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COP28 considers end to fossil fuels in move opposed by OPEC


COP28 considers end to fossil fuels in move opposed by OPEC

By Kate Abnett, Maha El Dahan and Jake Spring

DUBAI (Reuters) -OPEC is rallying its oil producing members to veto a proposed deal to phase out fossil fuels at the COP28 climate summit, highlighting deep divisions over the future of oil and gas.

At least 80 countries are demanding a COP28 deal that calls for an eventual end to fossil fuel use, as scientists urge ambitious action to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

The latest draft of what could be a final COP28 agreement, which was released on Friday, included options to do so.

“It seems that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences,” OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais wrote in a letter to members of the group, including COP28 host the UAE.

In the letter, dated Dec. 6, he called on them to reject any language that targeted fossil fuels in a final summit deal.

Earlier, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber urged delegates from nearly 200 countries to work hard to reach a consensus before the scheduled end of the two-week summit on Dec. 12.

“Let’s please get this job done,” he said on Friday before the release of the draft. “I need you to step up, and I need you to come out of your comfort zones.”

Even though fossil fuels are the top source of planet-warming emissions, three decades of U.N. climate summits have never addressed their future head on and a decision to phase out them out would be unprecedented.

OPTIONS

COP28’s draft deal includes a range of options – from agreeing to a “phase out of fossil fuels in line with best available science”, to phasing out “unabated fossil fuels”, to including no language on them at all.

France’s climate ambassador Stephane Crouzat said countries such as Saudi Arabia feel they can go on producing fossil fuels while cleansing emissions with new carbon capture technologies.

“We feel it’s just not realistic,” Crouzat told Reuters.

Canadian environment minister Steven Guilbeault said he was confident the final text would include agreement on fossil fuels. “Even if it’s not as ambitious as some would want, it will still be an historic moment.”

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Other countries said they were insisting that any fossil fuel phase-out should be led by the wealthy countries which have exploited their resources for decades.

“Every country cannot be put on the same standard when it comes to the transition,” Malaysian Climate Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad told Reuters.

With countries still divided, a representative of the powerful G77+China bloc of developing countries said the “phase-down/phase-out” language needed to be rewritten.

“The whole issue would have to be rephrased,” said Paulo Pedroso, a Cuban diplomat representing the group of 134 developing countries.

“The issue is more complex,” said Pedroso, adding that countries with fewer means should be given more time to shift to clean energy, while richer ones should move faster.

A compromise must also include increasing financial and technological support for developing and poorer nations to build the necessary infrastructure, he said.

“When you just refer to phase-down, phase-out, that looks a little bit out of context to me,” Pedroso said. “Because people don’t understand what you mean.”

‘BEYOND HUMAN LIMIT’

Meanwhile, the U.N. climate agency’s chief reminded countries that the science behind the world’s goal of holding warming to within 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial temperatures is clear.

“From the planet’s perspective 1.5 is a tangible limit. It is not simply a choice,” said Simon Stiell, a Grenadian national who is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Breaching the 1.5C threshold would mean that “2 billion people will live in areas … beyond the human limit,” he said.

In other debates, eastern European countries are working to resolve an impasse over where to hold next year’s COP29 summit after Russia said it would block any EU member as COP president.

As of Friday, diplomats said Azerbaijan was likely to win in its bid to host the event. Bulgaria and Moldova have also offered to take on the rotating presidency.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, Gloria Dickie, David Stanway, William James, Valerie Volcovici; Sarah MacFarlane; Jake Spring; Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Katy Daigle, Gerry Doyle, Barbara Lewis, Kirsten Donovan, Alexander Smith)

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