At COP28 in Dubai, a heated debate emerged over a proposal to phase out fossil fuels, potentially marking a historic shift in global warming talks. Saudi Arabia and Russia, among others, pushed to focus on reducing climate pollution without directly targeting fossil fuels. This contrasts with over 80 nations, including the U.S., EU, and climate-vulnerable countries, advocating for an end to fossil fuel use.
OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais called for realistic approaches to tackle emissions that support economic growth and resilience. OPEC’s intervention in the U.N. climate talks with a letter urging members to exclude fossil fuel mentions signaled a significant stance, seen by some experts as a sign of concern within the organization.
EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra criticized OPEC’s position as misaligned with global climate efforts. Saudi Arabia and Russia, influential in OPEC and OPEC+ groups, appeared to rely on carbon capture technology, which the U.N. climate panel deems insufficient by itself for reducing global fossil fuel usage.
While India and China haven’t explicitly endorsed a fossil fuel phase-out at COP28, they support enhancing renewable energy. Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate envoy, described the summit as the most challenging in his 16 years of participation, underlining the importance of agreement on fossil fuels.
Negotiations are at a crucial stage, with options ranging from a complete phase-out of fossil fuels to softer alternatives or no mention at all. Germany’s climate envoy Jennifer Morgan emphasized the need for constructive engagement.
COP28 Director General Majid Al Suwaidi, responding to the OPEC letter, expressed the UAE’s ambition for a significant outcome. The Marshall Islands, representing climate-vulnerable nations, warned that omitting fossil fuel references could endanger the world.
As the summit nears its end, the deadlock over fossil fuels remains a central issue, with Samoa, representing the Alliance of Small Island States, stressing the need for firm commitments beyond renewable energy targets.