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Observers See OPEC ‘Panicking’ As COP28 Climate Talks Focus On Possible Fossil Fuel Phase-Out

The call for a swift phase-out of fossil fuels emerges as the central theme in the talks’ final days

Veteran negotiators at the U.N. climate talks on Saturday emphasised that the global movement to transition away from fossil fuels had gained substantial momentum, confronting a formidable opponent: the oil industry.

Late on Friday, news broke that the leader of OPEC, the influential oil cartel, had written to member countries, urging them to resist any language aimed at phasing out or reducing fossil fuels. This revelation cast a spotlight on the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a host and petrostate with significant oil interests, but also a desire to demonstrate leadership in steering the conference towards meaningful outcomes.

Environmental activists, who have long faced resistance from oil interests, viewed the OPEC move as a defensive response. E3G analyst Alden Meyer noted, “I think they’re panicking,” while former Ireland President and climate campaigner Mary Robinson remarked, “They’re scared. I think they’re worried.”

The brazenness of OPEC’s demands drew strong reactions. Swedish Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari condemned the unreasonable demands, emphasising that negotiations should not be conditioned on preserving the interests of those contributing to climate pollution.

Germany’s climate envoy, Jennifer Morgan, highlighted the potential impact on vulnerable nations, particularly small island countries, facing the threat of rising sea levels due to global warming. She stressed the irresponsibility of jeopardising the lives of millions with positions that hinder progress towards a fossil fuel phase-out.

Despite downplaying the OPEC letter, COP28 Director General Majid al-Suwaidi assured confidence in achieving ambitious results. However, critics pointed out that the conference’s focus on financial pledges fell short of addressing the central issue of emissions reduction.

As controversy flared, protests at the conference intensified, with a “Global Day of Action” urging decisive action to combat climate change. The OPEC letter further fueled the sense of urgency among officials and activists alike.

The call for a swift phase-out of fossil fuels emerged as the central theme in the talks’ final days. Activists stressed the necessity of rapidly reducing reliance on oil, gas, and coal to mitigate dangerous warming.

Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, condemned the OPEC letter as “shameful” and asserted that the era of dirty energy was coming to an end. He highlighted the potential of renewables to democratise access to energy.

Climate Analytics’ Bill Hare reflected on the decades-long resistance from fossil fuel interests, suggesting that a different conversation about fossil fuels might have unfolded if such opposition had not hindered climate action.

As negotiators refined language in the Global Stocktake document, proposed revisions released on Friday reinforced options for a fossil fuel phase-out. Environmental advocates cautiously expressed optimism, calling for countries to rally behind robust options and strengthen them further to achieve a historic agreement.



Observers See OPEC ‘Panicking’ As COP28 Climate Talks Focus On Possible Fossil Fuel Phase-Out

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