COP28: Final deal struck without objections, but no fossil fuel phase-out or phase-down

Pictured: COP28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber and Director-General Majid Al Suwaidi at the closing plenary. Image: UNFCCC

Negotiators worked until 3am Dubai time today (13 December) to consult on the draft text, after the previous version of the Global Stocktake was almost unanimously criticised as unacceptable by major economies.

The EU and Alliance of Small Island States categorically refused to accept anything less than a fossil fuel phase-out. Others, like Saudi Arabia and the Africa Group, said they would not back a text with such strong language, calling instead for a phase-down and an ‘abatement’ loophole for carbon capture. The US was also a proponent of abatement, as is the UK.

Discontent was also expressed at a statement that countries “could” take other actions to reduce emissions, including scaling renewables and/or nuclear and accelerating energy efficiency efforts.

The COP28 Presidency team took comments from the consultation into account and, at 6am Dubai time, published a fresh draft. Negotiators were convened into the official plenary room and did not make any last-minute objections to adopting the draft as the final text. As such, the gavel came down on the two-week summit, attended by some 100,000 people, shortly before midday GST.

The general concensus is that the text is improved in some ways, notably on adaptation and Indigenous rights. But small island states have said the so-called ‘UAE Consensus’ still has a “litany of loopholes” on fossil fuels.Nations in the Global South have also highlighted unfunded plans to improve adaptation.

Below is a video of COP28 President Dr Sultan Al-Jaber’s closing speech.


Here, we summarise the key inclusions in the final COP28 text.

Fossil fuels: Phase-out, phase-down or transition?

On fossil fuels, the previous draft stated that nations should “reduce both consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner so as to achieve net-zero by, before, or around 2050 in keeping with the science”.

The final text “calls on parties, in a nationally determined manner” to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems “in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”.

The notable change is a requirement for accelerated action this decade.

“Substantially” reducing non-CO2 emissions from the energy system, particularly methane, is also added as a priority for this decade.

Nations are also “called on” to “accelerate zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilisation and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production.”

The “inter-alia” suggests this remains something of a menu. But there is, lower down, the removal of the wording that nations “could” take these steps.

Parties are once again “called upon” to contribute to these solutions to deliver “deep, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5C pathways”.

“Calling upon” is not particularly strong language in UN terms. It indicates a voluntary but encouraged commitment. Most items on the menu have no timeframe, except trebling renewable capacity globally by 2030 and doubling the annual average rate of energy efficiency improvements this decade, too.

Already, more than 130 nations have agreed to support these agendas through a Global Decarbonisation Accelerator pledge that lies separate from the official texts. This Accelerator was developed by the COP28 UAE Presidency and the International Energy Agency (IEA). Less popular have been the IEA’s recommendations on dramatically scaling back coal extraction and generation in the near-term and ending all upstream oil and gas with long lead-times by the mid-2020s.

Loopholes and subsidies

The final text’s “menu” also calls upon nations to “accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power”. This has been on the table since COP28 in Glasgow.

Nations are then called upon to “phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions as soon as possible”.

Both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the IEA stated earlier this year that 2022 was a record year for fossil fuel subsidies, which exceeded $7trn for the first time.

The G7 group of nations has pledged to end all “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. Debate remains about how “inefficiency” can be quantified and when these nations can reasonably end all subsidies.

G20 nations have long been encouraged to follow the suit of the G7. It has made the same commitment but set no end-date and no definition of inefficiency. The G20 provided $693bn of support in 2021, the highest level since 2014. These nations used the excuse of maintaining energy security post-pandemic and with war looming.

A worrying new inclusion in the final text is a line “recognising that transitional duels can play a role in facilitating the energy transition while maintaining energy security”. Climate diplomacy expert Ed King has said this is likely to have been added by major gas-producing nations, potentially including the UAE itself. Throughout this COP, the ‘Don’t Gas Africa’ campaign, calling for the continent to leapfrog into clean energy, has been visible and vocal throughout the Blue Zone.


While the final text presents some 2030 goals for the adaptation framework, it still lacks clarity in establishing specific objectives for scaling finance, and the wording remains weak.

The text “urges” parties to accelerate action by the end of the decade in order to achieve reduced climate-induced water scarcity, climate-resilience in food and agricultural industries, resiliency against health impacts, accelerated nature-based solutions, climate-resilient infrastructure and reduced climate change impacts on poverty eradication and livelihoods.

However, the targets fall short of defining the necessary ‘level of action’ that needs to be achieved by 2030.

Additionally, there’s a lack of clarity in the text regarding implementation strategies, particularly regarding funding. It emphasises the urgency for developed countries to fulfil the $100bn annual goal by 2025 (more on this below).

Although the document recognises the gaps in adaptation finance and the necessity to mobilise $5.8trn before 2030, it falls short of outlining a clear pathway to achieve this objective.

However, it does make a decisive step by deciding to hold a high-level ministerial dialogue during its sixth session of intersessional meetings. This will take place in Bonn this summer. This dialogue will aim to address the pressing need to escalate adaptation finance, taking into consideration the outcomes related to adaptation from the global stocktake.

Climate finance

The final agreement represents little in the way of movement on finance-related language.

Like the penultimate draft, it “notes with deep regret” that wealthy nations failed to jointly scale annual climate finance provisions to developing nations to $100bn by 2020. This pledge was first floated in 2009.

Nations are “urged with urgency” to fully deliver by 2025. Initial OECD estimates show that full delivery was likely in 2022, so this is not particularly ambitious.

There is no new collective qualified goal on climate finance. This will increase the $100bn goal and there may yet be an option for developed nations to explore back payments. Work on this goal “will conclude in 2024”.

A proposal is expected before COP29. But if this is not forthcoming, this adds pressure to Azerbaijan, which was only confirmed as host this week and now has less than a year to prepare.

Carbon markets

Late on Tuesday (12 December), contact groups meeting in a bid to reach agreements on implementing Article 6 – the part of the Paris Agreement that relates to carbon markets – largely failed.

An agreement was not reached on two out of three of the key agenda items, representing another can kicked down the road to COP29; one that had already been kicked at COP27.

The final text calls on nations to submit their views by February 2024 on tools, guidance, baselines and additionality as to how nations should interact with carbon markets. It notes the establishment of a Supervisory Body that would draw up these parameters in a bid to finally shape a functioning market. However, key developments and decisions on “emissions avoidance” measures and calculations have been moved back to 2028.

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