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COP28 Summit: the future of fossil fuels at the center of climate negotiations

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  • UN COP28 summit opens Thursday in Dubai
  • Countries to discuss phasing out fossil fuels
  • Oil-rich UAE under pressure to negotiate climate deal
  • Division on the role of the oil and gas sector in the climate fight

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS/DUBAI, Nov 29 (Reuters) – Delegates from nearly 200 countries will gather this week for the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where the United Arab Emirates, host of the conference and member of OPEC, hope to promote the vision of a low-carbon future that includes, and does not discharge, fossil fuels.

This narrative, also supported by other major oil-producing countries, will expose international divisions at the summit on how to combat global warming.

Countries are divided on whether to prioritize phasing out coal, oil and gas, or developing technologies such as carbon capture to try to reduce their climate impact.

The annual UN summit from November 30 to December 12 comes as the world is set to set a new record for the hottest year in 2023, and as reports confirm that countries’ climate commitments climate are not enough to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. .

Among the decisions nations will have to make in the glittering, high-tech city of Dubai will be whether to agree, for the first time, to “phase out” the world’s consumption of fossil fuels and replace them with sources such as solar and wind power.

The International Energy Agency, the West’s energy watchdog, released a report ahead of the conference setting out its position.

He called the idea of ​​widespread carbon capture, aimed at containing emissions from burning fossil fuels, an illusion, and said the fossil fuel industry must choose between worsening the climate crisis or moving to clean energy.

In response, OPEC accused the IEA of defaming oil producers.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change.

AN OIL MAN AT THE HELM

Arguments for and against the continued use of fossil fuels have focused on the new COP president, Sultan al-Jaber.

His position as CEO of the UAE’s national oil company, ADNOC, has raised concerns among activists, some members of the US Congress and European lawmakers about his ability to be an impartial negotiator of a climate deal.

Jaber vehemently denied a report from the BBC and the Center for Climate Reporting (CCR) that he planned to discuss possible gas and other trade deals with more than a dozen governments before the summit.

“These allegations are false, false, incorrect, inaccurate. And it is an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency,” Jaber said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Jaber said the phase-down of fossil fuels was “inevitable”, but also said industry needed to be included in the debate over finding climate solutions and presented himself as ideally placed to play a mediating role .

Climate defenders are not reassured.

“We have a world that has more fossil fuels than ever before,” said Ani Dasgupta, president of the World Resources Institute, a climate NGO. “What we should be looking for is a commitment to actually reducing fossil fuels.”

Jaber says he has been rallying business support for COP28 commitments to reduce emissions from oil and gas operations.

Many industry representatives will be present in Dubai as this year’s gathering, which brings together 70,000 registered participants, takes on the feel of a trade show.

Organizers say the record turnout will include the largest business turnout at a United Nations climate summit so far.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Britain’s King Charles are also expected to attend, but not US President Joe Biden.

TAKE ASSESSMENT

Away from high-level visitors, one of the major tasks for country delegations at COP28 will be to assess how far the world is from the goal set in Paris in 2015 of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). ), while aiming for a ceiling of 1.5°C.

This process, known as a global stocktake, should result in a high-level plan telling countries what they should do.

Governments will then need to transform this global plan into national policies and objectives to be submitted to the UN in 2025.

Ahead of the conference, the European Union, the United States and the United Arab Emirates rallied support for a deal to triple the number of renewable energy installed globally by 2030. More than 100 countries have supported the deal, officials told Reuters, but countries like China and India did not.

U.S. officials and others hope that a climate deal reached earlier this month between China and the United States, the world’s largest emitters, can also set a positive tone for negotiations.

The two countries agreed to boost renewable energy and “accelerate the substitution of coal, oil and gas production.”

CLIMATE FINANCING

Another task of the conference is to launch the world’s first climate damage fund to help countries that have already suffered irreparable damage from the impacts of climate change, such as drought, floods and sea level rise. of the sea.

Representatives from developed and developing countries have agreed in principle on its design, but all countries at COP28 must approve it for it to reach a final agreement.

Gayane Gabrielyan, Armenia’s negotiator for the fund, told Reuters it was crucial that the deal on the loss and damage fund be approved now, ahead of elections next year in countries including the United States. United, which could break the political consensus.

Another test is whether rich countries announce the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to launch the fund at COP28. The European Union and the United States have already announced their contributions and are putting pressure on countries like China and the United Arab Emirates to follow.

“Speaking from previous experiences, unfortunately, most of the global agreements and most of the global commitments related to climate have remained unfinished,” said Najib Ahmed, national consultant at the Somali Ministry of Climate.

“But again, we cannot lose hope.”

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Kate Abnett; Editing by Josie Kao and Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Valerie Volcovici covers U.S. climate and energy policy from Washington, DC. She focuses on climate and environmental regulations within federal agencies and Congress and how the energy transition is transforming in the United States. Other areas of coverage include his award-winning reporting on plastic pollution and the ins and outs of global climate diplomacy and the United Nations climate negotiations.

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Kate Abnett covers EU climate and energy policy in Brussels, reporting on Europe’s green transition and how climate change affects people and ecosystems across the EU. Other areas of coverage include international climate diplomacy. Before joining Reuters, Kate covered emissions and energy markets for Argus Media in London. She is part of the teams whose reporting on the European energy crisis won two Reuters Journalist of the Year awards in 2022.

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Maha reports on energy and raw materials in the Middle East region. She has worked as a journalist at Reuters for 15 years and has covered stories in Egypt, the Gulf, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. She previously headed the Lebanon, Syria and Jordan office. Contact: @mahaeldahan

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