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No transition without fossil fuels, says GCC energy chief 

Delegates at Cop28 in Dubai. Discussions about phasing out or phasing down fossil fuels – and how quickly – are continuing at the climate summit Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Reuters
Delegates at Cop28 in Dubai. Discussions about phasing out or phasing down fossil fuels – and how quickly – are continuing at the climate summit
  • Debate heats up at Cop28
  • ‘Everything would shut down’
  • Adnoc expansion plan criticised

As Cop28 negotiators tussle over the future of fossil fuels, a senior GCC official has suggested there will be no energy transition without them.

Dr Mohammed Al Rashidi, director of energy and economic affairs at the GCC’s general secretariat, told AGBI at the climate summit: “If fossil fuels were gone from tomorrow, everything would shut down.”

Speaking in the GCC pavilion in Dubai, Al Rashidi said the best way to secure the future of the planet was to have a mix of fossil fuels and clean energy.

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“GCC member states are committed to work with the global community to meet the Paris Agreement. But it has to be a mix because we are not ready right now to get rid of [fossil fuels],” he said.

The Middle East commissioned 3.2GW of new renewables capacity in 2022. The UAE alone plans to invest $165 billion in clean and renewable energy initiatives over the next 30 years.

However, the Gulf states occupy the top three places in carbon dioxide emissions per person – and all six GCC members are in the top 10.

Qatar heads the list, emitting 35.6 tonnes per capita in 2021. This compares to the US in 12th place, with 14.9 tonnes.

Climate Action Tracker, an independent research group, has downgraded its rating of the UAE to “critically insufficient” – its worst classification.

“We estimate the UAE will miss its nationally determined contribution by a large margin, and it therefore needs to put in place additional policies to reduce emissions,” Climate Action Tracker said in its December report.

The group says the Cop28 host’s emissions are projected to continue rising to 2030. At this point, in order to be compatible with the Paris Agreement target of 1.5C, they would need to decrease by 38 percent below 2022 levels.

The report cited Adnoc’s $17 billion contracts to develop the Hail and Ghasha offshore gas fields. These deals, unveiled in October, are part of a $150 billion fossil fuel expansion plan by the state oil giant.

Climate Action Tracker said emissions from the production and use of this gas by 2030 would be equivalent to 15 to 20 percent of the country’s domestic emissions.

Sarah Colenbrander, director of the Climate and Sustainability Programme at the think tank ODI (formerly the Overseas Development Institute), told AGBI: “While none of the recent Cop presidencies have a perfect record on climate action, none have doubled down on fossil fuels quite so brazenly as the UAE.”

United Nations secretary-general António Guterres told Cop28 delegates on Friday: “The science is clear: the 1.5C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce, not abate. Phase out – with a clear timeframe.”

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