UN climate chief slams opponents of fossil fuel phase-out at COP28

Talks intensify over calls to phase out fossil fuels, as oil producers led by Saudi Arabia put up tough resistance.

Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Simon Stiell speaking
Simon Stiell speaks during a news conference at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai [Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]

The UN’s climate chief has urged countries to lift “tactical blockades” to a deal to phase out fossil fuels.

Speaking 24 hours before the COP28 climate summit draws to a close, Simon Stiell called on Monday for delegates to remove obstacles to sealing a deal at the meeting in Dubai.

“First, clear the unnecessary tactical blockades out of the way,” he said, citing the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the transition of less developed countries.

“Any strategic landmines that blow it up for one, blow it up for all,” he told reporters.

Talks have intensified over calls to phase out fossil fuels, the top culprit in the planet’s worsening crisis, but oil producers led by Saudi Arabia have put up tough resistance.

As the official end of COP28 approached, work on finding the right language to achieve a consensus among nearly 200 countries had raised hopes of a new draft deal on Monday morning.

Stiell sought to maintain the momentum, calling on countries to remain ambitious as they seek a way to preserve the goal of checking global warming at no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

“I urge negotiators to reject incrementalism. Each step back from the highest ambition will cost countless millions of lives,” Stiell said.

“The reality is the highest-ambition outcomes are the only way for all governments to leave Dubai with a win under their belt,” he said.

“One thing is for certain: ‘I win, you lose’ is a recipe for collective failure. Ultimately, it is eight billion people’s security that is at stake.”

‘Failure is not an option’

The annual Conference of the Parties, or COP, has rarely finished on schedule in its 28-year history, but COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber has called on countries to wrap things up on time on Tuesday.

Al-Jaber, the head of the national oil company of the United Arab Emirates, has repeatedly promised to deliver a historic deal and urged countries to find a “consensus and common ground” on fossil fuel.

“Failure is not an option,” he said on Sunday.

China, the world’s biggest emitter, was also initially seen as hostile to a phase-out but has since been working to find a compromise.

Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua recalled on Saturday that the United States and China issued a joint statement last month agreeing on the need to speed up the deployment of renewable energy to gradually substitute the use of oil, gas and coal.

A deal drafted on Friday included similar language on the need to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 to “displace fossil fuel-based energy”.

Countries are waiting for the new draft deal before putting all their negotiating “chips” on the table, said a source close to the COP28 presidency, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Source: News Agencies