An initial analysis of the text shows it is unfavourable towards climate vulnerable countries who were looking for a clear commitment to a fossil fuel phaseout. Photo by COP28 / Christopher Pike/UNFCCC/Flickr

COP28: New GST text pushes for a rapid phase down of coal, but recognises need to increase climate finance

India, China likely to push back on text’s language on coal; climate vulnerable countries unhappy as text has no mention of fossil fuel phaseout

The latest iteration of the Global Stocktake Text (GST) was released late on Monday—the penultimate day of COP28. The text will now be opened up to yet another round of consultations with the hope of moving closer to a consensus among countries. The chances of this, however, appears slim with the text still running into over 200 paragraphs.

An initial analysis of the text shows it is unfavourable towards climate vulnerable countries who were looking for a clear commitment to a fossil fuel phaseout. The text did not have any mention of a fossil fuel phase out or phase down, rather sticking to language that could include a reduction of production and consumption of unabated fossil fuels with a “so as to achieve net zero by, before, or around 2050.” It is unclear what the net zero here refers to, with no indication if it refers to emissions.

“The latest Global Stocktake text on fossil fuels represents a significant regression from previous versions. Astonishingly, it has dropped explicit language on phasing out fossil fuels, opting instead for a vague commitment to ‘reduce both consumption and production’ by 2050. This is a clear indication of the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying power, influencing global policies to favour prolonged fossil fuel use,” said Harjeet Singh, Head – Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International.

Instead, there was a mention of a phasing down of unabated coal and limitations on permitting new and unabated coal power generation. This line in particular is expected to find stiff opposition from China and India.

“The updated GST text furthers the differential treatment meted to the developing south and the developed world. Fossil fuels have to be only ‘reduced’ in a just, orderly and equitable manner, while unabated coal has to be ‘rapidly’ phased down and there need to be limitations on new and unabated coal power generation. There is no need for a just and orderly transition for coal. It will be a surprise if this language is not contested heavily by the global south in the final stages of the negotiations process,” said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Fellow, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

A few days before COP28, India had announced it was looking to revive its underground coal mines in a bid to boost production to meet the country’s increasing energy demands. 

On climate finance, the text notes the lack of definitional clarity. The text recalls Article 4.5 of the Paris Agreement, which says that ‘support shall be provided to developing country Parties’. It also notes deep regret that the $100 billion climate finance goal had not been met. It urges for the goal to be met by 2025 and calls for better coordination between developed parties in doing so.

While the text is around 11,500 words long, there is no mention of oil and gas anywhere, which has shocked many. “Unstoppable oil and gas emissions needed to stop – and conducted in a petro state as it is, this text gives no confidence in lifting the climate’s sinking ship by only targeting draw down of coal,” said Aarti Khosla, director, Climate Trends.

COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber is keen for the text to be finalised before noon on Tuesday, but that target seems highly unlikely. “In the remaining time under the COP28, we need leaders to urgently come together to agree on an unequivocal way forward on just clean energy transitions — fossil fuel phase out around mid-century, faster coal phase out, and tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency by 2030. This needs to be backed by credible, affordable finance and demonstrated intent to act,” said Madhura Joshi, India Lead, E3G.