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COP28’s landmark agreement: what do experts say?

This article is a compilation of comments from the world’s leading climate politicians, scientists, and activists on COP28’s landmark agreement to transition away from fossil fuels.

Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States: “The decision at COP28 to finally recognize that the climate crisis is, at its heart, a fossil fuel crisis is an important milestone. But it is also the bare minimum we need and is long overdue. The influence of petrostates is still evident in the half measures and loopholes included in the final agreement. Fossil fuel interests went all out to control the outcome, but the passionate work of millions of climate activists around the world inspired and motivated delegates from many nations to loosen the industry’s grip. Whether this is a turning point that truly marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era depends on the actions that come next and the mobilization of finance required to achieve them.”

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, former Minister of the Environment of Peru and President of COP20: “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. We are still way off course to limit global warming to 1.5C and avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. In this critical decade, all countries must enhance the ambition and implementation of climate action.”

Anne Rasmussen, representative of Samoa on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States: "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 get on with the decisions and the small island developing states were not in the room."

"We have come to the conclusion that the course correction that is needed has not been secured. We have made an incremental advancement over business as usual, when what we really need is an exponential step change in our actions."

Ani Dasgupta, President of the World Resources Institute: “Fossil fuels finally faced a reckoning at the UN climate negotiations after three decades of dodging the spotlight. This historic outcome marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. Despite immense pressure from oil and gas interests, high ambition countries courageously stood their ground and sealed the fate of fossil fuels. Now a critical test is whether far more finance is mobilised for developing countries to help make the energy transition possible. The climate summit in Azerbaijan next year must be one for the history books, when the world finally shifts the scale of climate finance from billions to trillions.”

Harjeet Singh, Head of Global Political Strategy at Climate Action Network International: “After decades of evasion, Cop28 finally cast a glaring spotlight on the real culprits of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. A long-overdue direction to move away from coal, oil, and gas has been set. Yet, the resolution is marred by loopholes that offer the fossil fuel industry numerous escape routes, relying on unproven, unsafe technologies. The hypocrisy of wealthy nations, particularly the US, as they continue to expand fossil fuel operations massively while merely paying lip service to the green transition, stands exposed.”

John Silk, Head of Delegation of the Marshall Islands: "I came here from my home in the islands to work with you all to solve the greatest challenge of our generation. I came here to build a canoe together for my country. Instead, we have built a canoe with a weak and leaky hull, full of holes. Instead, we have put it in the water."

Steven Guilbeault, ​​Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada: "COP28 reached a historic agreement ... It provides opportunities for near term action and pushes for a secure, affordable, 1.5C compatible and clean transition. The text has breakthrough commitments on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the transition away from fossil fuels."

Madeleine Diouf, Head of Climate Change in Senegal's Ministry of Environment on behalf of the bloc of Least Developed Countries: "It reflects the very lowest possible ambition that we could accept rather than what we know, according to the best available science, is necessary to urgently address the climate crisis.”

The agreement "highlights the vast gap between developing country needs and the finance available, as well as underscoring rapidly dwindling fiscal space due to the debt crisis. Yet it fails to deliver a credible response to this challenge."

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland: “The COP28 agreement, while signalling the need to bring about the end of the fossil fuel era, falls short by failing to commit to a full fossil fuel phase out.

If 1.5°C is our ‘North Star’, and science our compass, we must swiftly phase out all fossil fuels to chart a course towards a liveable future. To fail to keep global warming below 1.5°C has catastrophic implications for the most vulnerable communities and countries.”

Simon Stiell, Climate Chief of the United Nations: “Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.”

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the authors

Al Gore is the former Vice President of the United States, notably recognized for his environmental activism and leadership in climate change awareness.

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Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is the former Minister of the Environment of Peru and served as the President of COP20, focusing on environmental conservation and climate change policies.

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Anne Rasmussen represents Samoa and the Alliance of Small Island States, advocating for the interests of island nations in climate change discussions.

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Ani Dasgupta is the President of the World Resources Institute, with expertise in sustainable urban planning and advocating for a transition to renewable energy.

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Harjeet Singh is the Head of Global Political Strategy at Climate Action Network International, focusing on climate policy advocacy and highlighting the role of wealthy nations in climate change.

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John Silk is the head of the Marshall Islands' delegation, representing the nation's interests in international climate negotiations.

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Steven Guilbeault is the Canadian Environment Minister, actively participating in shaping Canada's environmental policies and representing the country in global climate discussions.

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Madeleine Diouf is Senegal's Climate Minister, representing the bloc of Least Developed Countries and emphasizing their needs in climate crisis discussions.

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Her Excellency Mary Robinson is the former President of Ireland and the first woman to hold this title in the country's history. 

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Simon Stiell is the U.N. climate chief, responsible for overseeing global climate policies and negotiations under the UNFCCC.

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