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COP28: sticking points remain on fossil fuels as talks near crunch time

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Negotiators are urged to narrow down their options in order to agree on how to save the planet from disastrous levels of warming and help vulnerable societies adapt to weather extremes.


“Now is the time to shift gears and get to consensus,” COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber said in a plenary session late Saturday. The president remained determined for the talks to finish on Tuesday as planned, although previous climate summits have run well past their end dates.

There some were signs negotiators were moving forward on Sunday: A new draft agreement on global adaptation goals – which will determine how poor countries will brace themselves for climate change-fueled weather extremes like drought, heat and storms – was released.

The draft text expresses concern over the gap between the money needed for adaptation and how much countries are getting, but it doesn’t say exactly how much cash countries need to adapt to climate change.

One option in the draft proposes an assessment of each country’s vulnerability to climate change by 2025 and to establish early warning systems for extreme weather events by 2027. Another option is for countries to come up with national adaptation plans and implement them by 2030.

The new draft “presents the skeleton of what could be a reasonable framework” on how to adapt to climate change, said Ana Mulio Alvarez of climate think tank E3G, but to be effective, adapting to climate change “requires developed countries to provide support to developing countries” to enact plans.

Mohamed Adow of climate think tank Power Shift Africa said that the draft “sets clear targets, but overall the text is weak” as it doesn’t adequately address how to finance adaptation.

Thibyan Ibrahim from the Small Islands Developing States negotiating bloc called the progress on adaptation “a bit disappointing.”

A draft text on the Global Stocktake – the part of the negotiations that assesses where the world is at with curbing warming and how countries can stick to climate goals – was still stuffed with several options over how to phase out planet-warming fossil fuels.

Shantal Munro-Knight, a climate negotiator for Barbados, said the motivation to get a strong deal among countries was high.

“I don’t think anyone wants to go away from the COP without an ambitious program, and that’s where I think everybody is. You didn’t hear negative pushback too much because we are all in that moment,” Munro-Knight said.

But Marshall Islands Climate Envoy Tina Stege acknowledged “there is a lot more work that needs to be done. The presidency has a lot on its plate and we don’t have a lot of time.”

Sticking points are along familiar lines for negotiators, with some countries wanting to see strong language on phasing out the use of fossil fuel while others are hesitant to have forceful language on the issue because they’re continuing to develop their oil, gas or coal industries.

“It’s very clear that there is a group of countries here that don’t want to phase out fossil fuels,” said German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan. Small island states, Latin American countries and European countries are pushing for a phase-out, but other nations are “still far apart.”

“It’s going to be very difficult,” Morgan said. “I’m a bit worried.”

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