By Mark Watts, C40 Executive Director, and María Mendiluce, CEO of the We Mean Business Coalition

It is time to end the era of fossil fuels. COP28 is taking place in a year that’s on track to be the hottest ever recorded, yet emissions are still rising. The science is clear: in order to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5°C we must stop burning fossil fuels. We cannot afford further delay. At this year’s COP, governments must commit to urgent fossil fuel phase-out and ramp up investment in renewables. Otherwise, we won’t have a hope of averting the worst effects of the climate crisis.  

As leaders of some of the most influential networks of non-state actors – cities and businesses – we are excited and reassured to see how strongly our efforts to phase out fossil fuels align. 

Fossil fuels are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the world’s carbon emissions and are major contributors to the most harmful air pollutants. Fatal flooding, record-breaking heat waves, deadly wildfires, toxic air quality, and water scarcity are already threatening millions of people. Across the world, people are struggling to access or afford energy while fossil fuel companies report record profits. The communities most affected are usually the least responsible for fossil fuel use. We must phase out fossil fuels to protect people from the unjust impacts of the climate crisis on people’s health and standard of living.

That is why the world must deliver, at the minimum, the calls of the International Energy Agency to halve global fossil fuel use by 2035 and stop further investment in new fossil fuel projects now. The global goals of tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency by 2030 are essential to provide energy security and boost sustainable development. The most developed and historically responsible countries must act faster, in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Acceleration Agenda.  

Crucially, we must avoid being lured into false solutions. There is no viable technology available or expected to be in the near future that can extract carbon emissions created by fossil fuels at the scale, pace and cost necessary. There is significant potential for us as leaders to end the use of fossil fuels and accelerate opportunities for everyone in the new green economy. 

The world’s cities, which account for two-thirds of global primary energy use, are central to a swift, just transition away from fossil fuels, so it is essential for mayors to work with businesses to reduce emissions through policy, regulation, and partnerships. Mayors need businesses to put their transition plans into practice at speed and scale – and cities can be the place to prove a just transition is possible.

This is also a moment to acknowledge progress. As of 2022, solar and wind power were already cheaper than new fossil gas electricity generation in countries where all but one C40 city is located, which includes major fossil gas consumers such as the USA, the EU, the UK, China and Canada. Many of C40’s US cities – such as Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City – have enacted bans on using fossil gas in new buildings. This sends signals to markets and gives confidence to the private sector to deploy solutions and invest in decarbonisation. Moreover, growth in the renewable energy sector has provided employment to millions worldwide in the last ten years. 

Los Angeles’ municipal utility company is phasing out three fossil gas plants as part of the city’s transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035. Other cities are scaling the use of renewables, such as Mexico City, which is installing 787,000m2 of solar panels in residential and commercial buildings by 2024, or Seoul, which has been deploying solar panels on low-income housing to achieve its target of installing more than 1 million systems on city rooftops.

Earlier this month, more than 200 companies, with a combined revenue of nearly US$1.5 trillion, urged governments to ramp up clean energy at pace and phase out the use and production of fossil fuels. This year’s COP is being attended by businesses including Volvo Cars, Iberdrola, Mahindra Group, JLL, Unilever, Bayer and Nestlé who are calling on all parties at the conference to phase out unabated fossil fuels and triple global renewable electricity capacity. To achieve this goal, signatories from all corners of the world urge national governments to set clear timelines and targets to phase out fossil fuels, commit to 100% decarbonised power, support countries in the Global South to accelerate a just transition and reform fossil fuel subsidies.  

We are bringing the ambitious voices of mayors and CEOs together at COP28, including at the Business Pavilion hosted by We Mean Business Coalition in the Blue Zone, to reiterate that there is no time to delay. We must rise to the challenge of phasing out fossil fuels and enabling a fairer, healthier and safer future for all.

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