World not ready to ‘switch off’ fossil fuels, UAE says – AlJazeera

Deep divisions exist among nations over how to combat the growing peril of global warming ahead of UNnegotiations, known as COP28, to be held in Dubai in December.

10 May 2023

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 technologywhile 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.

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World not ready to ‘switch off’ fossil fuels, UAE says – AlJazeera /COP28 president says fossil fuels still have a role to play, prompting concerns about climate summit’s goals -CNN, Egypt Independent

More than 80 countries supported a commitment to phase out oil, coal and gas at COP27 in Egypt last year, but Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas producing nations opposed it.

Tasneem Essop, the executive director of Climate Action Network, an alliance of environmental groups, told CNN that it was “concerning” that Al Jaber was speaking about a “‘foreseeable future for fossil fuels’ and a ‘phase out of emissions.’”

“A plan to end the era of fossil fuels should be central to the discussions and outcomes from COP28,” she said.

Nils Bartsch, head of oil and gas research at the German non-profit Urgewald, told CNN the world faces “an absolute carbon budget for 1.5 degrees Celsius. Reducing emissions intensity of oil and gas production does not change that – it just helps to exhaust our budget a little slower.”

Scientists have said that the world should make every effort to stay under 1.5 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels, and nations have been working to keep that goal within reach at the annual climate summits.

Al Jaber emphasized the role of technologies like carbon capture in reducing planet-heating pollution. However, some experts are concerned that these technologies remain prohibitively expensive, are unproven at scale and would take too long to implement, given the urgency of the climate crisis.

“We cannot pretend the solutions to the climate crisis lie with unreliable, untested techno fixes that will bring new risks and threats,” Essop told CNN.

Al Jaber was a controversial pick to oversee COP28. He is also CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers.

Some, however, welcomed Al Jaber’s appointment. US climate envoy John Kerry told Associated Press that he was “a terrific choice,” citing his commitment to expanding renewable energy.

Al Jaber used the Berlin conference to set out priorities, including tripling renewable energy by 2030, doubling hydrogen productionexpanding nuclear power and improving battery storage.

He also called on rich countries to deliver on their funding promises to climate-vulnerable countries. In 2009, wealthy nations pledged to mobilize $100 billion in annual climate funding, but they have consistently fallen far short of that target.

Al Jaber said this failure to deliver is hindering progress and undermining trust. He asked countries to “supercharge” climate finance.

“What I hear time and again is that climate finance is simply not available, not accessible, and not affordable,” Al Jaber said in Berlin on Tuesday. “If the world doesn’t come up with effective mechanisms to deliver climate finance to developing and emerging economies, they will have no choice but to choose a carbon-intensive development path.”

This year’s COP28 is considered particularly significant because it will include the first “global stocktake,” which will evaluate countries’ progress towards climate targets.

“All indicators… are telling us that we are way off track,” said Al Jaber.

Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, also speaking at the Berlin conference on Wednesday, said it will be important that “we actually take stock of what we have achieved and the targets we set ourselves. We have to get out of fossil fuels, we have to dramatically reduce emissions.”

“it is no longer about visions. It is finally about delivering on the pledges we made,” she said.

CNN’s Chris Stern and Elizabeth Wells contributed reporting.

COP28 president says fossil fuels still have a role to play, prompting concerns about climate summit’s goals