The COP28 draft deal has been released

A draft of the final agreement for COP28 was just released, and it’s already getting pushback.

The COP28 draft deal has been released
United Arab Emirates Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during a press conference at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 10, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

The backstory: It’s widely considered reliable science that we have to cut down on fossil fuel use to keep the Earth from heating 1.5 C higher than pre-industrial temperatures. The farther we go over this threshold, the more extreme the effects of climate change will become, making the world more dangerous and difficult to survive in. To reach this goal, the UN has recommended that the world achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. One way to help with this is by phasing out fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources.

More recently: We’ve been keeping our eyes on the COP28 conference, which started on November 30, and the past two weeks have been dominated by one question: does the world plan on completely phasing out fossil fuels or not? With the UAE, a major oil producer and OPEC member, hosting the conference and choosing Sultan Al-Jaber as its president, there’s been controversy over a possible conflict of interest. Before the conference began, it was reported that the UAE planned to use it as an opportunity to build fossil fuel deals with 15 other countries. Then, a video spread of Al-Jaber saying there’s “no science” behind the calls to cut out fossil fuels to limit global warming. As the conference has gone forward, many oil and fossil fuel producers have been trying to negotiate away from a total fossil fuel phase-out plan – even as many scientists, activists and other countries have insisted on one.

The development: A draft of the final agreement for COP28 was just released, and it’s already getting pushback. Although the draft, if it goes through, would be the first specifically addressing all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, it doesn’t include language for phasing them out. Instead, it emphasizes “reducing” dependency and focusing on tripling renewable energy sources. Some see the draft as a sign of progress because it represents a compromise from countries opposed to phasing out fossil fuels. But critics say it doesn’t go far enough in addressing climate change. Another criticism is that the language in the text is vague and doesn’t “send the clear signals that are needed” to solve climate change. Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said that Germany can’t support the draft. And, on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told negotiators that we need to “stop kicking the can down the road” when it comes to effective climate action. COP28 ends on Tuesday, and any deal made has to get a unanimous vote from all UN member-states. 

Key comments:

“The COP28 presidency has been clear from the beginning about our ambitions,” A spokesperson for the COP presidency said. “This text reflects those ambitions and is a huge step forward. Now it is in the hands of the parties, who we trust to do what is best for humanity and the planet.”

“COP28 is now on the verge of complete failure. The world desperately needs to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but this obsequious draft reads as if OPEC dictated it word for word,” said former US Vice President and noted climate activist Al Gore. “It is even worse than many had feared.”


“We have made progress, but we still have a lot to do. You know what remains to be agreed. And you know that I want you to deliver the highest ambition on all items including on fossil fuel language," COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber said.

“This is the first COP where the word ‘fossil fuels’ are actually included in the draft decision,” said Mohamed Adow, the director of Power Shift Africa. “This is the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.”