Fight on fossil fuels as Dubai summit goes into overtimeTue, 12 Dec 2023 14:49:17 GMT

Negotiators haggled Tuesday to find a compromise over the fate of fossil fuels as the Dubai climate summit went into overtime, with Saudi-led crude producers resisting a phase-out of oil, gas and coal.The 13-day UN COP28 conference in the glitzy metropolis built on petrodollars has debated a historic first-ever global exit from fossil fuels, the main culprits in a planetary crisis of warming.But a deadline set by COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber, himself head of the UAE oil company, expired without a deal, a day after he presented a draft that only suggested reductions in fossil fuels among several options.With low-lying island nations warning that their very survival is at risk, negotiators worked through the night and the Emirati hosts promised a new text to try to find consensus.Denmark’s Dan Jorgensen, one of the climate ministers tasked with leading the talks, said the summit needed to be clear that fossil fuels were on their way out.”I’m personally not married to one word,” he said. “But I am insisting that the meaning of this formulation, whichever one we will end up having, has to be extremely ambitious.”French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher called for the “clearest language possible” but added: “Obviously we can accept edits that note that we’re not all coming from the same place.”- China low-key, Saudis opposed -Veteran US negotiator John Kerry has also urged stronger language on phasing out fossil fuel, even though the United States is the world’s top oil producer.Kerry met ahead of COP28 with his Chinese counterpart and reached an agreement to ramp up renewables, hoping to keep tensions between the two powers — the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters — from scuttling global action on climate.”I wouldn’t say China is fighting with us, but we’re not fighting China,” said one person close to the negotiations who backs phasing out fossil fuels.But as for the Saudis, “they show forcefully that they are not willing to move,” the person said.Saudi Arabia, built on oil wealth, has told COP28 to take its “concerns” into consideration while the OPEC oil cartel has urged members to resist calls to end their lucrative export.At an energy conference in neighbouring Qatar, Kuwaiti oil minister Saad Hamad Nasser Al Barrak called the phase-out a “racist and colonial” proposal that would wreck economies in the region.Iraq’s oil minister, Hayyan Abdul Ghani Al Sawad, said “fossil fuels will remain the major source of energy in the whole world.”The most emotionally charged appeals for phase-out have come from low-lying islands, which fear being submerged as polar ice melts and whose teams flew to Dubai at great expense to their national budgets.John Silk, the negotiator from the Marshall Islands, which lies on average 2.1 metres (seven feet) above sea level, said Monday that his country “did not come here to sign our death warrant”.Vanessa Nakate, 27, a leading climate activist from Uganda, said the summit had to address fossil fuels.”If leaders fail to address the root cause of the climate crisis after 28 years of climate conferences, then they aren’t only failing us, but they’re making us lose trust in the entire COP process,” she said.- Seeking consensus -The Emirati hosts put a brave face on the outrage, noting that UN rules require consensus from the nearly 200 countries at COP28.”We need to work on how we put their views into the text in a way that everybody can be happy with,” said Majid Al Suwaidi, COP28 director general.The text, he said, offered “honest, practical, pragmatic conversations about where people’s red lines really were”.Seeking to force decisions, the Emiratis had urged a deal before the summit’s official close Tuesday morning, but Suwaidi said after the deadline that the priority was to “get the most ambitious outcome possible”.Scientists say the planet has already warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times and that 2023 — marked by lethal disasters including wildfires across the world — has likely been the warmest in 100,000 years.The 2015 Paris summit endorsed an ambition of checking warming at 1.5 Celsius — a goal repeated in the latest draft, but which critics say is virtually impossible without serious efforts to curb oil, gas and coal.