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Big divisions loom over fossil fuels as COP28 talks head into final phase

DUBAI, Dec. 10 – The COP28 climate summit presidents on Sunday redoubled their efforts to reach agreement on a first-ever deal to phase out the world's use of fossil fuels as their two-week session concludes. He called on the negotiators to do so. Its final stage.

The Dubai talks highlight deep international divisions over the future role of oil, gas and coal, complicating efforts by some 200 countries to rush an agreement before the summit is due to end on December 12. ing.

A coalition of more than 80 countries, including the United States, the European Union and small island states, has passed language to “phase out” fossil fuels, the main source of greenhouse gases that scientists say are causing global warming. We are seeking an agreement at COP28, including the following: .

They face stiff resistance led by oil producing group OPEC and its allies.

Seeking a breakthrough on Sunday, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber took the unusual step of convening a “majlis” (an Arabic term meaning joint gathering), in which delegates would sit in a formal front-facing book. It is now possible to speak in a venue separate from the conference hall.

“We're in the late game now,” Jaber said. “I hope you don't disappoint me.”

Delegates spoke in a circle and restated their positions, but it was not immediately clear whether the forum resulted in a change in position.

OPEC issued a letter to its members and supporters on December 6 urging them to oppose any language targeting fossil fuels in the COP28 agreement, and negotiators told Reuters that some He said the delegation appeared to be heeding the call.

Participants and delegates sit in a common area during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 10, 2023. Reuters

“I think we still have a pretty strong position,” Deputy Climate Minister Adam Gibrze-Czetwerczyński, who heads Poland's COP28 delegation, said ahead of Sunday's parliament.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest producer and de facto leader, has argued, along with Russia and others, that the focus of COP28 should be on reducing emissions, rather than targeting the fuel sources that cause them. ing.

China's top climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, said on Saturday that a COP28 deal could only be considered a success if it included a deal on fossil fuels, but it remains to be seen whether Beijing backs a “phase-out” deal. was not mentioned.

“The positions on this issue are currently very adversarial, and China is trying to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties and can resolve the issue,” he said, adding that COP28 was the most difficult time in his career. He said it was a difficult climate summit.

Climate activists protest during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 10, 2023. Reuters

US climate change envoy John Kerry spoke for 45 minutes with Mr Xie at the Chinese delegation's office on Sunday. Mr. Kelly did not say what the two discussed.

A draft document published on Sunday proposes that Azerbaijan host next year's COP29 climate summit from November 11 to November 22. The document must be adopted by a summit before it becomes official.

many commitments

The latest version of the nuclear negotiating document, released on Friday, sees countries agreeing to “phase out fossil fuels in line with the best available science” to phasing out “unabated fossil fuels.” This indicates that the company is still considering a wide range of options. , to the point where it's not even mentioned at all.

Reducing fossil fuels typically means reducing our climate impact by capturing and storing the carbon dioxide we emit. Carbon capture is expensive and unproven at scale.

Climate change activists protest against fossil fuels at Expo City in Dubai. Reuters

Three sources told Reuters the COP28 Presidency was not expected to release a new draft until Monday, giving negotiators a chance to give their opinions before the scheduled end of the meeting at noon on Tuesday. Only one day remains to resolve the differences.

Speaking in parliament on Sunday, the head of the Saudi delegation reiterated the position that the COP28 agreement should not single out energy sources, but instead focus on reducing emissions.

“We have been thinking hard about how to send an inclusive signal to the world about what the science is telling us without being completely selective,” the representative said. “We have consistently expressed concern about attempts to attack energy sources rather than emissions.”

OPEC member Iraq also expressed a similar position.

Britain and Australia were among the few countries to offer a small compromise, saying they could soften the language on fossil fuels as long as there were sufficient safeguards.

Participants walk at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 8, 2023. Reuters

Meanwhile, the European Union reiterated its position that the phasing out of fossil fuels is an essential element of any agreement to avoid the worst of climate change.

“Time is running out. And respecting deadlines, the time we have left is time for our planet,” said EU chief negotiator Wopke Hoekstra at COP28.

The conference will discuss many other goals to achieve goals such as tripling the deployment of renewable energy and nuclear power, reducing coal use and curbing emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Promises were obtained from each country.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced on Sunday that if these commitments are fulfilled, global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President, speaks at a press conference at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28. Reuters

While this figure is significant, it is around one-third of the emissions gap that needs to be closed over the next six years to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. the IEA said. .

“Achieving 1.5 degrees requires an 'orderly and just reduction in global fossil fuel use,'” IEA Director General Fatih Birol said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking at the Doha Forum, called on COP28 leaders to agree to deep cuts in emissions to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). .

Mr. Guterres said that despite the pledges, emissions are at an all-time high and fossil fuels are the main culprit.

“We call on leaders at COP28 in Dubai to agree to deep emissions cuts in line with the 1.5 degree limit,” he said.

For comprehensive coverage of COP28 in your inbox every day, sign up for the Reuters Sustainable Switch newsletter here.

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