UN officials and activists ramp up the urgency as climate talks enter final days


Published: December 11, 2023, 06:07 PM

UN officials and activists ramp up the urgency as climate talks enter final days

Activists display signs reading "hold the line" near United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as he speaks during a news conference at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Delegates at the United Nations climate talks have little time left to decide how the world plans to cap planet-warming emissions and keep the worst of warming at bay, ramping up the urgency as new drafts were expected on key outcomes of the summit.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres returned to the summit on Monday and said it was “time to go into overdrive to negotiate in good faith and rise to the challenge.” He said negotiators in particular must focus on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and climate justice.

He said the global stocktake — the part of talks that assesses where the world is at with its climate goals and how it can reach them — should "phase out all fossil fuels” in order to reach the goal of limiting the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial times.

"We can’t keep kicking the can down the road,” Guterres said in brief remarks. “We are out of road and almost out of time.”

Nearby, about 15 silent protesters held out cards that spelled out “hold the line.”

Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, told journalists Monday morning that the “climate wolves” remained at the world’s doors as negotiations reach their climax at the summit.

“We do not have a minute to lose in this crucial final stretch and none of us have had much sleep,” Stiell said. He added that “the areas where options need to be negotiated have narrowed significantly,” in particular how to reduce planet-warming emissions and the “transition with the proper means of support to deliver it.”

When asked directly if it was a possibility that negotiators could leave Dubai without a deal, Stiell did not deny that could happen.

“One thing is for certain: I win, you lose is a recipe for collective failure,” he said.

Sticking points for the global stocktake are along familiar lines. Many countries, including small island states, European countries and Latin American nations, are calling for a phase-out of fossil fuels, responsible for most of the warming on Earth. But other nations want weaker language that will allow oil, gas and coal to keep burning in some way.

“All countries want ambition, but some countries have their priorities one place and other countries another place,” said Espen Barth Eide, the Foreign Minister of Norway. “So this can still both end up as a very successful COP, and it can also be much less successful depending on where we find the final language.”

He said that more developing countries would support a fossil fuel phase-out “if that is coupled with a clear promise from developed countries that they will help overcome the burden.”

As of midday on Monday, delegates were still waiting on a new draft of the global stocktake.

But Barth Eide said: “I am much more concerned about having a good text than an early text. So if if the hours delay means that it will be better, I think that’s worth it.”

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