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COP28 must bring 'terminal decline of fossil fuels' or risk humanity's 'own terminal decline' - UN climate chief

Humanity will bring about its own "terminal decline" if governments fail to trigger the end of the fossil fuel era at COP28, the United Nations climate chief has warned as the summit opened.

With tens of thousands of people flocking to Dubai for two weeks of frantic deals and negotiations, Simon Stiell issued a warning to negotiators and climate envoys at the opening ceremony.

"If we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline," the head of the UN climate body (UNFCC) said.

"And we choose to pay with people's lives," Mr Stiell added.

But in a major boost for those paying the price already, host nation the United Arab Emirates has launched a long-awaited global disaster fund to rescue vulnerable people from climate change impacts like the collapse of farming or fishing industries.

The feat has been 30 years in the making and something many thought would never happen until COP27 in Egypt last year won a commitment from world leaders.

Announcing the fund is now up and running, the UAE will see this as a victory for its presidency, which has so far been mired in controversy over its vast oil and interests.

The man running the show, senior Emirati and COP28 president Sultan al Jaber, has been fending calls to step down from his other role as CEO of oil company ADNOC amid fears of a conflict of interest.

The oil boss has the unenviable task of finding an agreement between 197 governments rowing over whether they should commit to "phasing down" fossil fuels.

Mr Jaber, whose vocal support for the oil and gas industry has shifted slightly amid pressure from campaigners, said on Thursday: "I know there are strong views about the idea of including language on fossil fuels and renewables in the negotiated text. We collectively have the power to do something unprecedented."

In a reminder of the current impacts of climate change, the World Meteorological Association has warned that 2023 is set to be the hottest in human history - giving greater certainty to an earlier forecast by the EU's Copernicus service.

And while the launch of the fund to help vulnerable nations pay for damages from climate change - which they have done very little to cause - was celebrated, many concerns remain about whether enough countries will pay into the fund to get it working.

The UAE and Germany both pledged $100m (£79m) each, boosted by £60m from the UK, $10m (£8m) from Japan and $17.5m (£14m) from the United States.

But experts say billions are needed every year to help with the impacts of climate change.

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