Climate activists have hit out at an “incoherent” and “dangerous” draft agreement reached at COP28 that calls for fossil fuels to be reduced but not for them to be phased out entirely.

The draft text released on Monday by the UN says it recognises the need for “reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner.”

The text, which is yet to be approved, said this is to help achieve net zero “by, before, or around 2050 in keeping with the science.” COP28 negotiations are due to end today (Tuesday) but likely to overrun.

The debate around whether fossil fuels should be “phased down” or “phased out” has weighed heavily on recent editions of the annual COP climate conference, which is this year being hosted in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

The United States, European Union and numerous small island states vulnerable to climate change had been willing to back the phase-out of clause, Reuters reported previously.

Large oil-producing nations such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have openly opposed proposals to phase out fossil fuels.

Mary Robinson, chair of The Elders, a group of former state leaders and other retired political figures, said: “It is not good enough to say you recognise and respect the science but then fail to take heed of its dire warnings in the collective action you commit to.”

“It is not good enough to say you reaffirm the Paris Agreement but to then fail to commit to a full fossil fuel phase out,” said Robinson, herself the first female president of Ireland.

“It is not good enough to use weak language or to permit loopholes for the fossil fuel industry to continue to contribute to the very problem countries are meant to be committed to tackling here in Dubai.”

Romain Ioualalen, policy lead at Oil Change International, said the draft is “an incoherent and dangerous list of weak measures completely divorced from what is needed to limit warming to 1.5°C.”

“In contrast, the science is very clear: a full, fast, fair, and funded phaseout of all fossil fuels is essential to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”

“We need a fossil fuel phaseout, not an optional ‘reduction,’” he said.

Kaisa Kosonen, head of the Greenpeace COP28 delegation, called the draft text a "dog's dinner".

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, said the text is a “clear indication of the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying power,” an issue that has been in the spotlight at a conference whose president Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber is the CEO of the UAE’s state-owned oil company ADNOC.

Cedric Schuster, a member of Samoan parliament and president of the Small Island Developing States coalition, said that the agreed text includes “weak language on fossil fuels” and is “completely insufficient.”

He added that the text refers to measures that states “could” take. “Could is unacceptable.”

The head of the Republic of Marshall Islands delegation, John Silk said his country "did not come here to sign our death warrant."

The COP28 presidency, unsurprisingly, took a different tone. The text reflects the “ambitions” of the presidency, it said, “and is a huge step forward.”

The draft text also calls for a “tripling of renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.”

Other measures include “rapidly phasing down unabated coal” and limiting new coal power generation and “phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

States are also called on to accelerate zero and low emissions technologies, including, nuclear power and carbon capture.