COP28 climate ambition must include a clear decision to phase-out fossil fuels, and establish a global target for renewable energy, says WWF

Posted on 03 May 2023

In an open letter, WWF's Manuel Pulgar-Vidal calls on leaders to accelerate progress on three key areas of climate action.
As the world scrambles to address the climate challenge, 2023 is hopefully the year when global climate ambition gets real and realistic. A series of high level political meetings scheduled for this year will provide an opportunity for world leaders to establish a high benchmark for the first Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement, a check-point on how we are doing.

All indications until now are that we are nowhere near where we need to be in terms of reducing global emissions to hold global warming to 1.5°C. That is the global surface temperature at which we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change, say scientists.

The annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue, happening this week, is one such event where leaders are discussing how to accelerate lagging climate action. WWF has written to co-host German Chancellor Olaf Scholz with some ideas.

In the letter, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Lead, and himself a former Minister of Environment for Peru and COP20 President, underscores the need for a global ‘course correction’ on climate ambition.

‘There are three key areas which, I believe, should be foundation stones for a course correction on climate ambition. They are phasing-out fossil fuels and accelerating decarbonization of the energy system; finance for climate action, specifically funding for Loss and Damage, and finally, ensuring the next round of national climate plans (NDCs or Nationally Determined Contributions) due in 2025 must include revised targets - for 2030 and new targets and 2035 - and these must be aligned with equitably limiting warming to 1.5˚C and building resilience.’

Phasing out fossil fuels cannot be delayed

Pulgar-Vidal says since 2021 when the Glasgow Climate Pact was agreed at COP26, the days of fossil fuels have been numbered. ‘Parties agreed that year to ‘accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power, and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.’ At COP27 held last year, a coalition of 80 countries proposed a joint declaration to call for the phase-out of fossil fuels. That proposal was ultimately not accepted, but the clamour to pick this up again for COP28 has just grown louder and stronger, he notes.

‘We believe that decisions at COPs should build on past ones in terms of ambition, so we expect a reference to phase out all fossil fuels in the decisions this year to respond to the science and keep 1.5˚C within reach. 

‘Equally important, but not a substitute for a strong political signal on phasing out fossil fuels, will be establishing a target for renewable energy, as well as targets for energy access and energy efficiency,’ he says.

Both the UNFCCC Mitigation Work Programme, with a focus on solutions and implementation, and the future Just Transition Work Programme, with a focus on social aspects, governance, participation and equity, could support achieving the energy-related outcomes that will move the needle on the climate crisis, says Pulgar-Vidal.

Finance for climate action 

Finance remains the key enabler of all climate action, especially for those countries most impacted by climate change. So whatever actions are decided, they are worthless without funding attached, says Pulgar-Vidal.

‘In this context, the decision at COP27 to establish a process for discussing Loss and Damage funding arrangements is indeed progress. But we need substantial funding. Such an act of solidarity with the most vulnerable will be perceived by developing countries as a signal of good will that can unlock much needed progress in other agendas.’

National climate plans must align to the 1.5˚C goal

The completion of the technical and political phases of the Global Stocktake this year must set the stage for a response from Parties and non-state actors that achieves a course correction, says Pulgar-Vidal.

‘It must also include a roadmap with a new round of NDCs by 2025, with revised targets for 2030 and new targets and 2035 aligned with equitably limiting warming to 1.5˚C. Building resilience and having concrete actions and plans to achieve those targets, provision of support will be essential inclusions in those plans. Finally, NDCs must reflect the convergence between the climate, nature and development agendas if we are to truly tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, he says.
Fossil fuels should be phased out in a shift to renewable energy