DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—The United Nations climate conference on Friday began its final week with negotiators expected to zoom in on the future of fossil fuels on a dangerously warming planet.
Thursday was a rest day, a bit of quiet before talks at COP28 grow even more intense. Negotiators will work to finalize a key document called the Global Stocktake.
It evaluates the world’s climate change progress since the 2015 Paris agreement and what needs to be done now to avoid blowing past its goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to preindustrial times.
“You start off very hopeful, euphoria,” COP28 CEO Annan Amin said. “Things are happening. Then the negotiations get hard and people start spreading rumors and conjecture and a little bit of depression, and then things start to come up again. And the clarity of the negotiations process becomes clearer. Then you have the political engagement, and that’s where the real intensity and excitement comes from.”
A draft of the Global Stocktake was already circulating before Thursday’s rest day, although it was packed full of so many possibilities that it’s far from clear what the final document will say. Now it’s up to global leaders to haggle over what the future should look like and whether there should be a commitment to phase out oil, coal and natural gas—as climate activists, many experts and some nations say—or something softer.
Professional negotiators who have been working on getting options into shape will turn over their work to senior national officials, many at minister levels, who will have to make the tough political choices. A new draft with amendments should be ready for leaders early Friday morning.
EU countries, along with small island countries—oft-victimized by climate change—and some progressive Latin American countries are aligned on calling for a phase-out of fossil fuels, negotiators said. While there will be strong resistance to this measure, officials are confident references to fossil fuels will appear in the final text for the first time and within a timeline compatible with UN science reports.
Representatives for poor nations and climate advocates are putting a lot of pressure on negotiators for the fossil fuel sections.
“The success of COP28 will not depend on speeches from big stages,” said Uganda climate activist Vanessa Nakate. “It will depend on leaders calling for a just and equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels without exceptions and distractions.”
Meanwhile, headway was made Thursday on deciding the conference hosts for next year’s COP29 after Azerbaijan and Armenia released a joint statement agreeing to work toward a peace treaty. It said that Armenia supports Azerbaijan’s bid to host the talks by withdrawing its own candidacy.
Countries had been unable to agree on an eastern European host for next year’s climate summit with Russia vetoing European Union countries and Azerbaijan and Armenia refusing each other’s bids. A decision on the meeting’s location and presidency is due within the next week.
Away from negotiations, Friday’s theme at the climate conference was youth day, with organizers calling it vital for young people to take part in climate activism because they’ll be most affected by the decisions at COP28. Activists are expected to ramp up calls for stronger action Friday and into the weekend.
Notably absent will be climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is skipping the conference. Thunberg, who does not fly because of the carbon pollution it emits, criticized its location earlier this year in a major oil-producing country.
Image credits: AP/Peter Dejong