COP28: WWF says “earth is down but not out” as countries agree to transition away from fossil fuels

Posted on 13 December 2023

In a significant moment for global climate action, countries at the COP28 UN climate summit have agreed to transition away from fossil fuels, but fail to commit to a full phase out.
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Climate and Energy Lead, and COP20 President, said:  “The earth is down but not out, as countries agree to transition away from fossil fuels, but fall short of consensus on the full phase out of coal, oil and gas at COP28. Nevertheless, a decision to transition away from fossil fuels is a significant moment. After three decades of UN climate negotiations, countries have at last shifted the focus to the polluting fossil fuels driving the climate crisis. This outcome must signal the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel era.

“It is unfortunate that with the inclusion of the word ‘unabated’, the outcome suggests there is a considerable role for dangerous distractions such as large-scale carbon capture and storage and ‘transitional fuels’. This is not the case. For a liveable planet we need a full phase out of all fossil fuels.

“The Global Stocktake is clear that eight years on from the Paris Agreement, we are still way off course to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. In this critical decade, all countries must enhance the ambition and implementation of climate action. It is vital that countries work now to transform their energy systems and replace polluting fossil fuels with clean and cheaper renewable energy, such as wind and solar, at an unprecedented speed and scale.”

Alex Mason, Head of Climate and Energy at the WWF European Policy Office, said: “This may not be the giant leap we need to stop runaway climate change, but the call for a move away from fossil fuels and for accelerated action on that in this critical decade is a significant step forward. Given its wealth and responsibility for historical emissions the EU should lead by example, by increasing its outdated 55% target for 2030, committing to reaching climate neutrality by 2040, and massively scaling up financial support for the Global South.”

“The EU also urgently needs to reform its perverse bioenergy policies, lest they be copied by other countries. If the tripling of renewable energy agreed at COP28 is met by burning trees and crops, that would spell disaster for the climate,” he added.

Stephen Cornelius, WWF Deputy Global Climate and Energy Lead, said: “Finance is key to unlocking climate action. The early decision to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund was a critical step. The many pledges we have heard at COP28, while welcome, are a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. The funding pot will now need to grow by orders of magnitude to adequately help people in harm's way. The need for loss and damage and adaptation funding will only continue to rise rapidly if countries do not invest more in cutting emissions and phasing out polluting fossil fuels.”

Fernanda Carvalho, WWF Global Climate and Energy Policy Lead, said: “Along with phasing out fossil fuels, nature is integral to effective climate action. It is disappointing to see countries not including the recommendation by the IPCC to protect 30 to 50% of all ecosystems. This should have been the moment where countries committed to tackle the climate and nature emergencies in parallel. Action to restore nature and transform food systems is vital to reduce emissions and build greater resilience to rising temperatures.” 


WWF and COP28
WWF’s COP28 expectations paper is available here, and all WWF’s COP information is here:
EU Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra at COP28 in DUbai
© Shirley Matheson