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Gore: COP28 on “Verge of Complete Failure” as Pact Omits Fossil Fuel Phaseout

“[T]his obsequious draft reads as if OPEC dictated it word for word,” the former vice president wrote.

Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States, speaks onstage at The New York Times Climate Forward Summit 2023 at The Times Center on September 21, 2023, in New York City.

Former Vice President and climate advocate Al Gore is warning that the UN climate summit COP28 is now “on the verge of complete failure” after leaders of the summit published a draft agreement that omitted a call for phasing out fossil fuels — without which it is impossible to meaningfully mitigate the climate crisis.

In a scathing statement on social media on Monday, Gore warned that the conference, meant to bring the world together to work against climate catastrophe, has been captured by the very fossil fuel interests that are behind the crisis.

“COP28 is now on the verge of complete failure,” Gore wrote. “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 even worse than many had feared. It is ‘Of the Petrostates, By the Petrostates and For the Petrostates.’”

Tuesday was supposed to be the last day of COP28, but the conference is now in overtime with no agreement in sight and many negotiators opposed to the draft for its weakness, including U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.

“There are 24 hours left to show whose side the world is on: the side that wants to protect humanity’s future by kickstarting the orderly phase out of fossil fuels or the side of the petrostates and the leaders of the oil and gas companies that are fueling the historic climate catastrophe,” Gore said. “In order to prevent COP28 from being the most embarrassing and dismal failure in 28 years of international climate negotiations, the final text must include clear language on phasing out fossil fuels.”

The draft was released Monday by the president of this year’s conference, the United Arab Emirates, and called for a reduction in “consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner” rather than a phase out. It also doesn’t mention the words “oil” or “natural gas,” and lacks strong commitments for wealthy countries, as a UN news update pointed out.

This year’s conference has already been under strong scrutiny due to the host country’s status as a petrostate, which climate advocates said would severely compromise the negotiations. Indeed, shortly before the conference began, a bombshell report revealed that COP28 President and CEO of UAE’s state-owned oil company Sultan al-Jaber were using meetings with world leaders ahead of the conference to strike deals for oil and gas sales.

Climate activists have been furious over the draft text, with protesters standing outside the conference chanting, “this text is bullshit,” per Politico.

In a joint statement released Tuesday, a group of over 50 climate justice organizations condemned the failure of the conference thus far to deliver on climate and incorporate the voices of marginalized communities, which are on the frontlines of the crisis. The statement was signed by groups like Corporate Accountability, 350.org, Indigenous Environmental Network and Friends of the Earth International.

“The words ‘fossil fuels’ in a text are meaningless if the rest of those pages are riddled with loopholes that not only enable but exacerbate the era of fossil fuels. Climate action is weakened if those who are most responsible are not held to account to lead by example. A phaseout is useless without the tools needed to actually achieve it. Climate action is pointless if it condemns billions to death and destruction,” the groups wrote. “COP28, now in overtime, risks setting a death trap for communities around the world.”

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