China expects climate deal amid resistance to fossil fuels cut

Published December 10, 2023
Venice’s Grand Canal turns green as Extinction Rebellion climate activists poured fluorescein into it to dye its waters on Saturday.—Reuters
Venice’s Grand Canal turns green as Extinction Rebellion climate activists poured fluorescein into it to dye its waters on Saturday.—Reuters

DUBAI: China said on Saturday it saw progress in reaching a climate deal at a key UN summit in Dubai, despite a last-minute push by the Opec oil cartel to resist a phase-out of fossil fuels.

Opec drew outrage from green-minded countries and activists when it joined Saudi Arabia and called on members to block an emerging declaration that would seek to wind down extraction of the oil, coal and gas which are fuelling the climate emergency.

But China, the world’s largest oil importer, played down the row and said it was working to find a solution that was “acceptable to all parties”.

“I think we’ve already had some progress on this issue and I believe we will have more progress in resolving this very soon in the coming few days,” China’s climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua told reporters at the COP28 climate conference.

“Because if we do not, if we do not resolve this issue, I don’t see much chance in having a successful COP28,” he said.

Canadian climate minister Steven Guilbeault said he was “confident” the final text wou­­ld contain language on fos­­sil fuels, which emit planet-heating greenhouse gases.

Guilbeault is among a group of ministers who have been tasked by COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber to shepherd the negotiations and find an agreement by Dec 12, when the summit is due to end.

“Different groups are talking and trying to understand on what we could agree but it’s still quite an embryonic conversation,” he added.

Spain, France disappointed

Spanish ecology transition minister Teresa Ribera, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said it was “quite a disgusting thing” for Opec countries to be “pushing against getting the bar where it has to be”.

French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said the Opec statement left her “stunned” and “angry”.

Dramatically scaling up the deployment of renewable energy while winding down the production and consumption of fossil fuels is crucial to achieve the global goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. “1.5 is not negotiable, and that means an end to fossil fuels,” said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands.

Assem Jihad, spokesman for Iraq’s oil ministry, said his country supported the Opec letter.

Iraqi oil minister Hayan Abdel Ghani had asked the country’s COP28 delegation to “ensure that the wording of the final statement puts emphasis on world cooperation on a reduction of emissions in order to preserve the environment and climate”.

Another Opec member, oil-rich COP28 host the UAE, has taken a conciliatory tone throughout the negotiations, saying a phase-down of fossil fuels, rather than a phase-out, is “inevitable”.

Next year’s climate talks are likely to be held in Azerbaijan.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2023

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