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COP28 is over, but many say this year's climate agreement doesn't go far enough

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Global climate negotiations ended in Dubai today with the first ever call to move away from fossil fuels. But developing countries say the final agreement doesn't go far enough. NPR climate reporter Julia Simon has been following these talks closely, and she joins us now. Hi there.

JULIA SIMON, BYLINE: Hello.

SUMMERS: So, Julia, tell us, just how significant is this agreement?

SIMON: Look, the single biggest cause of global warming is burning fossil fuels. The United Arab Emirates hosted these talks. It's one of the world's biggest producers of oil. You saw the oil influence at these talks. OPEC, the oil cartel, they were at this conference encouraging countries not to target fossil fuels. Up until almost the end, it wasn't clear if the final text would mention fossil fuels at all. But what we have is an agreement where nearly 200 countries say it's time to transition away from fossil fuels. Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, he was president of the talks, he called the agreement a historic achievement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AHMED AL-JABER: The world needed to find a new way. And by following our North Star, we have found that new path.

SIMON: And, Juana, the science on climate change, it's clear. To limit the worst effects of global warming - runaway sea level rise, deadly wildfires, heat waves - the world needs to reduce its fossil fuel emissions dramatically and quickly.

SUMMERS: Right. So, Julia, tell us, what has been the reaction from countries to this agreement?

SIMON: Well, right before al-Jaber hit the gavel, he said...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL SLAMMING, APPLAUSE)

SIMON: Let's listen to Anne Rasmussen from the island country of Samoa, who spoke shortly after.

(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.

SIMON: Small island developing states like Samoa are some of the most affected by climate change, which has caused rising sea levels. So Rasmussen expressed concern about the final agreement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RASMUSSEN: We must leave here with a set of decisions that meet the magnitude of the climate crisis and that meet what is needed to secure the future of the coming generations.

SUMMERS: Now, Julia, I understand that there are other countries who are also disappointed about the lack of a plan for helping countries pay for the impacts of climate change.

SIMON: Yeah, money was one of the biggest stumbling blocks at these talks. The majority of pollution that's heating the planet was caused by wealthy countries, like the U.S. Developing countries like Samoa, they didn't pollute as much but they're facing the brunt of climate change, things like sea level rise, hurricanes. There were commitments at these talks in the hundreds of millions of dollars to help countries suffering from climate change impacts, but experts say that's a drop in the bucket and that hundreds of billions annually - at least - is needed for climate impacts. And that's not even counting all the money needed for adapting to climate change. So many are concerned that the agreement is not enough money, not enough accountability.

SUMMERS: OK, this agreement calls for tripling renewable energy by 2030, also for speeding up certain technological solutions to climate change. How is that being received?

SIMON: Yeah, there's this push to accelerate something called carbon capture and storage. It's tech that captures planet-heating pollution, stores it underground. This tech is very expensive, uses a lot of energy, and many projects don't trap as much pollution as they aim to. So there are a lot of big ifs around some of the tech the agreement is promoting.

SUMMERS: Julia, in a few words, what comes next?

SIMON: Well, you have this agreement. It's not legally binding. So we'll see if governments and industry actually do start to move away from fossil fuels.

SUMMERS: Julia Simon with NPR's climate desk. Thanks.

SIMON: 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.

Julia Simon
Julia Simon is the Climate Solutions reporter on NPR's Climate Desk. She covers the ways governments, businesses, scientists and everyday people are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She also works to hold corporations, and others, accountable for greenwashing.
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