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COP28: Phaseout of fossil fuels removed from revised global stocktake text – Platts

The proposed text faced fierce opposition from those that were hoping for a landmark agreement to phase out fossil fuels © Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The proposed text faced fierce opposition from those that were hoping for a landmark agreement to phase out fossil fuels – FT © Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Eklavya Gupte, Jennifer Gnana, Claudia Carpenter, Herman Wang, Platts S&P Global

EnergiesNet.com 12 12 2023

Amid intense pressure from oil and gas producers, language referring to the phaseout of fossil fuels was removed in the latest draft of the UN Climate Change Conference’s Global Stocktake, released Dec. 11. This threatens the agreement of a conclusive deal, with EU ministers branding the new text unacceptable, setting the stage for a final day of fraught negotiations.

Prior language on the phaseout of fossil fuels has been replaced by a call on nations to take actions “that could include . . . reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner so as to achieve net zero by, before, or around 2050 in keeping with the science.”

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber was cautious after the updated draft was released, admitting that more work was left to do despite some “progress.”

“You know what remains to be agreed. And you know that I want you to deliver the highest ambition on all items, including on fossil fuel language,” he said, kicking off another round of talks.

Commenting on the draft, Mary Robinson, former UN envoy on climate change and Chair of the Elders, said it was “not good enough to say you reaffirm the Paris Agreement but to then fail to commit to a full fossil fuel phase out. 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.”

The draft document will now be sent for further negotiations, with the global climate summit set to end on Dec. 12. However, COP28 like other UN climate events can be extended for a few days if parties are close to agreeing a deal.

Big oil influence

On Dec. 8, OPEC warned its member countries that a phaseout of fossil fuels would jeopardize their economies, calling instead for a focus on driving emissions down.

Those backing a phaseout of fossil fuels, including the US and the EU, say the science is clear. The UN estimates the gap to emissions consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 C in 2030 at 20.3 billion-23.9 billion mt CO2e, based on current Nationally Determined Contributions.

Both EU climate chief Wopke Hoekstra and Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said they were very disappointed with the updated text.

“We think there are elements in the text that are fully unacceptable,” Ribera told reporters on the sidelines of COP28. “The current text provides some reference to the science, some reference to 1.5 C, but it is not consistent with dealing with energy. We need to get into deeper discussions with many other partners, and of course with the President [Jaber].”

However, some oil industry officials were also unimpressed, saying the new draft seems to merely rephrase a phaseout with text to reduce fossil fuel production, but that it was unclear how individual countries would vote.

Several Middle East oil producers met in Doha Dec. 11 after criticism from climate activists for hindering efforts to reach consensus on the critical text calling for the phaseout of fossil fuels at COP28.

A spokesperson at OPEC was unavailable to comment on the new text.

At the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries’ meeting in Doha, Qatari minister of state for energy affairs Saad al-Kaabi said there was an “urgent need to formulate a realistic and scientifically based vision for a fair, balanced, and sustainable energy transition.”

Future of fossil fuels

China, the world’s largest emitter, has emphasized the role for accelerated deployment of zero and low emissions technologies in the drive to substitute fossil fuels, echoing the new wording in the stocktake text.

Here the text promotes the use of renewables, nuclear, carbon capture and storage and low carbon hydrogen “to enhance efforts towards substitution of unabated fossil fuels in energy systems.”

The draft also refers to the option of phasing out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible.”

The amended text now says parties recognize the need for “deep, rapid and sustained reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions. The previous draft text, dated Dec. 8, had three references to phaseout of fossil fuels.

The text also refers to the tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030, as announced earlier in the climate summit.

Finally, a reference to “rapidly phasing down unabated coal” with limitations on permitting new and unabated coal power generation adds little to prior commitments during COP26 in Glasgow.

Global greenhouse gas emissions need to fall 43% by 2030 to limit global heating to 1.5 C, the UN said Dec. 10.

UN Climate Change data showed current commitments in national climate plans “would increase emissions by 9% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels,” it said.

spglobal.com 12 11 2023

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