UN Climate Talks Enter Critical Stage for Negotiations on a Fossil Fuel Phaseout

Statements by Drs. Rachel Cleetus and Delta Merner, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Dec 8, 2023

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As world leaders gather for the second week of negotiations at the annual United Nations climate talks—COP28—all eyes are on whether countries will be able to secure a historic global agreement to phase out fossil fuels, the primary driver of human-caused climate change. As negotiators attempt to bridge differences to reach consensus, key questions remain about whether the final agreement will be aligned with what is scientifically necessary to limit climate change, including clear and ambitious timelines, robust and equitable financing for a clean energy transition, and guardrails against loopholes.

Experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) are tracking overall progress on the Global Stocktake negotiations, including on the energy package, climate finance, and Loss and Damage. They are also monitoring how fossil fuel industry influence is showing up in negotiations, following news last week that the number fossil fuel industry lobbyists at the Dubai COP is greater than nearly every country delegation.

Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and a lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“It’s crunch time at COP28 and world leaders have a historic opportunity to secure a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels in line with what the science shows is necessary to meet critical climate goals. Countries must take bold action and rise above narrow self-interest and zero-sum political games, as well as the influence of fossil fuel companies, to deliver what people around the world urgently need as climate impacts rapidly worsen. The United States is among the nations that must play a key role in helping to secure a robust agreement and overcome resistance from laggards like Saudi Arabia. The time is now, and the place is Dubai, to finally address the root cause of this global crisis: fossil fuels.”

Below is a statement by Dr. Delta Merner, lead scientist at the Science Hub for Climate Litigation at UCS.

“Any credible attempt to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees necessitates explicit inclusion of a fossil fuel phaseout in the final agreement. In addition to climate benefits, phasing out fossil fuels will have extensive benefits for both our environment and health, helping protect the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Together, this irrefutable science points to why a phaseout of fossil fuels is urgently needed. We can’t afford to allow the fossil fuel industry, the primary contributor to climate change, to impede the transition to renewable energy through their ongoing disinformation campaigns and greenwashing tactics. It’s imperative that at COP28, nations acknowledge the urgent need for a fossil fuel phaseout, aligning with our commitment to a healthier planet and a sustainable future for all.”