Climate and Environment

Groups say COP28 deal a start, but not enough for climate-vulnerable nations

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Groups say COP28 deal a start, but not enough for climate-vulnerable nations
Climate activists raise placards during a protest against fossil fuels during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai on December 12, 2023.
AFP/Giuseppe Cacace

MANILA, Philippines (Update 1: December 14, 11:39 a.m.) — The deal struck at the COP28 climate summit was seen as the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era, but campaigners from at-risk countries like the Philippines stressed that far more action is needed to avert the worst impacts of climate change. 

After two weeks of intense negotiations, nearly 200 nations meeting in Dubai approved Wednesday an agreement that, for the first time, calls for a “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner.”

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber hailed the deal as bringing “transformational change” on climate. 

The agreement also called for expanding action “in this critical decade” and recommits to no net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in hopes of meeting the goal of limiting global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

The planet has already warmed by 1.2 degrees, leading to record-breaking temperatures, and intensifying storms and heatwaves.

“The silver lining from COP28 is that it’s sent an unprecedented signal to the world that the curtain has been raised for the end of the fossil fuel era,” Greenpeace Philippines senior campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin said. 

“But communities in the Philippines and around the world on the frontline of the climate catastrophe need more than this,” she added. 

‘Energy transition can’t be delayed’

While there were improvements in the agreement from a widely-criticized draft, the text did not call for a phase-out of planet-warming fossil fuels that many, including Filipino campaigners, were pushing for. 

“The new text still falls short of what is the only acceptable action—a rapid, full, and equitable fossil fuel phaseout in line with 1.5°C,” Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development executive director Gerry Arances said. 

“The energy transition required by science cannot be put off. The world’s most vulnerable peoples do not have the luxury to let go of a fast-closing window to keep our future livable. We already have one foot in the grave,” he added. 


Over 100 member states supported the call for a phase-out of oil, gas and coal, but faced strong opposition from oil producers led by Saudi Arabia.

Filipino campaigners had repeatedly called on the Philippine delegation at COP28 to actively advocate for a swift and equitable fossil fuel phase-out. 

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, convenor of Youth Advocates for Climate Action, challenged the Philippine government to support the push of small island states—whose very existence is threatened by climate change—for a “fossil fuel phase-out that’s fair, funded, and led by the Global North.”

The Dubai text also called for tripling the world’s renewable energy capacity and doubling energy capacity by 2030. More than 130 countries, including the Philippines, signed on to a voluntary pledge to do just this, a move that campaigners said should translate to ditching coal and gas. 

Loopholes, lack of finance

Campaigners cautioned the agreement is full of loopholes, “false solutions” such as nuclear energy, and unproven technologies like carbon capture and storage. 

Observers also raised concerns that the call to move away from fossil fuels is limited to the energy sector, leaving out reference to polluting plastics and fertilizers. 

“There are signals towards fossil fuels needing to be replaced by clean energy by 2050, the need to be in line with science and to be equitable, and to ensure adaptation is there, but [the deal] does not even invite countries to peak emissions by 2025 or to ensure that finance flows in,” Tan said. 

Greenpeace’s Benosa-Llorin said that many rich countries need to significantly step up financial support for poorer countries bearing the brunt of climate impacts. 

“The Philippine government should rally around this demand to ensure that there is money for communities and local government units that are reeling from climate impacts, and that climate polluters are held accountable for the harms they’ve caused,” she said.

Aksyon Klima Pilipinas executive director John Leo Algo stressed even if the COP28 decision text does not include a fossil fuel phase-out, it does not mean it will happen.

“The science is clear: ending humankind’s toxic relationship with fossil fuels is a necessity if we want to avoid higher loss and damage and other catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis,” Algo said.

“No matter how any country or fossil fuel corporation tries to delay it or even dispute it, the phaseout is inevitable,” he added. — with report from Agence France-Presse 

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