DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Some countries at the COP28 climate talks are lying about the potential for capturing the greenhouse gases fossil fuels emit, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said.
Kerry was speaking at an event on Friday evening on the sidelines of the U.N. COP28 climate talks in Dubai, where the nations of the world are wrangling over the draft of a pledge to end fossil fuel use.
The deal has been forcefully opposed by fossil fuel-producing countries, including Saudi Arabia. Negotiators from Riyadh argue carbon pollution can be largely captured and buried using scrubbing technology that Kerry said remains largely unproven at the needed scale.
“There are people here who want to just continue business as usual. And the great facade is: ‘Oh no, we’ll be able to capture everything,’” said Kerry, his voice hoarse from a chest cold. “No scientist tells me we can capture it all. Can’t do it. Can we capture some? Yes, and by the way, I’m for it.”
Kerry said it was up to the gas industry “to show us they can capture all those emissions, to tell us whether it’s really going to be part of the future. But don’t lie to people and tell them it’s green. And don’t pretend to people that that’s the main alternative.”
Kerry said the next few days of talks, which are scheduled to end Tuesday, would be “absolutely critical. Without any question whatsoever.”
A draft text released on Friday by the United Arab Emirates government, which is hosting the conference, included several options for a deal between almost 200 countries to “phase out” fossil fuels — a phrase being pushed by small island states, the U.S. and the European Union. But it also included an option for no deal at all, which is the result many countries, including Saudi Arabia, China and Russia prefer.
“I am concerned that not everyone is engaging in a constructive manner,” German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan said in a statement shared with reporters.
Saudi negotiators have pushed for the deal to focus on the emissions that cause climate change, rather than the fuels that cause the emissions, UAE chief negotiator Hana Al Hashimi told reporters Saturday. That necessitates the use of carbon capture — but countries are divided over how much the technology can be used, versus the need to simply stamp out the use of the fuels.
The EU is arguing for the deal at COP28 to include a stipulation that carbon capture and storage (CCS) only be used for the hardest sectors to cut out the use of fossil fuels, such as the manufacture of cement.
“Make no mistake, we cannot CCS ourselves out of the problem,” said EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra at a press conference Friday, adding that carbon capture and storage was “a minor part of the solution space.”
Advocates for a fossil fuel phase-out deal believe it will scare investors away from fossil fuel projects. “One thing I know to absolute certainty,” Kerry said, “we are not going to go back to the old energy paradigm, you can absolutely bank on that. We are not going back.”
Zia Weise contributed reporting from Dubai.
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