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Climate summit begins in Dubai amid fossil fuel scrutiny

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The United Nations climate conference, COP28, commenced in Dubai today, with nations facing heightened pressure to accelerate action on climate change and phase out fossil fuels. 

The two-week-long negotiations, hosted in the opulent Gulf city, come at a critical juncture as global emissions continue to rise and 2023 is on track to be the hottest year on record.

The event is expected to draw over 97,000 participants, including Britain’s King Charles III, world leaders, activists, and lobbyists. 

The UN and host nation, the United Arab Emirates, have touted COP28 as the most crucial climate gathering since the 2015 Paris Agreement, where nations pledged to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists warn that current trajectories fall short of these targets, necessitating rapid and substantial emissions reductions to avert the most severe consequences of climate change. 

Ahead of the summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged for a comprehensive “phaseout” of fossil fuels, a contentious proposal backed by many nations and scientists that has plagued past negotiations.

I am undoubtedly strongly in favor of language that includes (a) phaseout, even with a reasonable time frame,” Guterres told AFP. 

A key focus of the conference will be assessing the world’s limited progress in mitigating global warming, requiring an official response at these talks.

Currently, we’re taking baby steps where we should be taking great leaps and great strides to get us to where we need to be,” remarked UN climate chief Simon Stiell on Wednesday.

Expected to outline their ambition on Friday and Saturday are approximately 140 heads of state and government, with Pope Francis having to cancel at the last minute due to influenza. Their statements come against a backdrop of devastating floods, wildfires, and storms that have ravaged the globe over the past year.

 

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