COP28 clashes over fossil fuel phase-out after OPEC opposition

  • Some members refuse to include the phase-out of fossil fuels
  • Saudi Arabia and Russia are pushing to focus on emissions, not fuel
  • The countries most affected by climate change are demanding its inclusion

DUBAI (Reuters) – Some countries are resisting a proposed pledge to phase out fossil fuels in the COP28 climate deal, jeopardizing attempts at UN climate talks to deliver a firm commitment for the first time in 30 years on ending the use of fossil fuels. oil and gas.

Observers of the negotiations said that Saudi Arabia and Russia were among the countries that insisted that the summit in Dubai focus only on reducing climate pollution, without mentioning the fossil fuels that cause it.

Earlier this week, oil producer OPEC sent a letter urging its members and allies to reject any mention of fossil fuels in the final summit agreement. The letter warned that “unjustified and disproportionate pressure on fossil fuels may reach a tipping point” in the talks.

In a statement to Reuters, OPEC Secretary-General Haitham Al-Ghais refused to comment on the letter, but said that OPEC wants to keep the summit’s focus on reducing emissions that cause global warming and away from their main sources such as oil and gas.

He said, “The world needs large investments in all energies, including hydrocarbons.” “Energy transitions must be fair, just and inclusive.”

This was the first time that the OPEC Secretariat intervened in the United Nations climate talks with such a message.

“It indicates a whiff of panic,” said Alden Meyer of the e3G think tank.

Saudi Arabia is the largest producer in OPEC and the de facto leader of the organization. Russia is a member of the so-called OPEC+ group.

By insisting on focusing on emissions rather than fossil fuels, the two countries appear to be banking on the promise of expensive carbon capture technology, which the UN climate science panel says cannot replace reducing fossil fuel use around the world.

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On the other hand, at least 80 countries, including the United States, the European Union and many poor and climate-vulnerable countries, are demanding that the COP28 agreement explicitly call for an eventual end to the use of fossil fuels.

Other countries, including India and China, did not explicitly support the phase-out of fossil fuels at COP28, but supported a popular call to promote renewable energy.

Ireland’s former president, Mary Robinson, who chairs a group of former world leaders known as the Elders, said the letter showed OPEC was “concerned” about the course of the COP28 talks.

“Russia and Saudi Arabia are on the wrong side of this and will likely push hard,” Robinson said. “We really have to make sure the tipping point is moving in the right direction.”

Diplomatic grievances were also aired on the platform on Saturday.

A Russian representative said in a speech that Moscow is studying whether part of the gold reserves amounting to about 300 billion dollars that the West froze after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be used in a climate damage fund for developing countries.

Meanwhile, China complained about what it said was unacceptable talk about Taiwan’s participation in the talks. A Palestinian representative denounced the Israeli war on Gaza, saying the conflict made it difficult to focus on climate change efforts.

“a critical stage”

As the summit concluded on Tuesday, government ministers from nearly 200 countries joined the Dubai summit in trying to resolve the fossil fuel impasse.

Countries vulnerable to climate risks said that refusing to mention fossil fuels at COP 28 would threaten the entire world.

“Nothing puts the prosperity and future of all people on Earth, including all citizens of OPEC countries, at greater risk than fossil fuels,” Tina Steg, Marshall Islands climate envoy, said in a statement.

The Marshall Islands, which faces flooding due to climate-driven sea level rise, heads a group of countries in the highly ambitious coalition seeking stronger emissions reduction targets and policies.

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To achieve the global goal of keeping climate warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the coalition is “pushing to phase out fossil fuels, which are the root cause of this crisis,” she said. “1.5 is non-negotiable, it means the end of fossil fuels.”

The latest version of the negotiating text, released on Friday, shows that countries are still considering a range of options – from agreeing to “phase out fossil fuels in line with the best available science”, to phasing out “unabated” fossil fuels, to Its inclusion is not mentioned at all.

German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan said the provinces are “moving into the critical phase of negotiations.”

“It is time for all countries to remember what is at stake,” she said. “I’m concerned that not everyone is participating constructively.”

In response to a question about OPEC’s speech, COP28 Director-General Majid Al Suwaidi avoided using the term “fossil fuels” but said that the UAE, as chair of the summit, wants an agreement to put the world on track to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“It is clear that our COP president… wants to see an outcome that is as ambitious as possible, and we believe we will achieve it,” he told a news conference.

Speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, Samoa’s Environment Minister, Cedric Schuster, expressed concern that this year’s talks would be bogged down by conflicts.

“We are very concerned about the pace of negotiations given the limited time we have left here in Dubai,” he told the summit from the main stage on Saturday.

“The renewables target cannot be a substitute for a stronger commitment to phase out fossil fuels and end fossil fuel subsidies,” he said. “COP28 needs to achieve both.”

Azerbaijan looks set to host the COP29 climate change summit next year after gaining support from other Eastern European countries, breaking a geopolitical deadlock over the next global gathering to tackle climate change.

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(Reporting by Kate Abnett, Valerie Volkovici, Youssef Saba, David Stanway, Simon Jessop, Elizabeth Piper and William James; Preparing by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Katie Daigle, William Mallard and David Evans

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Kate Abnett covers EU climate and energy policy in Brussels, reporting on Europe’s green transition and how climate change is affecting people and ecosystems across the EU. Other areas of coverage include international climate diplomacy. Before joining Reuters, Kate covered emissions and energy markets for Argus Media in London. She is part of the teams whose reporting on Europe’s energy crisis won two Reuters Journalist of the Year awards in 2022.

Valerie Volcovici covers US climate and energy policy from Washington, D.C. It focuses on climate and environmental regulations in federal agencies and in Congress and how the energy transition in the United States is shaping up. Other areas of coverage include its award-winning reporting on plastic pollution and details of global climate diplomacy and UN climate negotiations.

Youssef covers energy in the Middle East from Dubai, paying close attention to the Gulf’s oil giants and their roles in the region’s ambitious transformational plans and transition to green energy. He previously covered financial and economic news in the Gulf region, focusing on the fast-growing capital markets there. He joined Reuters in 2018 in Cairo, where he covered Egypt and Sudan, including the uprising. He previously worked at a local newspaper in Cairo and in the capital as an intern at Politico during the 2016 US presidential election. Contact: +971562166204

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