Countries seek compromise on phasing out fossil fuels ahead of Cop28

Governments will hold consultations on whether to call for a fossil fuel phase-out at the Cop28 climate talks in November.

Governments will continue to debate whether to call for a fossil fuel phase-out ahead of Cop28 climate talks, the Egyptian Cop27 president told reporters after a meeting of 50 climate ministers in Copenhagen today.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said there would be “consultations and discussions” on whether to call for a fossil fuel phase-out when governments meet in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in November. The issue has sharply divided governments at the Cop27 climate talks he chaired last November.

Standing next to him, Danish Climate Minister Dan Jorgensen added: “There is no doubt that this will be part of the discussion moving towards Cop28.” But, he added, “whether we will achieve such a result in Dubai at the end of this year, of course, is difficult to say.”

Shukri said there is “general recognition of the importance of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and the possibility of moving towards renewable energy, clean energy.” He added: “This should be seen in terms of what constitutes a just transition.”

Fossil phase-out

At Cop27, an alliance of over 80 countries wanted a joint declaration of countries to call for a fossil fuel phase-out. This would expand and strengthen the agreement to phase out the coal produced at Cop26 last year.

But these agreements must be signed by each country, and a small group of fossil fuel producing states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia opposed the proposal. The Egyptian chairs did not include it in the final text, angering blocs such as the European Union, which accepted it reluctantly.

Host disputes

Some climate campaigners fear that the UAE, which derives half of its income from fossil fuels, will try to prevent governments from including a fossil fuel phase-out in the Cop28 agreement. The UAE’s decision to appoint Sultan Al Jaber, the head of their national oil company, as president of Cop28 further heightened those concerns.

But in February, the UAE Environment Minister told a conference that “we need to… phase out oil and gas.” In Copenhagen, both Shukri and Jorgensen argued for the ability of the oil-producing state to effectively preside over a police meeting.

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Shukri said the UAE’s oil production “is by no means detracting” and “there are areas that can benefit the process, highlighting the reduction in dependence on fossil fuels and the efforts that have been made in this regard.”

He pointed out that Cop26 was hosted by the UK, an oil-producing country, and called for a focus on “the climate crisis and not on minor issues that do not really affect the process itself.”

Part of the solution

Jorgensen said that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, “we need all the countries on the planet to do their part, and we definitely need the oil-producing countries to be part of the solution.”

Commenting on Al Jaber, whom he and Shukri met privately this week, Jorgensen said “he has made it clear that he will applaud the day the last barrel of oil is sold.”

This is a reference to Al Jaber echoing the comments of its president, Mohammed bin Zayed, who said in 2015 that “if we make the right investments today, there will come a time when the UAE will celebrate the last barrel of oil.”

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