COP28 sounds the death knell for fossil fuels. Now, finance and a just transition are required to bring a safer future to life

Dubai, 13 December, 2023:

At COP28, civil society and the countries and communities on the front lines of the climate crisis have created a historic groundswell of support for a just, science-based transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

“The destructive era of fossil fuels is fast coming to an end, as the COP28 final agreement shows – though that signal is muddied by loopholes and dangerous distractions,” said Caroline Brouillette, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada. “Now, Canada and other wealthy, high-emitting countries must take responsibility and ensure that the way forward doesn’t replicate the failures and injustices of the colonial, extractive systems that have caused the climate crisis.

“We came to Dubai to reckon with the moment we are in, during the hottest year ever recorded. The COP28 outcome brings important wins, with the operationalization of the loss and damage fund and the first-ever global recognition that fossil fuels must be relegated to history – and it gives us another day to fight.

“And fight we must, for the Global North to finally deliver the financial and technical support needed to make this energy transition unstoppable. At the same time, as communities around the world are already facing the heart-wrenching impacts of the convergent climate and debt crises, Canada and other rich countries must live up to their responsibilities and step up on finance for adaptation and loss and damage.

“Multilateralism is hanging by a thread. In Dubai, Canada has worked to build bridges, but it must double down to rebuild trust and deliver the goods that make reaching the Paris goals possible.”

Pratishtha Singh, Senior International Policy Analyst at Climate Action Network Canada, said: “Those who bear the brunt of the climate crisis – a crisis created by high-polluting rich nations including Canada – cannot wait any longer for accountability and financial support. It’s disappointing that the Global Goal on Adaptation framework did not establish targets for financial support or adequately deliver on the calls of the Global South. Strengthening and supporting adaptation is urgent and must set the tone for future conversations of climate justice.”

  • This COP has seen ongoing issues around transparency and participation. The Global Stocktake agreement was gavelled through while the Alliance of Small Island States was not even in the room – an encapsulation of inclusion and fairness issues that have plagued this COP, both in terms of process and the final agreement.
  • The Global Stocktake decision includes a historic call for accelerating action this decade to transition away from fossil fuels. While the text leaves the door open to carbon capture and storage, blue hydrogen, nuclear, biomass and so-called “transitional fuels,” reliance on these unproven technologies and last-ditch efforts to preserve the fossil fuel industry is not in line with 1.5°C pathways.
  • On the domestic policy side, Canada has taken important steps forward this COP – and must maintain and accelerate the pace to make “the UAE consensus” a reality at home. The 2023 Progress Report on the Emissions Reductions Plan shows that Canada must work quickly to close the gaps towards its 2030 target. The framework for the cap on emissions from the oil and gas industry, while imperfect, represents a much-needed first step towards regulating Canada’s most-polluting industry, and must be strengthened and implemented swiftly. Meanwhile, by naming Alberta Fossil of the Day, the international community sent a strong signal that politicians beholden to the fossil fuel industry must not hold Canada back.

These negotiations for the survival of the planet have taken place only 2,500 kilometres away from Gaza, where thousands of innocent lives have been lost. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally joined the international calls for a ceasefire, and must increase pressure to make this happen. Climate Action Network Canada emphasizes that there can be no climate justice without an end to the occupation of Palestine, and decolonization everywhere, including at home.

More quotes from Canadian civil society:

André-Yanne Parent, Executive director, Climate Reality Canada:

“While we do see the North Star, with finally integrating an explicit mention of fossil fuels, it seems like the view is still blurred by the heavy Dubaï smog. Science and Indigenous peoples’ knowledge leave no ambiguity: to stop rising temperatures and ensure a livable future, we must equitably phase out fossil fuels and transition to true net zero by 2050. End of story. Wealthy nations created this climate crisis. COP28 was the opportunity to right this wrong and adequately plan a global response to the biggest crisis of all, adequately finance Global South nations to rebuild after climate disasters, adapt to our warming world, and build resilient clean energy economies. Unfortunately, while this decision makes history, it allows dangerous loopholes with unproven technologies, maintains carbon capitalism, and falls short in terms of scale, means of implementation and equity. As civil society, we will keep our eyes on our North Star, uplifting and amplifying the voices of frontline communities and demanding climate justice.”

Julia Levin, Associate Director, National Climate, Environmental Defence Canada:

“For the first time ever, countries around the world have collectively agreed on the need to leave oil, gas and coal in the ground. There can be no mistake: the era of fossil fuels is quickly coming to an end. Yet, wealthy countries like Canada and the United States – who have an overwhelming responsibility to phase out fossil fuels first and fastest – have failed the global community by refusing to provide the financial support needed from developing countries in order to transition their economies away from fossil fuels, adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis and address the losses and damages being experienced.”

Liz McDowell, Senior Campaigns Director,

“Despite the presence of nearly 2,500 fossil fuel lobbyists, COP28 secured a first-ever agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. This hard fought victory is thanks to the leadership of climate-vulnerable nations and grassroots movements in Canada and around the world. Unfortunately, the agreement is weakened by loopholes that enable dangerous distractions like gas, hydrogen and biomass – also known as burning forests for fuel – and fails to commit global north governments to finance the energy transition in the global south, where billions of people who contributed the least to the climate crisis are being the most impacted by it. Back home, we’re determined to hold the Canadian government accountable to commitments they made here in Dubai to transition our economy away from fossil fuels.”

Ashley Torres, Mobilisation Coordinator, Mères Aux Front:

“For our children, for future generations, for those already suffering the consequences of climate change, this is not enough. While we recognize this historic moment of having a text that calls parties to transition away from fossil fuels, it is not enough. As mothers we will continue to fight locally for Canada and Quebec to do more and will continue to stand in solidarity with those who are the most affected particularly indigenous communities and insular states. Our children deserve better!”

Andréanne Brazeau, Climate Policy Analyst, Équiterre:

“COP28 can truly be described as the COP of truth. For the first time, after decades of struggle by developing countries and civil society, we are facing the truth: this is the end of the oil and gas era. During the critical years between now and 2030, we must remain vigilant to ensure that this transition away from fossil fuels is not slowed down by the promotion of false solutions to which the text sadly refers, such as carbon capture and storage, “transitional fuels”, blue hydrogen and even nuclear power. Canada and other developed countries will inevitably have to crank up the financial and technological support they offer to the rest of the world to ensure that the fight against the polycrisis we are going through as well as its outcomes are fair and that no one is left behind. We expect nothing less than increased climate ambition and accelerated action from Canada. It’s a question of climate justice.”

Anne-Céline Guyon, Energy and Climate Analyst, Nature Québec:

“Finally, we’ve come out of a COP with a clear statement that we need to move away from fossil fuels in the global energy mix. Yes, the text adopted today is not perfect, but it does represent a turning point. There is no longer any doubt that the era of fossil fuels is drawing to a close. Nevertheless, some of the solutions put forward to accelerate the global energy transition are worrying and represent dangerous distractions in terms of their real effectiveness, and their impact on populations and ecosystems. As for the link between the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, we can only welcome the reference to the Kunming-Montreal Global Framework for Biodiversity to underline the role of protecting, conserving and restoring nature in both mitigating and adapting to climate change. It remains to be seen how this will be implemented, so that responses to the climate crisis do not come at the expense of the living world and respect the principle of climate justice.”

Cathy Orlando, Citizens’ Climate International:

“Humanity has crossed dangerous planetary boundaries, and people are suffering now. The energy and land use sectors of our economy have no choice but to transform. Many tracks were laid down at this COP. We must continue to push for the end of all harmful subsidies in all sectors of our economy, make polluters pay, restructure our financial systems and countries in the global North must undergo major tax reform to pay for loss and damage, adaptation, and debt relief. None of us are safe until all of us are safe.”

Joy Kennedy, Convenor, Canadian Interfaith Fast For the Climate:

“The tide is turning and there is no going back. As the UN SG says, it is inevitable that the fossil fuel era is over. What remains to be seen is how fast, how fair, how funded, how just will be the transition. It is up to those with the means to ensure that no one is left behind to do their moral duty, and to help midwife the birthing to a new dawn of a beautiful, inclusive, healthy, peaceful, and just Earth Community, with room for all on a sustainable planet. The shift has begun – let’s embrace it and recommit our efforts to make it so.”

Andrea Koehle Jones, Executive Director, The ChariTree Foundation:

“The COP28 agreement signals the end of the fossil fuel era. The ChariTree Foundation welcomes this recognition and the implementation of a ‘loss and damage’ fund as positive progress. However, the failure to clearly signal the timely phaseout of all fossil fuels puts children worldwide at risk of experiencing more severe climate events and suffering from further loss and damage.”

Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace International: 

“The signal that the fossil industry has been afraid of is there: ending the fossil fuel era, along with a call to massively scale up renewables and efficiency this decade, but it’s buried under many dangerous distractions and without sufficient means to achieve it in a fair and fast manner. The outcome leaves poorer countries well short of the resources they will need for renewable energy transition and other needs. For the many goals of the agreement to be realised, rich countries will need to significantly step up financial support and make fossil fuel polluters pay. This is not the historical deal that the world needed: It  has many loopholes and shortcomings. But history will be made if all those nearly 130 countries, businesses, local leaders and civil society voices, who came together to form an unprecedented force for change, now take this determination and make the fossil fuel phase out happen. Most urgently that means stopping all those expansion plans that are pushing us over the 1.5°C limit right now.”

Alan Andrews, Climate Director, Ecojustice:

“With this deal the world has taken another faltering step towards ending the fossil fuel era.  

“Although better than the previous draft, the text still has the fingerprints of the fossil fuel industry all over it. We do not have time for false solutions, dangerous distractions and greenwash.

“We have seen that Canada can play an important role in climate diplomacy. To be a climate leader, Canada must end its reliance on fossil fuels. As one of the world’s biggest polluters, with large and growing fossil fuel exports, Canada has a responsibility to lead the way in the transition, by tackling its own carbon pollution – among the highest in the world – with a credible plan to achieve, then improve on, its nationally determined contribution. Canada must also slow its exports of fossil fuels – starting by delivering on its commitment to ban thermal coal exports and help to secure the finance that low income countries will need to pursue a cleaner and more equitable path to prosperity, while ensuring dignity and justice for transitioning workers domestically.”

Catherine Abreu, Founder & Executive Director, Destination Zero:

“The world has declared the end of the fossil fuel era at COP28. After 30 years of rising temperatures as the UN climate talks focused only on emissions and not their cause, we finally have an agreement that calls on all countries to transition away from fossil fuels in a just and equitable manner, starting in this critical decade, in line with the science of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. 

“This is an extraordinary turning point for these negotiations that has come far later than it needed to. The window to the 1.5 limit is nearly closed. 

“Policy makers and investors will be held to this decision by the army of civil society that made it happen. We will resist every dangerous distraction like carbon capture and storage that ultimately prolongs the life of fossil fuels. We will reject every weasel word like “inefficient” that provides loopholes for ongoing subsidies to fossil fuels. We will ensure that those countries like Canada most responsible for the climate crisis, that have benefited most from wrecking our atmosphere with fossil fuel production, pay up for the energy transition. This is a matter of survival for the world’s most vulnerable countries and communities, including the small island states who expected much more out of the decisions made in Dubai. We will stand in solidarity with these communities by fighting to make sure this decision is implemented on the ground where it counts, and by continuing to push the UN climate talks to talk about what really matters.”

DJ Pohl, global trade union movement (ITUC):

“For the first time in the UNFCCC process, the Just Transition Work Programme has established the “recognition of labour rights” and “social protection” has been included under adaptation. These represent real steps forward for workers everywhere and signals the importance of social dialogue. While we applaud the transition away from fossil fuels, the deliberate omission of workers and unions in the GST text undermines the just transition we are fighting for. Without the active participation of all workers, the transition will not work.”


Canada’s farthest-reaching network of organizations working on climate and energy issues, Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat (CAN-Rac) Canada is a coalition of 150 organizations operating from coast to coast to coast. Our membership brings environmental groups together with trade unions, First Nations, social justice, development, health and youth organizations, faith groups and local, grassroots initiatives.

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Photo credit: Maria Jacquemin

The ChariTree Foundation is a United Nations Climate Observer Organization, putting children’s rights at the forefront of climate action to improve their education, health, and future.

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