NAT 231211 António Guterres VSAKLANI-6-1702284586929
UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressing media at COP28 in Dubai on Monday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The success of COP28 lies in parties reaching a consensus on fossil fuel phase-out, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on the penultimate day of the UN climate conference in Dubai on Monday.

“The COP covers many aspects and it depends on the global balance,” Guterres said while responding to questions from the media.

“But a central aspect, in my opinion, of the success of the COP, will be for the COP to reach a consensus on the need to phase out fossil fuels in line with a time framework that is in line with the 1.5 degree limits.”

He said that doesn’t mean that all countries must immediately phase out fossil fuels at the same time.

The phased-out approach to fossil fuel abatement must align globally with achieving net zero by 2050 and staying within the 1.5-degree temperature rise limit. He said the “principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)” is applied here.

CBDR refers to principle of international environmental law establishing that all states are responsible for addressing global environmental destruction yet not equally responsible.

“As we approach the finish line for COP 28, my main message is clear—We must conclude COP28 with an ambitious outcome that demonstrates decisive action and a credible plan to keep 1.5 alive and protect those on the frontlines of the climate crisis. We can't keep kicking the can down the road. We are out of the road and almost out of time,” Guterres said.

Minutes to midnight

“We are in a race against time…Our planet is minutes to midnight for the 1.5 degree limit. And the clock keeps ticking,” the UN chief warned.

As the COP 28 is scheduled to wrap up tomorrow, he said there are still large gaps that need to be bridged. “Now is the time for maximum ambition and maximum flexibility.”

The UN chief said ministers and negotiators must move beyond arbitrary red lines, entrenched positions and blocking tactics.

“It's time to go into overdrive to negotiate in good faith and rise to the challenge set by COP President Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber. It's time to seek compromise for solutions without compromising on the science or compromising on the needs for the highest ambition.”

In our fractured and divided world, he said COP28 can show that multilateralism remains our best hope to tackle global challenges. “Specifically, I ask Parties to ensure maximum ambition on two fronts. First, ambition on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Second ambition on delivering climate justice.”

Balancing the acts

He said the Gobal Stocktake must offer a clear plan for the tripling of renewables and doubling of energy efficiency, and called for a single minded focus on tackling the root cause of the climate crisis—fossil fuel production and consumption.

While transformation will not happen overnight, the UN chief pointed out that decarbonisation will create millions of decent new jobs but governments must also ensure support, training and social protection for those who may be negatively impacted.

At the same time, he said the needs of developing countries highly dependent on the production of fossil fuels must also be addressed.

However, the UN Chief reiterated that it is essential that the Global Stocktake recognises the need to phase out all fossil fuels on a timeframe consistent with 1. 5 degree level and to accelerate a just, equitable and orderly energy transition for all.

He said it should be a transition that takes into account the principle of (CBDR) and reflective capabilities in light of national circumstances—not to reduce ambition, but to combine ambition and equity.

Climate solidarity pact

“That is the reason I proposed the Climate Solidarity Pact – in which big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions and wealthier countries support emerging economies to be able to do so.”

While the timelines and targets might be different for countries at different levels of development, Guterres said all must be consistent with achieving global net zero by 2050 and preserving the 1.5 degree goal.

He cited that COP28 began with two encouraging steps—agreement to operationalise the Loss of Damage Fund and the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund and now it is for more ambition on climate justice

“It is a start but much more is needed.”

Call for increased capital

Guterres made a call for increased capital citing that “many developing countries are drowning in debt, have no fiscal space, and are churning in climate chaos.”

“We need increased capital and reform of the business model of multilateral development banks to massively increase direct support – and leverage far more private finance at reasonable costs for developing countries’ climate action efforts…and we need far more adaptation ambition.”

The UN chief said COP28 must send clear signals that governments have grasped the scale of the adaptation challenge, and that it is a priority not just for developing countries, but the entire world.

“I welcome the emerging consensus for a new framework on adaptation with a set of measurable targets to propel action. But a framework, without the means of implementation, is like a car without wheels.”

The doubling of adaptation finance to $40 billion dollars by 2025 must be an initial step towards allocating at least half of all climate finance towards adaptation, said Guterres.

He said the next two years are crucial for two reasons: first, to set a robust global climate finance goal post-2025, addressing the urgency of the climate crisis; and second, for governments to develop comprehensive, 1.5-degree-aligned national climate action plans covering all greenhouse gases.

“Governments must leave Dubai with a clear understanding of what is required between now and COP30 in Brazil.”