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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is rallying its members and oil-producing allies to veto a proposed deal to phase out fossil fuels at the COP28 climate summit, highlighting deep divisions over the future of oil and gas.
The latest draft of what could be a final COP28 agreement, which was released on Friday, December 8, included options to do so.
“It seems that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences,” OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais wrote in a letter to members of the group, including COP28 host the United Arab Emirates.
In the letter, dated Wednesday, December 6, he called on them to reject any language that targeted fossil fuels in a final summit deal.
OPEC said in a reply to Reuters questions about the 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,” OPEC’s secretary general said in the statement.
“Let’s please get this job done,” he said on Friday before the release of the draft. “I need you to step up, and I need you to come out of your comfort zones.”
Even though fossil fuels are the top source of planet-warming emissions, three decades of United Nations climate summits have never addressed their future head on and a decision to phase them out would be unprecedented.
COP28’s 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.
France’s climate ambassador Stephane Crouzat said countries such as Saudi Arabia feel they can go on producing fossil fuels while cleansing emissions with new carbon capture technologies.
“We feel it’s just not realistic,” Crouzat told Reuters.
Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said he was confident the final text would include agreement on fossil fuels. “Even if it’s not as ambitious as some would want, it will still be an historic moment.”
Other countries said they were insisting that any fossil fuel phaseout should be led by the wealthy countries which have exploited their resources for decades.
“Every country cannot be put on the same standard when it comes to the transition,” Malaysian Climate Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad told Reuters.
With countries still divided, a representative of the powerful G77+China bloc of developing countries said the “phasedown/phaseout” language needed to be rewritten.
“The whole issue would have to be rephrased,” said Paulo Pedroso, a Cuban diplomat representing the group of 134 developing countries.
“The issue is more complex,” said Pedroso, adding that countries with fewer means should be given more time to shift to clean energy, while richer ones should move faster.
A compromise must also include increasing financial and technological support for developing and poorer nations to build the necessary infrastructure, he said.
“When you just refer to phasedown, phaseout, that looks a little bit out of context to me,” Pedroso said. “Because people don’t understand what you mean.”
‘Beyond human limit’
Meanwhile, the UN climate agency’s chief reminded countries that the science behind the world’s goal of holding warming to within 1.5°C (2.7°C) of preindustrial temperatures is clear.
“From the planet’s perspective 1.5 is a tangible limit. It is not simply a choice,” said Simon Stiell, a Grenadian national who is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Breaching the 1.5°C threshold would mean that “2 billion people will live in areas…beyond the human limit,” he said.
In other debates, eastern European countries are working to resolve an impasse over where to hold next year’s COP29 summit after Russia said it would block any EU member as COP president.