Though the final text released by the COP28 Presidency (UAE) has no landmark decisions in it, mention of phasing out of fossil fuels (as opposed to only coal), emphasis on the need for adaptation finance and recognition of the lack of it, and some promise of money — even if inadequate — for the ‘loss and damage’ fund, are seen as broadly positive for countries like India. 

COP28 latest: Draft final deal calls for fossil fuel transition

An attempt has been made to balance the interests of developing and developed countries. While the text mentions the need to “accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power” -- a negative for India – it also calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels” and “phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions.” 

Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, a Delhi-based firm engaged in climate advocacy and capacity building, said this is “the first time that there is recognition of transitioning away from fossil fuels in a COP text -- essentially meaning slashing not just coal, but also oil and gas.” 

However, experts such as R R Rashmi, Distinguished Fellow, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), who has been India’s negotiator in previous editions of COP, sees a “tilt against developing countries” in the different language used for fossil fuels and coal. While a “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems” should be done “in a just, orderly and equitable manner”, there is no such ‘softening’ in the case of coal. 

Furthermore, the text “recognises that transitional fuels can play a role in facilitating the energy transition, while ensuring energy security”. This, to some observers like Harjeet Singh, Head, Global Political Strategy at the Climate Action Network, is not good. “The resolution is marred by loopholes that offer the fossil fuel industry numerous escape routes,” Singh said.  Khosla notes that “in an effort to please the major emitters,” the COP28 final text “gives a free pass to (natural) gas” by terming it ‘transitional’ fuel”, even though gas contributes to CO2 emissions. 

Yet, from an Indian point of view, there are some positives in the text. For example, recognition of the need for tripling global renewable energy and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements, is a call that India spearheaded at the G-20 meetings — though India did not sign the relevant pledge at COP28, because of its opposition to references to coal.  

Then, there is a palpable emphasis on ‘adaptation’ (coping with climate events that cannot be avoided), which is important for developing countries. Further, there is emphasis on inadequacy of finance flows from the rich to other countries, a repeated call to meet the pledge for mobilising $100 billion every year, and a notable emphasis on “grant-based” and “highly concessional” finance. Developing countries can take heart from these goodies. 

The text has also noted “with alarm and serious concern” the findings of the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that human activities “have unequivocally caused global warming of about 1.1 degrees C.” The target is to limit global warming by 1.5 degrees.