People walk past the UN Climate Summit COP28, Tuesday, December 12, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. SHOVEL

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A standoff between countries that want a dramatic phase-out of planet-warming fossil fuels and those that don't officially postponed a critical climate summit on Tuesday. But organizers were about to launch another tentative deal.

The United Nations-led summit known as COP28 was due to end on Tuesday afternoon, after nearly two weeks of speeches, demonstrations and negotiations. But climate talks are almost always lengthy, and negotiators were still meeting Tuesday night as workers nearby dismantled signs and set up scaffolding in preparation for the site's next event.

The release on Monday of a draft agreement angered countries that insist on a commitment to the rapid phase-out of coal, oil and gas.

Another compromise version of the key document, called the global stocktake, was being prepared on Tuesday night, along with potential side agreements on adaptation and financial aid to poor nations. Delegates, analysts and activists have not yet had the opportunity to see what is in the latest proposal from the presidency led by the host country, the United Arab Emirates, but new negotiations were being prepared after they have been analyzed.

Meetings between delegates and the presidency took place on Tuesday night and some were cautiously optimistic.

“I feel much more encouraged than I did yesterday,” said Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. “I think it will probably be a few hours before a new text and I suspect it will be the last,” he said around 9pm on Tuesday.

“There are improvements in some areas compared to yesterday's landings, but in my view it's the whole package that we want to be able to respond to,” said Cedric Schuster from Samoa.

Monday's criticized draft called on countries to reduce “the consumption and production of fossil fuels in a fair, orderly and equitable manner” rather than a phase-out.

Majid al-Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28, said the project aimed to get countries to start talking and presenting their agreements.

“The text we released was a starting point for discussions,” he said at a press conference at noon on Tuesday. “When we launched it, we knew opinions were polarized, but what we didn’t know was where the boundaries were in each country.”

“We spent last night talking, absorbing this feedback, and it put us in a position to write new text,” he said.

Al-Suwaidi made contradictory comments about the future of fossil fuel phase-out language, which at one point he said “doesn’t work.”

“It’s important that we have the right language when it comes to fossil fuels. It is important to think about how we can achieve this balance. There are those who want gradual elimination. There are those who want a gradual reduction,” said al-Suwaidi. “The goal is to reach a consensus.”

On one side are countries like Saudi Arabia, which do not accept the language of phase-out, while European and Latin American countries and small island nations say it is unacceptable to leave these words out. Countries seeking phase-out are in a difficult position because they may have to accept a weak deal or no deal at all, which is not good for them, said Alden Meyer, a veteran climate talks observer at the European think tank E3G.

But Meyer thinks the backlash from phase-out supporters could be the start of strengthening a proposed deal, leaving Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states “as the last to stand in the way of a more ambitious deal. We're not there yet. There is more work to be done.”

The key is to find language that doesn't make anyone block an agreement because the final agreement has to be by consensus. But the consensus is not always unanimity, with previous climate summits reaching agreement despite the objections of one or two nations, said climate negotiations historian Joanna Depledge of the University of Cambridge.

“Over-decisiveness is not impossible, it’s just politically very, very risky,” she said.

Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity said that “a viable success is some kind of language that signals a phase out of fossil fuels and there will be no reduction, no carbon capture and storage, something that is clean and fair.”

She said rich countries can leverage financial commitments with developing nations that could help pass fossil fuel language in a final agreement.

The goal of the global stocktake is to help nations align their national climate plans with the Paris agreement's goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Earth is on track to break the record for the hottest year, putting human health at risk and leading to increasingly costly and deadly extreme weather.

In the 21-page document released on Monday, the words oil and natural gas did not appear and the word coal appeared twice. It also made a single mention of carbon capture, a technology praised by some for reducing emissions even though it has not been tested on a large scale.

Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists urged negotiators to keep working.


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“Please do not close this COP before we finish the work,” she said.



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