COP28 Nears Conclusion with UAE Driving Fossil Fuel Agreement


The COP28 climate summit in Dubai is approaching its conclusion as Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati oil executive presiding over the talks, strives to craft a text containing a commitment to decrease global oil and gas consumption—an unprecedented move. Negotiators are awaiting a draft agreement addressing the divide between countries advocating for a complete phase-out of fossil fuels and those opposing it, notably led by Saudi Arabia and other oil-exporting nations. Key outstanding issues include scaling up climate finance for developing nations and establishing a framework for assisting poorer countries in adapting to climate change.

The clash over fossil fuels has been a focal point of the two-week summit hosted in the United Arab Emirates, following the failure to reach an agreement at COP27 talks in Egypt last year. Al Jaber emphasized the need for a timely and ambitious outcome, with the summit scheduled to conclude on December 12. However, the conference seems to be lagging, with a draft document for negotiations delayed.

Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the UNFCCC overseeing COPs, highlighted that negotiations are now focused on two key issues: the level of ambition on mitigation and the commitment to supporting the transition. The central question revolves around whether oil-exporting nations can find common ground with the rest of the world to reach an agreement on fossil fuels.

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has firmly stated that the kingdom won’t agree to a deal calling for the phase-down of fossil fuels. This stance was echoed by Omani Energy Minister Salim Al-Aufi. OPEC’s top official has urged member countries to reject any agreements targeting fossil fuels, emphasizing that a COP deal must be reached unanimously.

Despite the push for stronger language on fossil fuels, Al Jaber did not specify which oil-producing nations were hindering climate action. Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are expected to rise by 1.1% this year, reaching 36.8 billion metric tons, according to the Global Carbon Project.

The ongoing debate over the future of fossil fuels occurred almost a decade after the signing of the Paris Agreement, which aimed to limit global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius to mitigate climate change’s severe impacts. The complexity of negotiations spanning adaptation, just transition, trade, transparency, and carbon makes reaching a consensus on the text challenging.

Critics have raised concerns about the UAE hosting the talks, given its status as one of the world’s largest oil exporters. Additionally, Al Jaber’s presidency has faced skepticism due to his role as the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. Climate activists have expressed reservations, and concerns persist as representatives of the fossil fuel industry, numbering at least 2,456, have been granted access to COP28.

Featured Image: Freepik @ M_ROKIBUL

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