COP28 Nations Agree for First Time to Transition Away From Fossil Fuels

COP28 Nations Agree for First Time to Transition Away From Fossil Fuels
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United Arab Emirates brokers a compromise that calls for a clean energy shift to accelerate this decade.

DUBAI—More than 190 governments at the United Nations climate conference approved an agreement Wednesday calling for the world to transition away from fossil fuels, sending an unprecedented signal to the global economy that governments are intent on cutting back on coal, oil and natural gas in the fight against global warming.

The deal, the result of all-night talks, calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner.” It says the shift to clean energy for the global economy should accelerate this decade with the aim of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Scientists say that is crucial to fulfilling the Paris accord, the landmark climate agreement that calls for governments to attempt to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures. 

“We should be proud of our historic achievement,” said Sultan Al Jaber, the chief executive of the United Arab Emirates’ national oil company who is running COP28, in a closing address that garnered a standing ovation from many delegates. “We have delivered a robust action plan to keep 1.5 within reach.”

The deal marks the first time a U.N. climate agreement has called for governments to cut back on all fossil fuels. Scientists have long said it, but big fossil-fuel producers led by Saudi Arabia and fast-growing developing nations such as China and India have historically rebuffed pressure to end the use of fossil fuel. 

The document “announced the global and irreversible trend toward a green, low-carbon transition,” said Zhao Yingming, vice minister of Ecology and Environment of China. The final wording was acceptable to China, a person familiar with Beijing’s thinking said, because the proportion of fossil fuels in the country’s energy mix has been declining. 

The agreement targeting fossil fuels shows a new determination by governments around the world to cut fossil-fuel consumption. Supporters say the agreement should accelerate the flow of private investment into clean energies, such as solar and wind, and away from fossil fuel production. It must still be enshrined in national policies and then implemented, a politically fraught process that is expected to run through 2050 and beyond.

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