Climate: OPEC’s call on fossil fuels strains negotiations at COP28


by Kate Abnett, Valerie Volcovici and Yousef Saba

DUBAI (Reuters) – Negotiations at COP28 turned into a battle on Saturday over the future of fossil fuels after OPEC called to reject any formula providing for an abandonment of oil and gas in the current agreement discussion a few days before the end of this climate summit.

According to observers, Saudi Arabia and Russia are among the oil-producing countries demanding that discussions at this summit in the United Arab Emirates focus exclusively on reducing polluting emissions and not on denouncing a form of energy in particular.

Facing them, at least 80 participants, including the United States, the European Union and many poor countries, vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, are demanding that a possible agreement at COP28 clearly calls for the eventual abandonment of fossil fuels in an attempt to respect a trajectory that will make it possible to contain the rise in global temperature to 1.5° Celsius, the objective set at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

“We need realistic approaches to tackle emissions,” OPEC Secretary-General Haitham al Ghais said in a statement read by a representative to delegates attending COP28. “One that enables economic growth, helps eradicate poverty and builds resilience all at once.”

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) sent a letter to its members and allies this week urging them to block any agreement that suggests a move away from fossil fuels, warning that “unjustified and excessive pressure against fossil fuels could reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences.

According to Alden Meyer, of the E3G think tank, this is the first time that an OPEC secretary general has intervened in this way in climate discussions sponsored by the United Nations. “This shows a wave of panic,” he said.

FRANCE “STUNNED” AND “ANGRY”

The European Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra, deemed OPEC’s letter “out of step” with efforts to combat climate change, of which fossil fuels are one of the main causes.

“In the eyes of many, including myself, this was seen as something out of step, unnecessary, not in keeping with the situation the world finds itself in regarding the very dramatic climate situation,” he said. -he says.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher, French Minister for Energy Transition, said she was “stunned” and “angry” after OPEC’s statements.

“OPEC’s position endangers the most vulnerable countries and the poorest populations who are the first victims of this situation. I am counting on the presidency of the COP not to be impressed by these declarations and to support an agreement which affirms a clear objective of phasing out fossil fuels,” she declared.

Saudi Arabia, de facto leader of OPEC, and Russia, another major producer although not belonging to the cartel, seem to want to emphasize the development of expensive technologies such as carbon capture, which, according to the UN scientific advisors, cannot, however, replace a reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels in the world.

Other countries such as India and China do not explicitly support a call for an exit from fossil fuels during this COP28 and support the more consensual theme of the development of renewable energies.

After a week of technical discussions, negotiations moved to ministerial level to try to reach a compromise text before the summit was scheduled to end on Tuesday.

The latest version of the draft agreement submitted to negotiators still provides for different possibilities on this central theme of fossil fuels, ranging from a planned exit based on data provided by science to the pure and simple absence of any reference to the subject.

(Reporting Kate Abnett, Valerie Volcovici, Yousef Saba, David Stanway, Simon Jessop, Elizabeth Piper and William James, with Elizabeth Pineau in Paris, French version Bertrand Boucey)

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