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COP28 in Dubai ends with agreement for nations to transition away from fossil fuels

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For the first time ever, the international body responsible for dealing with the rapidly warming world has acknowledged the overriding cause of climate change is fossil fuels

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SULTAN AL-JABER: Heeding no objection, it is so decided.

MARTIN: The agreement comes at the end of more than two weeks of contentious negotiations at the United Nations climate conference. NPR's Nathan Rott has been in Dubai covering this summit, and he is with us now. Hello. Good morning. You know, there's a lot to get through, but let's start with this first ever mention of fossil fuels in the agreement. It seems remarkable that they've been at this for so long. And this is the first time.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Yeah. I mean, it speaks to how effective the fossil fuel industry has been at - for decades at blocking climate action and frankly, Michel, how important fossil fuel production remains to so many of the world's biggest economies.

MARTIN: And you've been reporting on this for the last two weeks. So you saw this in Dubai as well, right?

ROTT: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we saw some of the world's most fossil-fuel-dependent countries, you know, pushed by industry, chiefly the oil cartel OPEC, basically saying they would not agree to any language at this conference that called for the phasing out of fossil fuels. And that was something that climate advocates and vulnerable countries really wanted to see here. And they continue to want to see. You just heard COPS President Sultan al-Jaber from the UAE say that there were no objections to this decision before that applause, but that was not entirely true. One of the first speakers after him was Anne Rasmussen from Samoa.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANNE RASMUSSEN: We didn't want to interrupt the standing ovation when we came into the room, but we are a little confused about what happened. It seems that you just gaveled the decisions, and the small island developing states were not in the room.

ROTT: Then she went on to say that this agreement is filled with loopholes and ignores the science, which says strong reductions in fossil fuel emissions are needed soon if we're going to limit global warming. And it's worth mentioning here that her comments, those got the longest applause of any speaker in this plenary.

MARTIN: So what did this agreement accomplish?

ROTT: It accomplished a lot of things, right? It called on countries - it does not compel them because none of this is legally binding, but it calls on them to transition away from fossil fuels. It calls for a tripling of renewable energies by 2030 and a doubling of energy efficiency. It directs countries to strengthen their pledges to reduce climate warming emissions by next year's COP, which will be in Azerbaijan. And it made a bunch of commitments, many of which, advocates say, don't go nearly far enough to help developing countries adapt to the climate change that they're already experiencing.

MARTIN: That seems like an important point because it seems that we are seeing, you know, worsening extreme events, like wildfires, droughts, hurricanes and other climate effects, every year. Where will this put the world in addressing climate change?

ROTT: So, so far, the world has agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That's about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. That's the limit, scientists say, where climate change and its effects are still, like, somewhat manageable. And so far, we've already warmed the planet by 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. Here's what Simon Stiell, the head of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change, said after today's announcement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIMON STIELL: We're currently headed for just under 3 degrees. This still equates to mass human suffering.

ROTT: And so that is why Stiell says these goals, these things that countries are being called upon to do, really need to be carried out in the years to come. And we need to see stronger pledges as this keeps going.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Nathan Rott on the conclusion of the U.N. climate summit in Dubai. Nate, thank you.

ROTT: Yeah. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.