production that would push the world past 1.5ºC,” HAC said in a statement.

This phase out plan must be fast, but also fair and financed, HAC said, adding that wealthy nations that have the capacity to transition – often from decades of profiting from fossil fuel extraction – should move first and fastest, and support fossil fuel-dependent developing countries to pursue alternative development pathways.

The block also recommended building on strong commitments, plans, and rhetoric to support the negotiation of a binding global plan for managing this transition through the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, spearheaded by several HAC members.

A similar call was made by Samoa as Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), saying that COP28 must send a clear message to phase out fossil fuel use, end fossil fuel subsidies and scale up renewables.

AOSIS Chair reiterated that the COP28 decision should not imply acceptance of fossil fuel expansion, which is incompatible with the 1.5 degree limit.

At the closing of Pre-COP on Wednesday, COP28 President Al Jaber also acknowledged the calls from observers and civil society organisations on the need to include strong language on fossil fuels in the negotiated text. For the first time, he recognised the need to address both sides of the fossil fuel problem: demand and supply.

Al Jaber called on parties to work together and come prepared with proposals that can achieve “alignment, common ground and consensus”. He emphasised that “we must leave no one behind”, and that “we need to decarbonise the energy system of today.”

“We need every country to sign up in line with national circumstances. And we need to address the supply and demand side of the current energy system at the same time,” he said.

This comes just a few days after the International Energy Agency (IEA) released the latest edition of the World Energy Outlook 2023 attesting that a fossil fuel phase-out for the energy transition is “unstoppable”.

And this is why a growing bloc of nation-states is leading an effort to secure a mandate to negotiate a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty – a global framework that can end the expansion of coal, oil and gas – and chart a global plan to not only phase out fossil fuels, but also manage a just transition where no worker, community or country is left behind.

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