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‘Race against time’: Climate talks in last push over fate of fossil fuels

“We are facing a race against time, It’s time to go into overdrive to negotiate in good faith,  Guterres stated to the press, according to media reports


Hours before the last day for a settlement at a climate conference in Dubai, UN leaders on Monday put a stop to resistance as oil producers rejected historic pleas for the world to phase out fossil fuels.UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for “maximum ambition and maximum flexibility” to establish an accord that would find consensus among the almost 200 countries as he flew back to Dubai following a restless night for negotiations.

“We are facing a race against time,” Guterres stated to the press. “It’s time to go into overdrive to negotiate in good faith,” he said according to media reports.

Driven by cries from low-lying island states terrified for their survival, the meeting in the lavish metropolis funded by petrodollars is debating the first-ever proposal to abandon coal, oil, and gas—the primary contributors to the world’s climate catastrophe.

Opposition has been spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and neighbour; the cartel OPEC has urged its members to vote against fossil-fuel phase-out. The head of the UN climate body, Simon Stiell, urged all parties to remove “unnecessary tactical blockades” that are impeding a deal, without identifying specific nations.


A “single-minded focus on tackling the root cause of the climate crisis — fossil fuel production and consumption” was the plea made by Guterres to the negotiators, according to media reports. As an attempt at diplomacy, Guterres stated that the demand for action “doesn’t mean that all countries must phase out fossil fuels at the same time”.

However, he stated that any agreement must uphold the goal of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is becoming more and more elusive and was approved by the 2015 Paris Agreement to prevent the worst effects of climate change, such as intensifying storms and droughts and rising sea levels.


‘Every minute counts’

 In its 28-year existence, the annual Conference of the Parties, or COP, has hardly concluded on time. However, Sultan Al Jaber, the president of COP28, has urged nations to conclude on time on Tuesday and plans to provide a revised text on Monday.

“Please be patient. “At the end of a COP, every minute counts,” stated Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, a former Peruvian minister who is currently employed by the WWF conservation organisation.

However, he noted that the phase-out call was crucial at this time because, as part of the Paris Agreement, countries must disclose their plans to reduce emissions by 2025 and consider whether to phase out fossil fuels.

“If the outcome is weak, we will lose seven years,” he said, referring to the next deadline to submit national plans, with scientists saying the current decade is vital to getting the planet on track, according to media reports.

According to Stiell, the main points of contention at the summit had become fossil fuels and accelerating climate funding from rich countries to the most vulnerable developing nations. Now, the onus is on Jaber, whose position as the chairman of the national oil firm of the United Arab Emirates has angered environmental activists, to make the last adjustments to an agreement that would result in a consensus.

Jaber has stated that cutting back on fossil fuels is “inevitable” and has frequently pledged to deliver a historic agreement. Iraq, a fellow OPEC member, has also openly opposed moving away from fossil fuels, while Saudi Arabia has demanded that COP28 consider its “perspectives and concerns”.


 China-US cooperation 

The last draft agreement released on Friday includes four different paths out of fossil fuels, but it also has a fifth option: leaving the issue out of the final deal.

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

China and the United States, the largest historic emitter, last month in pre-COP28 talks in California agreed to speed up the deployment of renewable energy to replace oil, gas and coal gradually.

Friday’s draft deal includes similar language on the need to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, to “displace fossil fuel-based energy”.

The United States, whose climate envoy John Kerry was celebrating his 80th birthday on Monday during the Dubai negotiations, has surprised some observers by also throwing its weight behind a phase-out.

But the United States also is the world’s largest oil producer, and the rival Republican Party includes staunch opponents of curbing fossil fuels.

-Agence France-Presse

‘Race against time’: Climate talks in last push over fate of fossil fuels

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