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Cop28 denies ‘favouritism’ in fossil fuel wording

Cop28 Director General Majid Al Suwaidi talks to the media regarding progress on the Cop28 global stocktake Cop28/Neville Hopwood
Cop28 Director General Majid Al Suwaidi talks to the media regarding progress on the Cop28 global stocktake
  • Al Suwaidi listening to all parties
  • Al Gore critical of first draft
  • ‘Phase out’ not mentioned

The UN climate talks in Dubai stretched past the Tuesday morning deadline set as tensions mounted over a deal that departed from committing to a phase-out of fossil fuels. 

The latest draft of the global stocktake sparked fury from climate activists and politicians last night.

Majid Al Suwaidi, director-general of Cop28, told a press conference on Tuesday that the Cop presidency “doesn’t show favouritism to any party”. 

He said parties were still “deeply split” on the language around fossil fuels and “many issues remain”.

“As you also know, lots of parties felt [the new text] did not fully address their concerns,” Al Suwaidi said.

“We are trying to find a balanced outcome that reflects the very, very different views that we’ve heard in the room.

“We know that there are many different countries with different circumstances, different situations, different challenges that they’re facing, and it’s not a binary solution.”

Al Suwaidi said the summit’s leadership still hopes to make a “historic” reference to fossil fuels in the upcoming draft, but that the inclusion of such language hinges on a consensus of the nearly 200 countries engaged in the talks.

“We’ve provided the space, we’ve provided the ambition, we’ve provided the goals – now they need to step up to that challenge,” he said. “It’s up to them to show us the ambition.”

The pivotal document, aimed at guiding the world’s transition away from fossil fuels, is at the heart of intense debate at Cop28. 

The final text is non-binding but is likely to play a crucial part in the future of global energy policies. 

If the language advocating for a phase-out is retained, it would mark the first time that fossil fuels are explicitly referenced in a decision text at a UN climate summit.

A new draft of the global stocktake is expected later today.

The draft of the global stocktake issued on Monday evening was criticised on the grounds that it departed from previous versions which explicitly called for a phase-out of fossil fuels.

Observers told AGBI the reversal, which came on the penultimate day of the UN climate summit, was driven by a “small minority of blockers” that included Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Negotiators also accused the US of playing a proxy war.

Former US vice president Al Gore said in a statement that Monday’s “obsequious” draft “reads as if Opec dictated it word for word”. 

“It is ‘of the petrostates, by the petrostates and for the petrostates”, Gore alleged.

Romain Ioualalen, global policy manager Oil Change International, said the current version of the text could exacerbate climate change “by legitimizing technologies like carbon capture that can prolong more fossil fuels instead of removing them”.

The new text notably omits previous references to a “phase-out” of hydrocarbons.

Instead, the revised draft, which is still under discussion, presents a suite of options countries “could” employ to curb warming emissions.

These include cutting both consumption and production of fossil fuels “in a just, orderly and equitable manner so as to achieve net zero by, before, or around 2050”.

Other proposed actions included trebling renewable energy capacity by 2030, scaling up carbon capture and rapidly phasing down unabated coal.

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, said the talks saw “massive pushback” from Saudi Arabia.

“They want to talk about emissions not phase out,” he said.

“This is a clear indication of the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying power, influencing global policies to favour prolonged fossil fuel use,” Singh alleged.

He added that the US has been “silent” inside the talks while “grandstanding on the outside” and posturing for a phase out. 

PetroStates of Decline, a report issued by Carbon Tracker, a financial think tank, says that the majority of petrostates could lose more than half their revenues under even a moderate energy transition.

The UAE, which relies on oil and gas for 40 percent of government income, could see production revenue drop more than 60 percent lower than expected. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, faces a similar challenge, Carbon Tracker said.

The talks are expected to extend past the deadline, as is common with such negotiations.

“We have a text and we need to agree on the text,” Cop president Dr Sultan Al Jaber told delegates on Monday night.

“The time for discussion is coming to an end. And there is no time for hesitation. The time to decide is now. That said, we must still close many gaps. We must deliver an outcome that respects the science and that keeps 1.5 within reach.”

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