Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 13, 2023


Jean Su, +1 (415) 770-3187,

First Ever ‘Fossil Fuel’ Decision at COP28 Climate Summit Falters on Phaseout

Agreement Includes Cavernous Loopholes for Oil, Gas

DUBAI— The United Nations climate summit ended in Dubai today with the first ever commitment to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems but fell short of calling for an unequivocal phaseout of oil, gas and coal.

In the final text, countries agreed to accelerate the transition of energy systems this decade and triple renewable energy globally to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. At the same time, the decision contained loopholes that allow the fossil fuel industry to proliferate.

“At long last the loud calls to end fossil fuels have landed on paper in black and white at this COP, but cavernous loopholes threaten to undermine this breakthrough moment,” said Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “While this agreement offers faint guidelines toward a clean energy transition, it falls far short of the transformational action we need.”

The close of COP28 comes as the United States is leading the world in oil and gas production, exports and fossil fuel expansion. A recent Center for Biological Diversity analysis found that fossil fuel projects approved by the Biden administration threaten to erase the climate emissions progress from the Inflation Reduction Act and other climate policies.

In engaging with advocates over the course of the COP28 summit, the U.S. State Department moved to support a global fossil fuel phasedown by 2030 and a phaseout by 2050. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry warned against the “great façade” of carbon capture and storage, a risky technology that the COP28 agreement promotes.

“This agreement contains major industry escape hatches for disastrous gas expansion, plastics proliferation and dangerous climate scams like carbon capture and storage,” said Su. “It also fails to offer both the needed financial support to developing countries and meaningful commitment from rich countries to move first. Getting ‘fossil fuels’ into the final decision is a win in process, but not in the practical fight for survival of life on Earth.”

Low-lying nations and civil society have played a key role in driving fossil fuels to the focal point of climate negotiations. In September, the Center and allies organized the largest climate mobilization since the COVID pandemic in the United States and around the world.

“People power has gotten us here and the momentum is stronger than ever,” said Su. “The fight to end oil, gas and coal must now be taken up at the country level with the United States leading the way by halting new fossil fuel project approvals and setting a strong nationally determined contribution for next year’s COP29.”

The actions on fossil fuels included in the COP28 agreement are designed to be part of all parties’ updated nationally determined contributions, a global pledge of how each country will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The national pledges are due in 2025.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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