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Climate groups demand COP28 aims for formal energy transition deal

COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber is head of UAE oil giant ADNOC
— Paris (AFP)

Around 100 climate campaign groups warned COP28 organisers Monday that success of critical upcoming talks in Dubai rests on whether countries can negotiate a formal agreement to replace polluting fossil fuels with clean power.

Published two weeks before the conference in oil-rich United Arab Emirates, the open letter from groups led by Oil Change International and expressed alarm that the hosts of the UN talks could be positioning to accept a watered-down outcome.

The letter to COP28 incoming president Sultan Al Jaber said the success of the conference will ultimately "be judged by whether it secures an agreement on a comprehensive energy package".

The centrepiece of the November 30 to December 12 climate meeting will be a "stocktake" of the world's progress so far on meeting the Paris Agreement's ambitious goal of curbing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era.

The world is currently far off track and now faces the daunting challenge of cutting carbon emissions almost in half this decade while also coping with increasingly ferocious and costly climate disasters.

The organisations said failure to agree to slash energy sector emissions in line with scientific advice and to negotiate a "phase out of fossil fuels would have a major impact both on the world's most vulnerable populations and ecosystems and on the credibility of this process".

- 'Correct course' -

Signatory climate groups, which also included Greenpeace, Climate Action Network and the Union of Concerned Scientists, called for formal agreement on a set of energy priorities.

These include "an immediate end to fossil fuel expansion and an urgent decline in fossil fuel production and use this decade" and ultimately a phase out of the oil, gas and coal responsible for most of the planet-heating greenhouse gas pollution.

It also echoed the COP28 priorities of tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency, while calling for a "monumental scaling up" of finance from rich countries to support those in the developing world.

"If this is the COP to 'correct course' and 'keep 1.5C alive' as you have declared is your priority, all of these elements will need to be part of its formal decision," said the letter to Jaber.

The climate groups said they were "gravely concerned" that Jaber's recent letter to the nearly 200 parties to the UN climate process "signals a shift in tone and a noticeable lowering of ambition on the energy package".

Observers have raised concerns that the UAE climate envoy might be planning to shunt more contentious issues out of the formally negotiated text -- agreed by hard-fought consensus -- and into flimsier voluntary pledges.

Jaber wrote that he was planning to push for a "high ambition outcome" in his letter to parties, inviting countries to join a pledge endorsing the global tripling of renewables and doubling of energy efficiency "and to come to COP with tangible commitments to realize this goal".