DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The European Union says it’s time for the oil boss presiding over this year’s global climate talks to step up and push for a fossil fuel phaseout.
Spanish Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera, who represents EU governments in the negotiations, said Sultan al-Jaber, the COP28 president and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, needed to take a more active role in the final days of the two-week-long talks, which are scheduled to end on Tuesday.
“We’re in the hard moment where we need the clear engagement of the president of the COP,” she told POLITICO in an interview on Saturday. “He should be playing not only the role of a moderator, but the role of a leader trying to identify how we can open this pathway toward the outcomes that we need to get.”
Ribera’s comments came as oil producers have stepped up their campaign against efforts to call for a phaseout of fossil fuels in the final COP28 agreement.
In a letter leaked to multiple news agencies on Friday night, the secretary-general of the OPEC oil cartel urged member countries — which include the UAE and Saudi Arabia — to reject any text that targets the production and consumption of fossil fuels.
“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 phase out,” reads the letter, signed by Haitham Al Ghais.
Ribera — who called OPEC’s push against a fossil fuel phaseout “disgusting” in comments to reporters earlier on Saturday — told POLITICO she expects al-Jaber to make good on his promise to ensure this summit is a “turning point.”
“It’s clear that a vast majority of parties represented here want to see a clear pathway toward the decline and phaseout of fossil fuels,” she said. “But there are also some countries that would like to water down whatever is said about this.”
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the UAE’s chief negotiator, Hana Al Hashimi, said: “The president has been very vocal on his desire to see an outcome on fossil fuels in the text.”
Al-Jaber will host ministers for discussions in the afternoon and evening on Saturday, before writing a new version of the deal.
The most recent draft negotiating text features four different options for language to describe the future of fossil fuels — all feature the phrase “phase out” alongside various qualifiers — as well as the option of having no fossil fuel mention at all. The EU, Ribera said, isn’t happy with any of the four choices in isolation.
Combining elements of all the options would be the only way to send a “consistent signal toward paving the way for a fossil fuel phaseout,” she said.
Ribera argued the final deal should include references to reaching a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and guardrails around the use of carbon capture technology — a technology to trap or remove emissions that is unproven at scale.
“If we count only on watered down and weak text, that may backfire” against al-Jaber, she warned.
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