The Fight Over Words

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Delegates at the United Nations climate summit agreed Wednesday to transition away from fossil fuel consumption, in what was called an unprecedented deal to possibly end the oil age, NBC News reported.

The agreement, which came at the conclusion of the two-week UN Conference of Parties summit (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, commits the international community to avoid the worst effects of climate change and move to a low-carbon future, according to COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber.

Under the non-binding deal, countries are to take meaningful and sustained action to decrease carbon emissions to limit global average temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels.

The European commissioner for climate action, Wopke Hoekstra, said the agreement was “the beginning of the end for fossil fuels.”

However, the COP28 deal received a mixed reception from various environmental groups. Supporters hailed it as a historic milestone, while others cautioned that it did not go far enough, according to the Hill.

One of the issues was the language used: It calls for nations to “transition away,” which is stronger than the “phase down” term used in earlier agreements. Still, the use of the term “transition” represents a subtle weakening of the language compared with the more forceful demand for a “phase out” that certain countries advocated for during the summit.

Brianna Fruean, the delegate from the Pacific nation of Samoa, expressed disappointment that the 39 developing and small island states most affected by climate change were not included when the decision was made to adopt the specific wording.

While acknowledging positive elements in the draft text, she emphasized the need for a more significant course correction.

“We have made an incremental advancement of ‘business as usual,’ when what we needed was an exponential step change,” she warned.

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