DUBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Any global commitment to phase out fossil fuels - which could be agreed at the COP28 climate talks this week - needs to be carried out in a way that is fair and equitable for workers and their communities, said former Irish President Mary Robinson.

The climate justice advocate and former U.N. human rights commissioner said that any phase-out of coal, oil and gas should be "unconditional" and "very quick", in line with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

At the same time there must be support for people whose livelihoods depend on high-carbon fuels and industries, as well as help to make renewable energy available to all, she said in an interview on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference.

"We have to phase out (fossil fuels), but also - for those countries, and for the workers in those countries - with just transition for their communities," Robinson told Context. "It is important that people are not left out when this happens."

The COP28 summit has started work on a programme to deal with the social and economic disruption that moving away from fossil fuels will likely cause. But it is still in its early stages and has yet to produce concrete decisions or measures.

Rich nations have offered several large financial partnerships to emerging economies - South Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam and Senegal - to phase out their coal and gas production and fossil fuel power generation, and boost clean energy.

But it is unclear how these "Just Energy Transition Partnerships" will channel financial and other assistance to workers and communities to limit negative impacts such as job losses, and enable them to benefit from a greener economy.

"(It) requires money, it requires re-skilling, it requires putting different industry into (the) different sectors that will be affected," said Robinson, who also chairs The Elders, a group of leaders working on peace, justice and sustainability issues.

The other part of the picture is making clean energy "affordable and accessible to everybody", she added, including some 570 million Africans who live without electricity and 900 million people in developing nations who cook with dirty fuels.

"That requires more money as well, so the money is very important, the finance - and I'm worried that we're not seeing enough emphasis on that," she said.

Momentum has grown at COP28 behind a global target to triple renewable energy such as wind and solar by 2030, with nearly two-thirds of countries putting their weight behind the pledge.

But ensuring capacity for renewables is put in place where it is needed most - such as to replace highly polluting coal power or serve growing cities - remains a challenge, particularly in poorer countries that investors see as risky.

A report released during COP28 by the Independent High-Level Expert Group on Climate Finance said overall investment in those countries is too little and warned that emerging markets and developing nations are being "left behind on clean energy".


Robinson also said COP28 had not made enough progress on helping vulnerable communities suffering the worst impacts of climate change to adapt and become resilient to increasingly fierce storms, severe droughts, floods and rising sea levels.

"I'm really worried there's a go-slow on adaptation," she said. "The polluter is not paying - those causing the problem are not stepping up in the way that they should."

Negotiations on how to put a global goal on adaptation - first agreed in 2015 - into practice are due to produce a framework at COP28 to measure and give momentum to work on the ground.

But the talks have been hamstrung by disagreement over the small amounts of finance being provided. Rich nations have been unwilling to say how they will meet a vague commitment to double finance for adaptation by 2025, after breaking earlier promises, or to put a number on the scale of finance needed.

Robinson said she knows community groups on the ground, mainly led by women, who are not getting the money they need for adaptation - and she called for greater efforts to agree on how to roll out the global goal and come up with "far more" finance.

"We need to really provide climate finance for local communities and Indigenous and young people, with all their entrepreneurial ideas, and to help to make their community and their country more resilient," she said.

Overall COP28 must deliver a whole package of climate action, including a rapid fossil fuel phase-out, a play-book for adaptation and finance to support a low-carbon, climate-resilient transition that is fair for all, she said.

The aim is to deliver a "much healthier, much cleaner, more climate-safe and a more equal world", she said.

"We're definitely on the cusp, but we're not moving fast enough - and science is telling us it's dangerous because we're going to tip into (climate) tipping points. Let's not go there," she added.

(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit