World

Cop28 draft deal ‘does not meet the test’, says US climate envoy

John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for climate, leaves talks at the Cop28 UN Climate Summit (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)
John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for climate, leaves talks at the Cop28 UN Climate Summit (Rafiq Maqbool/AP) John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for climate, leaves talks at the Cop28 UN Climate Summit (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

US climate envoy John Kerry says the language on fossil fuels for a proposed deal to halt global warming at the Cop28 summit in Dubai “does not meet the test”.

Negotiators worked deep into the night at the United Nations climate talks, but several countries have expressed concerns the proposed text falls far short of goals.

The latest draft of what is known as the global stocktake, released on Monday, called for countries to reduce “consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner”.

In a closed-door meeting late on Monday, some country delegation chiefs said Cop28 president Sultan al-Jaber’s frequently calling the goal to limit warming to 1.5C since pre-industrial times his “north star” as missing its target.

COP28 Climate Summit
COP28 Climate Summit Cop28 president Sultan al-Jaber walks as negotiations continue (Peter Dejong/AP)

The Cop28 president said: “We have a text and we need to agree on the text.

“The time for discussion is coming to an end and there’s no time for hesitation. The time to decide is now.”

He added: “We must still close many gaps. We don’t have time to waste.”

Norway minister Espen Barth Eide said: “It is not enough to say 1.5, we have to do 1.5. We have to deliver accordingly.”

Mr Kerry, who was confronted by climate activists as he left the meeting, described the pursuit of the 1.5C target as a “war of survival”.

“I, like most of you here, refuse to be part of a charade” of not phasing out fossil fuels, he said.

Some Pacific Island nations argued the text amounted to a death sentence.

“For us this is a matter of survival. We cannot put loopholes in our children’s futures,” said Tuvalu’s delegation chief Seve Paeniu, who added the proposed text “doesn’t even come close to delivering 1.5 as a north star”.

Cedric Schuster of Samoa, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States, said its members felt their voices were not being heard.

“We will not sign our death certificate,” he said. “We cannot sign on to text that does not have strong commitments on phasing out fossil fuels.

“We have been asked throughout this process, what is at stake if these negotiations do not return a strong outcome that keeps 1.5 alive. How can you not understand – it is our very survival that is at stake?”

He said: “Our red line is a strong commitment to keeping the 1.5C warming limit. Any text that compromises 1.5 will be rejected.”

In the 21-page document, the words oil and natural gas did not appear, and the word coal appeared twice.

It also had a single mention of carbon capture, a technology touted by some to reduce emissions although it is untested at scale.

Zhao Yingmin, China’s vice minister for ecology and environment, said at the meeting that “the draft fails to address the concerns of developing countries on some key issues” and in particular the idea that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025.

Saudi Arabia’s Noura Alissa said the deal “must work for all”.

She said: “It must be relevant, it must make to sense to accelerate action for every single country in this room, not some over others.”

Former US vice president and climate activist Al Gore posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the summit was “on the verge of complete failure”.

He said: “The world desperately needs to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but this obsequious draft reads as if Opec dictated it word for word.

“It is deeply offensive to all who have taken this process seriously.”

The talks are due to end on Tuesday, when a revised text is expected to be presented, but many observers expect it to run over.