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COP28: Global stocktake negotiations shift towards fossil fuel phase-out and role of carbon capture

Almost halfway through the UN climate change conference, the draft of the global stocktake contains “the ingredients for an ambitious outcome”.
Melodie Michel
COP28: Global stocktake negotiations
COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber (Image by Junktuner, CC BY-SA 4.0)

A new draft of the global stocktake includes language around the phase-out of fossil fuels and the role of carbon capture and storage in achieving net zero emissions – contentious issues to be negotiated by global ministers in the second week of COP28.

Almost halfway through the UN climate change conference in Dubai, a new draft text for the global stocktake to be agreed upon by governments by December 12 was released early this morning – with “the ingredients for an ambitious outcome”, according to Tom Evans, Policy Advisor at climate think tank E3G.

“We can see some of the elements that we would need by the entities at COP to ensure that the overall outcome in response to the global stocktake really delivers concrete, specific action across all of the areas of the Paris agreement to really drive much more action in response to the the gaps to the market that we're seeing right now,” he said in a press briefing.

Fossil fuel phase-out strategy likely to be included

On the issue of fossil fuels, the text includes the option for “an orderly and just phase out of fossil fuels” (wording that was pushed primarily by Latin American and small island nations) or “accelerating efforts towards phasing out unabated fossil fuels and to rapidly reducing their use”, the option preferred by the EU, according to observers. 

Read also: The three F's of COP28 - Part 1: Fossil fuels

There is also a third option of “no text” if countries fail to agree on the subject. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister has already signalled that he would not agree to a text with the mention of a fossil fuel phase-down, and the President of COP28, Sultan Al-Jaber, is in the midst of controversy for saying there is “no science” behind the call for a phase-out – though he has since declared that a phase-out “is inevitable”.

Experts believe it is unlikely that the final stocktake agreement doesn’t include a fossil fuel strategy. 

“I don't think we're going to leave Dubai without some clear language and some clear direction on shifting away from fossil fuels. So I think there's no doubt that that will be in a text when we leave here in some fashion, what fashion that is is still what will have to be negotiated,” noted David Waskow, Director of International Climate Action at the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Clarifying the role of carbon capture and storage

The most likely option at this stage is to include wording on the phase-out of “unabated” fossil fuels, which means fuels extracted without taking measures to capture emissions – and this is another area of contention in the draft.

The text currently says parties should take action this decade to “substantially scale up globally by 2030 zero and low-emission technologies, including abatement and removal technologies, including carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and low-carbon hydrogen production”, but makes no mention on limitations for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

Even if CCS capacity expanded 120 times from current levels, it would only remove 4.2 gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per annum – yet the latest Emissions Gap Report notes that the world needs to cut emissions by at least 16 gigatonnes by 2030.

“I think if ‘unabated’ language is there, then the language that is there on carbon capture has to be a significant concern in the negotiations.There's currently no indication of limitation on the role of CCS or how its use should be focused. The EU in its ministerial council conclusion several weeks ago, made very clear that they think that the role of CCS should be quite clearly delimited and focused on hard-to.abate sectors such as cement. And that language is not currently there. So that is an important space to watch and a critical question for the negotiations,” added Waskow.

For observers, an agreement on phasing out unabated fossil fuels, reducing their use and leveraging carbon capture technology in a limited manner would be “a very good option coming out of this COP”. 

Negotiations will accelerate in the coming week as ministers arrive in Dubai to finalise the global stocktake agreement.