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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais has urged OPEC+ members to reject proposals for any text under negotiation at the COP28 climate summit that targeted fossil fuels rather than emissions, a letter dated Wednesday, December 6, and seen by Reuters on Friday, December 8, showed.
The language used to describe the future of fossil fuels in a final agreement is the most contentious issue at the United Nations summit hosted this year by the United Arab Emirates.
Three sources confirmed the letter’s authenticity to Reuters. OPEC said in a statement to Reuters it did not comment on official communication with member countries but that it continues to advise them and its partners.
The letter referred to a draft of the COP28 text under negotiation that was published by the UN climate body on Tuesday, December 5. A different draft was published on Friday.
The new draft deal includes a range of options from agreeing to a “phaseout of fossil fuels in line with best available science,” to phasing out “unabated fossil fuels,” to including no language on them at all.
“It seems that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences, as the draft decision still contains options on fossil fuels phaseout,” the letter said.
The letter urged delegations at COP28 to “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions.”
Members of the OPEC already hold positions largely opposing strong language on phasing out fossil fuels.
The UAE, the second Arab country to host the climate summit after Egypt in 2022 and an OPEC member, has alongside other Gulf energy producers called for what they consider a more realistic energy transition in which fossil fuels would keep a role in securing energy supplies while industries decarbonize.
“While OPEC Member Countries and Non-OPEC Countries participating in the Charter of Cooperation (CoC) are taking climate change seriously and have a proven record on climate actions, it would be unacceptable that politically motivated campaigns put our people’s prosperity and future at risk,” the letter seen by Reuters said.
Countries are expected over the next few days to focus on the language around fossil fuels in hopes of reaching a consensus before the summit ends on Tuesday, December 12.
“The inclusion of some options that focus on the need for action toward phaseout of all fossil fuels this critical decade is a step in the right direction,” said Nikki Reisch, climate and energy program director at the Center for International Environmental Law.
“But language calling for the massive scale-up of risky and speculative carbon capture and removal technologies risks blowing a gaping loophole through the energy package and must be struck,” she said.
OPEC’s Ghais said in a reply to Reuters questions over its Wednesday letter that it would continue to advocate reducing emissions, not choosing energy sources.
“The world requires major investments in all energies, including hydrocarbons, all technologies, and an understanding of the energy needs of all peoples,” the secretary general said in the reply.
Li Shuo, director of China Climate Hub at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said of the new draft COP28 agreement, “This is the beginning of the end.”
He said the first version included options from “two extreme sides of the political spectrum” and the new options were filling in “the empty field in the middle.” – Rappler.com