As the COP28 climate summit approaches, the world continues to be divided on the future of fossil fuels and the pathway to drastically reduce emissions.
The summit in Dubai, one of the emirates of OPEC member the United Arab Emirates (UAE), begins at the end of this month, and expectations are—as in previous such summits—that the leaders of the countries could reach a common ground on at least phasing down fossil fuels or a timeline to phase out coal.
Chances are not high that the heads of state and government would manage this time to agree on a text to set a timeline for phasing out fossil fuels amid energy security concerns and issues with access to any form of electricity for millions of people in developing countries.
Big energy-consuming nations dependent on fossil fuels haven't been keen on any 'phase out' language in the final statements of the previous climate summits.
Ahead of this year's COP28 conference, the president, Sultan Al Jaber – group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) – called on the world to unite on climate action, while a group of 15 countries – including France, Austria, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain and several developing island nations feeling the impact of climate change the most – called for a phase out of fossil fuels.
15 Countries Call For Fossil Fuel Phase-out
The so-called High Ambition Coalition, which also includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, among others, said in a joint statement this week that "Fossil fuels are at the root of this crisis."
"We must work together to develop a comprehensive global clean energy access approach to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, in line with the IPCC's 1.5C pathway," the countries said. Related: Chevron Negotiates 15-Year LNG Supply Deals With European Buyers
They propose the negotiation to include phasing out fossil fuel production and use, ending new coal and the expansion of existing coal mines, and "an urgent phase out of coal-fired power generation."
"We must phase out all international public finance for fossil fuel development and power generation, and as governments, we must demand that fossil fuel producing companies publish trackable transition plans that set out how they'll cut emissions by 2025, and reach net zero by 2050 - and create the incentives for them to deliver those plans," the 15 countries said.
Triple Renewables Capacity
The coalition is also calling for an agreement on more than tripling global renewables capacity by 2030, and achieving universal energy access by 2030 through a renewables roll-out, and the provision of international financial support for the poorest.
Momentum has been growing in calls for tripling clean energy capacity. Last week, the COP28 Presidency, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Global Renewables Alliance (GRA) said that the world could fast-track the energy transition and cut carbon emissions by tripling global renewable power capacity to 11,000 GW and double average annual energy efficiency improvements by 2030.
A pledge to triple renewables capacity by 2030 has a better chance of passing the COP28 negotiations than any texts containing "phasing out fossil fuels."
Large fossil fuel producers, including Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern producers, as well as big energy consumers such as China and India, will not agree to "fossil fuel phase out" language.
COP28 President Al Jaber told the UN Climate Ambition Summit in September that the "phase down of fossil fuels is essential. It is in fact inevitable. And it must go hand-in-hand with a rapid phase up of zero carbon alternatives."
Al Jaber urged a rapid expansion of renewables but stopped short of calling for phase out of fossil fuels.
Earlier this week, Al Jaber told delegates at Pre-COP in Abu Dhabi, "There are too many things dividing our world at this moment."
"Now more than ever we need to unite on climate and deliver a clear message of hope, solidary, stability and prosperity," he added.
Al Jaber has also called on the oil and gas industry to show the world that it could be part of the solution, not the problem, in the energy transition.
"This industry can and must help drive the solutions. For too long, this industry has been viewed as part of the problem, that it's not doing enough and in some cases even blocking progress," Al Jaber said at the ADIPEC energy conference last month.
Meanwhile, as many as 131 companies representing nearly $1 trillion in global annual revenue are urging governments to set targets and timelines for the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels.
Ahead of COP28, companies representing $987 billion in global annual revenue, including AstraZeneca, Ikea, Bayer, Iberdrola, Heineken, Danone, Ørsted, Volvo Cars, SAP, and Unilever, wrote a letter to the Heads of State, calling on "all Parties attending COP28 in Dubai to seek outcomes that will lay the groundwork to transform the global energy system towards a full phase-out of unabated fossil fuels and halve emissions this decade."
But Amin Nasser, CEO of the world's biggest oil firm and largest crude oil exporter, Saudi Aramco, said last month that the climate summit and the world should focus the debate on how to cut emissions, not on reducing oil and gas production.
Saudi Aramco and the Saudi-led OPEC cartel have been warning for years that a disorderly energy transition with low investments in hydrocarbons would worsen energy security as the world still needs growing volumes of oil and gas.
OPEC has also criticized the International Energy Agency's (IEA) forecasts of peak oil demand before 2030.
The world needs $14 trillion in cumulative investments in the oil sector by 2045 to ensure market stability and avoid energy and economic chaos, OPEC said in its annual World Oil Outlook last month.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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