Australia won't sign 'death certificate' climate deal

An activist protests at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai. Photo: Reuters
An activist protests at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai. Photo: Reuters
Australia will not sign the "death certificates" of small island nations, after COP28 discussions produced a draft climate deal that omitted many nations' demands to phase-out fossil fuels.

As the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference heads into its final scheduled day, delegates have traded verbal blows over the latest draft of a COP28 agreement.

Published by summit hosts the United Arab Emirates, it proposed options countries could use to cut emissions but did not refer to a "phase-out" of all fossil fuels.

Samoa's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster rejected the deal, saying the survival of small islands was at stake and declaring they would "not sign our death certificates".

Speaking on behalf of the Umbrella group, which includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, the US and Norway, Australian Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said the coalition would not support the draft.

"We will not be a co-signatory to those death certificates," Mr Bowen said in Dubai overnight.

"That is what is at stake for many countries who are represented here tonight and many people who do not have a voice.

"Some of the world's largest economies, have now called for a phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, some of the world's smallest countries have called for us to transition away from fossil fuels in an orderly and just manner.

"The rest of us should find it within ourselves to join them."

While Mr Bowen pointed out some positive aspects in the draft like the "evidence of science" in some paragraphs, he said he needed to be honest.

The deal was "too weak" and said it needed substantial strengthening to support a transition away from fossil fuels before any of the Umbrella nations would sign on.

The latest UN report on emissions warns the world is hurtling towards 2.5 to 2.9C of warming, far beyond the Paris climate pact's goal of 1.5 to 2C - to shield humanity from the worst consequences of climate change

"We can't be flexible on ambition or the 1.5 degree north star," Mr Bowen said.

"That's not up for compromise.

"We need to hold true to that north star and this draft does not hold true."

The energy transition debate first came to a head at COP26 when India intervened in the Glasgow climate pact at the last minute to change the wording from a "phase-out" of coal to a "phase-down", bringing conference president Alok Sharma to tears as the watered-down agreement passed.

With Australia hoping to co-host COP31 with Pacific nations in 2026, the government has used this year's summit to try prove itself a climate leader on the world stage.

 - with Reuters