Deep divisions exist among nations over how to combat the growing peril of global warming ahead of UN negotiations, known as COP28, to be held in Dubai in December.
Countries should agree to phase out fuel emissions – not the production of oil, gas and coal – at UN climate talks this year, the United Arab Emirates says.
UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Mariam Almheiri said phasing out fossil fuels would hurt countries that either depend on them for revenue or cannot easily replace hydrocarbons with renewable energy sources.
She favours phasing out fossil fuel emissions using capture and storage technology while ramping up renewable energy, saying this strategy allows countries to fight global warming while continuing to produce oil, gas and coal.
“The renewable space is advancing and accelerating extremely fast, but we are nowhere near to be able to say that we can switch off fossil fuels and solely depend on clean and renewable energy,” Almheiri said on the sidelines of a climate conference in Washington, DC.
“We are now in a transition, and this transition needs to be just and pragmatic because not all countries have the resources,” she said.
The comments reflect deep divisions among nations over how to combat the growing danger from climate change ahead of UN negotiations, known as COP28, to be held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12.
Some wealthy Western governments and climate-afflicted island nations have been pushing for a phaseout of fossil fuels while resource-rich countries have campaigned to keep drilling.
‘Phasedown’ of hydrocarbons
At last year’s UN climate summit in Egypt, more than 80 countries, including members of the European Union and small island nations, agreed to include language in the final agreement calling for “a phasedown” of all fossil fuels. Other countries, including Saudi Arabia and China, urged Egypt not to include that language in the final text.
This month, the Group of Seven countries with the largest and longest developed economies agreed to hasten their phaseout of fossil fuel consumption although they did not set a firm date.
Almheiri pointed to the UAE’s example of relying on new carbon capture technology and renewables to decrease the emissions intensity of the OPEC member’s oil and gas operations.
Some experts said capture technology is unproven at scale and could require huge investment at the expense of cheaper alternatives, such as solar and wind power.
‘On a listening tour’
Sultan al-Jaber, a veteran technocrat who leads Abu Dhabi’s state-run oil company and oversees its renewable energy efforts, will preside over the UN climate talks as COP28’s president.
The appointment has prompted fierce criticism from environmental activists who questioned whether a major hydrocarbon-producing nation should lead the negotiations.
“If we are serious about curbing industrial emissions, we need to get serious about carbon capture technologies,” al-Jaber said at a climate technology meeting on Wednesday.
Since his appointment as COP28 president, al-Jaber has argued for a more inclusive approach to climate action that leaves no one behind, including the fossil fuel industry. His presidency involves shaping the conference agenda and negotiations between governments.
“For nearly five months and as part of our preparations for COP28, my team and I have been proactively engaging on a listening tour where I heard many voices from the Global South, major economies, civil society and the business community,” he said. “What is missing is a holistic, unifying ecosystem that brings all the key players together.”
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a series of dire warnings on the climate emergency in recent years.
Large numbers of people are being displaced by worsening extreme weather, and the world’s poor are being hit the hardest, the IPCC said. More people are going to die each year from heatwaves, floods, disease and starvation because of global warming, it warned.