Fossil Fuel Showdown: In a high-stakes battle at COP28, some nations are resisting a pledge to phase out fossil fuels, throwing a wrench into U.N. climate talks. Saudi Arabia and Russia, spearheading this resistance, are pushing for a focus solely on reducing climate pollution, avoiding any mention of the fossil fuels contributing to the crisis. OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, has even sent a letter to its members urging them to reject any explicit reference to fossil fuels in the final summit deal, citing concerns about “undue and disproportionate pressure.”
This unexpected move has set the stage for a critical clash between nations demanding a clear commitment to end fossil fuel use and those advocating a more emissions-centric approach. While OPEC contends that the world needs major investments in all energies, including hydrocarbons, critics argue that this stance reflects a reluctance to embrace a full-scale transition away from fossil fuels.
The fossil fuel impasse has raised concerns among climate-vulnerable countries, with some warning that a rejection of a fossil fuel mention at COP28 could endanger the entire world. As the summit enters a critical stage, government ministers from nearly 200 countries are working towards a resolution, but the divide remains stark.
Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and head of the Elders, a group of former world leaders, sees the OPEC letter as a sign of worry about the trajectory of COP28 talks. She emphasizes the need to ensure that the tipping point favors a decisive commitment to phase out fossil fuels.
With the summit scheduled to conclude soon, climate-vulnerable nations are pressing for stronger emissions-cutting targets and policies. The High Ambition Coalition, chaired by the Marshall Islands, is advocating for a phase-out of fossil fuels to meet the global goal of limiting climate warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
As negotiators navigate the complex discussions, the latest version of the negotiating text suggests that countries are considering various options, from endorsing a “phase-out of fossil fuels in line with best available science” to phasing out “unabated fossil fuels” or potentially avoiding explicit mentions altogether.
Germany’s climate envoy, Jennifer Morgan, underscores that countries are moving into a critical stage of negotiations, urging all nations to recognize the stakes involved. Concerns are mounting about the pace of negotiations and potential disputes, with calls for COP28 to deliver both a commitment to renewables and a robust commitment to fossil fuel phase-out and an end to fossil fuel subsidies. The outcome of this pivotal moment at COP28 will significantly shape global climate action.