< COP28 Meeting in Dubai Centers on ‘Phase Out’ or ‘Phase Down’ of Fossil Fuels
By Dan Friedell
05 December 2023

The world's climate negotiators are meeting this month in Dubai for the COP28 United Nations Climate Conference. Activists, scientists and U.N. officials want the representatives to make plans to "phase out" the use of fossil fuels as an energy source.

However, some representatives are using the term "phase down" instead.

To "phase out" means to end something slowly through a planned series of steps. But to "phase down" means to slowly reduce the use of something instead of stopping completely.

International leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 5, 2023. (REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)
International leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 5, 2023. (REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)

The concern, say climate scientists, is that the time for a "phase down" is over.

Bill Hare is a climate scientist and the CEO of Climate Analytics. He said unless the result of the meeting is a "phase out," there is unlikely to be an "improvement in temperature."

The COP28 meeting runs until December 12. During last year's COP27 event, negotiators agreed to plans that would limit global temperature warming to only 2.4 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times.

But a recently updated report found that the world is going in the wrong direction. The report, called the Climate Action Tracker, found that the world is on target for a 2.5-degree rise. It added that several nations, including Indonesia and Iran, have increased their use of fossil fuels. These increases are part of why the world is warming more quickly.

Adnan Amin is the leader of COP28. He is former Director-General of the UN's International Renewable Energy Agency. He said the negotiators have so far produced a "pretty comprehensive" draft for a central outline of the meeting. The draft is called the Global Stocktake. He said he expects a "very intensive engagement process" between the negotiators during the next week of meetings.

The draft is 24 pages long and covers a number of issues. However the greatest concern is the choice between a "phasedown of ... coal power" or "an orderly and just phase out of fossil fuels."

Amin noted that, coming into the event, he did not believe it would be possible to even include "phase out" language in the document. He said some countries are not prepared to agree to a phase out because they require fossil fuel energy to grow their economies.

Critics and activists note that some countries signed on to last year's plan but moved forward with expanding their use of fossil fuels.

Ana Missirliu is an analyst at the New Climate Institute. She said she has seen "worrying announcements" in the last year. She pointed to the host nation of COP28 – the United Arab Emirates – announcing a $150-billion expansion of its oil and gas industry. She also pointed to expansions in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia.

Several protest groups are in Dubai. They are holding up signs in "action zones" near the UN event. The protesters are asking the representatives to push for a "phase out."

Although there may be some nations pushing for language that does not require a "phase out," many countries are planning to increase their use of renewable energy. More than 100 countries say they will triple their ability to create clean energy and double their energy efficiency by the end of the decade.

I'm Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.


Words in This Story

phase (out or down) –v. to introduce something slowly

global –adj. having to do with the whole world

comprehensive –adj. including many, or most, things

draft –n. writing or a document that is the first version of something, not the final

engagement –n. the act or state of being involved with something

analyst –n. a person who studies a topic and then makes a recommendation

triple –v. to increase something by 300 percent or three times

efficiency –n. the ability to do something or produce something without wasting resources

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