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Saturday, April 20, 2024

‘Litany of loopholes’

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Climate experts have ended their 13-day summit in Dubai, with an agreement seen by many as the world’s strongest statement to date on the need to transition away from fossil fuels.

But many, particularly the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), have said “the course of needed correction has not yet been secured, stressing “we see a litany of loopholes.”

Climate experts, while cautiously welcoming the reference to fossil fuels in the agreement, point to serious weaknesses, including leaving the door open for fossil fuel expansion.

We heard Harjeet Singh, the head of global political strategy at nonprofit Climate Action Network International, say “after decades of evasion, COP28 finally cast a glaring spotlight on the real culprits of the climate crisis: fossil fuels; a long-overdue direction to move away from coal, oil, and gas has been set.”

AOSIS, an intergovernmental organization of countries disproportionately at risk from the climate crisis, is one of the most powerful voices at the annual climate talks.

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AOSIS was “exceptionally concerned” about the agreement, Anne Rasmussen, lead negotiator, said. While the text contains “many good elements,” she said, “the course correction that is needed has not yet been secured” and “we see a litany of loopholes.”

“It is not enough for us to reference the science and then make agreements that ignore what the science is telling us we need to do,” she said in her speech which was met with a standing ovation from delegates.

Some countries and experts were alarmed by the agreement’s recognition of a role for “transitional fuels” in the energy transition – largely interpreted to mean natural gas, a planet-heating fossil fuel.

“We want to raise the alarm that transition fuel will become permanent especially in developing countries,” said an Antigua and Barbuda delegate.

Those loopholes refer to the option for countries to accelerate zero- and low-carbon technologies, including carbon capture and storage – a set of techniques that are still being developed with the aim of removing carbon pollution from the atmosphere .

There was also criticism over a failure to ensure enough funding will flow to the poorest, most climate-vulnerable countries to help them adapt to the escalating impacts of the climate crisis and move their economies toward renewable energy.

We agree the agreement reached at the COP28 climate summit mentions transitioning away from fossil fuels, but contains weak points that could limit our ability to keep the world from warming beyond 1.5°C.

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