Sign In or Create an Account.

By continuing, you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge our Privacy Policy


The Paragraph that Could Make or Break COP28

Here’s the biggest point of contention in the all-important global stocktake.

Paragraph being edited
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

It’s day seven of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, and while today’s official talks and panels will focus on green solutions for cities, a debate about the future of fossil fuels is raging on the sidelines.

Delegates argued well into the night Tuesday over the wording that will appear in the final draft of the all-important global stocktake (GST), which will be presented at the end of the conference. The GST is the “heart” of COP, Politicosays. It summarizes how nations are performing on the climate pledges made in Paris in 2015, and sets an agenda for the next five years and beyond.

The biggest point of contention is the document’s 35th paragraph, which will lay out the plans for fossil fuels. Will they be phased out? If so, how? One option put forward calls for a full phase out, which would mean shifting away from oil, gas, and coal as sources of energy, with the goal of eventually eliminating their use. "The goal is an energy system that has no emissions," Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barthe Eide toldReuters. The second option calls for phasing out “unabated” fossil fuels, which is slightly murkier since a standard definition of “unabated” doesn’t exist. But the term generally refers to the burning of fossil fuels without attempts to capture and store the related emissions. Carbon Brief points out that carbon capture and storage technologies “barely exists and relying on a major scale-up is considered ‘risky.’” A third option is to include no text on the subject at all. Seeing as how fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change, the world’s plan to wean itself off them is paramount.


But according to climate policy advocate and lawyer Natalie Jones, China, India, and the Arab Coordination Group of countries have proposed deleting paragraph 35 entirely. That means no mention of a phase out whatsoever. But paragraph 35 contains other important commitments, too, including tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, scaling up low-emissions technologies like green hydrogen, and ending permits for new unabated coal power plants. So scrapping this paragraph altogether could well and truly torpedo the potential for this COP to produce bold, ambitious, and unambiguous climate action.

All is not lost, though. Other countries including Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, the EU, and Norway are reportedly trying to keep the prospect of a fossil fuel phase out alive by floating language tweaks to make the paragraph more palatable. This might work. As former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, who is seen as one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, said recently: “The only way to get to agreed text very often relies on creative ambiguity.”

And “quiet progress” is being made in other areas: BusinessGreen reports Spain, Kenya, and Samoa have joined a coalition to phase out domestic oil and gas production. Plus a group of 63 nations including the U.S. and Canada pledged to reduce their cooling-related emissions dramatically by 2050.

When stocktake negotiations came to a close Tuesday night, there was no new consensus on the phase-out language. The existing December 5 draft, with paragraph 35 still intact, heads to country ministers for consideration.

Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.


AM Briefing: NO2 Emissions Climb

On a very potent greenhouse gas, Florida’s flooding, and hydropower

We Need to Talk About Nitrous Oxide
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Temperatures in northern China will top 107 degrees Fahrenheit today • Months-long water shortages have sparked riots in Algeria • Unseasonably cold and wet weather is being blamed for stunted economic growth in the U.K.


1. Torrential rains flood southern Florida

More than 7 million people are under flood advisories in Florida, with a tropical storm stalled over the state at least through Friday. Flooding was reported across the southern part of Florida including Fort Myers, Miami, and even farther north. In Sarasota, just south of Tampa, nearly four inches of rain fell in an hour, a new record for the area, with total rainfall reaching about 10 inches on Tuesday. The downpour was a one-in-1,000-year event. “The steadiest and heaviest rain will fall on South and central Florida through Thursday, but more spotty downpours and thunderstorms will continue to pester the region into Saturday,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Reneé Duff said.

Keep reading...Show less

How to Fix Electricity Bills in America

Inside episode 19 of Shift Key.

Solar panel installation.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Have you looked at your power bill — like, really looked at it? If you’re anything like Rob, you pay whatever number appears at the bottom every month and drop it in the recycling. But how everyone’s power bill is calculated — in wonk terms, the “electricity rate design” — turns out to be surprisingly important and could be a big driver of decarbonization.

On this week’s episode of Shift Key, Rob and Jesse talk about why power bills matter, how Jesse would design electricity rates if he was king of the world, and how to fix rooftop solar in America. This is the finale of our recent series of episodes on rooftop solar and rate design. If you’d like to catch up, you can listen to our previous episodes featuring Sunrun CEO Mary Powell, the University of California, Berkeley’s Severin Borenstein, and Heatmap’s own Emily Pontecorvo.

Keep reading...Show less

Jennifer Wilcox on Building the First U.S. Carbon Removal Office

Now back at the University of Pennsylvania, she talks to Heatmap about community engagement, gaps in the decarbonization market, and goats.

Jen Wilcox.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Climeworks, Tiffy3/Wikimedia Commons

In November of 2020, Jennifer Wilcox had just moved to Philadelphia and was preparing to start a new chapter in her career as a tenured “Presidential Distinguished Professor” at the University of Pennsylvania. Then she got the call: Wilcox was asked to join the incoming Biden administration as the principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy, a division of the Department of Energy.

Wilcox had never even heard of the Office of Fossil Energy and was somewhat uneasy about the title. A chemical engineer by training, Wilcox had dedicated her work to climate solutions. She was widely known for having written the first textbook on carbon capture, published in 2012, and for her trailblazing research into removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. With Penn’s blessing, she decided to take the job. And in the just over three years she was in office, she may have altered the course of U.S. climate action forever.

Keep reading...Show less