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Historic move.

The 28th United Nations Climate Summit Conference of the Parties (COP28) deals with ending the long-reigning use of fuels as it slowly transitions to better-fared sustainable energy while accelerating climate action before 2030. 

Photos Courtesy of Sean Gallup/Getty Images/Canva.

Yet, the mandate of COP28 falls short of the urgent, explicit commitments needed to stave off catastrophic climate change.

With no sign of a halt, climate change remains one of the most challenging issues of human society. A decisive, binding agreement to transition to entirely phase out fossil fuels will suffice to address our crisis.

In the Philippines, climate change is most seen by the increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. While experiencing a higher-than-average heat index due to El Niño, rainfall in several Philippines areas paints a different picture.

Despite governments discerning the weight of climate change, several qualms still come from experts who say that the decision to move from fossil fuels to sustainable energy has been late.

Promises made

The agreement is the world’s first "global stocktake," a comprehensive inventory of climate actions and progress since the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

It acknowledged the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 43% by 2030 compared to 2019 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Nations are urged to significantly accelerate their climate actions to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. This acceleration includes rapidly increasing renewable energy generation, substantially reducing coal power dependence, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.

Despite calls to action, the agreement conspicuously lacks a binding mandate to phase out fossil fuels. This omission has sparked frustration among many nations, climate scientists, and activists.

Weighing the premises

Climate scientists gathered in San Francisco at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting and expressed their feelings.

Luke Parsons of Nature Conservancy called it “the beginning of the end” but lamented the slow pace, wishing it was “the middle of the end.”

Meanwhile, the University of Colorado Boulder glaciologist Ted Scambos noted that openly stating the goal of phasing out fossil fuels is significant yet insufficient given the urgency of the crisis.

The stakes are extraordinarily high. The past year has witnessed unprecedented climate-related extreme weather events, underscoring the immediate need for robust action.

Some experts were more critical. Michael Mann from the University of Pennsylvania called the agreement “weak sauce,” arguing for a clear, specific timeline for phasing out fossil fuels.

Mann said that the current approach to a diabetic promising to "transition away" from doughnuts is a tepid commitment that falls drastically short of what is needed.

Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, also labeled the agreement “deeply disappointing and misleading,” pointing out the delusion in entertaining the idea that the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal is still achievable without more decisive action.

Where did the chances go?

The agreement’s lack of concrete commitments highlights a grim reality: the world has delayed meaningful climate action for too long. 

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service noted that since the signing of the Paris Agreement, the world has effectively "lost" 19 years of potential progress.

Initially, it was projected that Earth’s average temperature would reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold by 2045. It’s projected to occur by 2034 — a mere 11 years away. 

This stark realization underscores the rapidly closing window of opportunity to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

The way ahead

The following steps are crucial.

While COP28’s agreement represents a step forward, it is ultimately constrained by the economic system that has precipitated the climate crisis.

Achieving meaningful climate action will require challenging the entrenched power of fossil fuel industries and reimagining a global economy prioritizing ecological sustainability and social justice over profit.

The global community must seize this moment of solidarity and build upon it with the urgency and resolve that the climate crisis demands. Anything less would be an abdication of our responsibility to future generations and a grave miscalculation of our imminent dangers.