OPEC Chief Urges Members to Reject Any COP28 Deal that Targets Fossil Fuels

By Yousef Saba and Maha El Dahan
Friday, December 8, 2023

OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais has urged OPEC members to reject proposals for any deal under negotiation at the COP28 climate summit which targeted fossil fuels rather than emissions, a letter dated Dec. 6 and seen by Reuters on Friday showed.

The language used to describe the future of fossil fuels in a final agreement is the most contentious issue at the U.N. summit hosted this year by the United Arab Emirates.

Three sources confirmed the letter's authenticity to Reuters. OPEC said in a statement to Reuters it did not comment on official communication with member countries but that it continues to advise them and its partners.

The letter referred to a draft of the COP28 text under negotiation that was published by the U.N. climate body on Dec. 5. A different draft was published on Friday.

The new draft deal includes a range of options from agreeing to a "phase out of fossil fuels in line with best available science", to phasing out "unabated fossil fuels", to including no language on them at all.

"It seems that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences, as the draft decision still contains options on fossil fuels phase out," the letter said.

"I avail of this opportunity to respectfully urge all esteemed OPEC Member Countries and Non-OPEC Countries participating in the CoC and their distinguished delegations in the COP 28 negotiations to proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions."

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries already hold positions largely opposing strong language on phasing out fossil fuels.

The UAE, the second Arab country to host the climate summit after Egypt in 2022 and an OPEC member, has alongside other Gulf energy producers called for what they consider a more realistic energy transition in which fossil fuels would keep a role in securing energy supplies while industries decarbonise.

"While OPEC Member Countries and Non-OPEC Countries participating in the Charter of Cooperation (CoC) are taking climate change seriously and have a proven record on climate actions, it would be unacceptable that politically motivated campaigns put our people's prosperity and future at risk."

Countries are expected over the next few days to focus on the language around fossil fuels in hopes of reaching a consensus before the summit's scheduled end on Dec. 12.

"The inclusion of some options that focus on the need for action toward phaseout of all fossil fuels this critical decade is a step in the right direction," said Nikki Reisch, climate and energy program director at the Center for International Environmental Law.

"But language calling for the massive scale-up of risky and speculative carbon capture and removal technologies risks blowing a gaping loophole through the energy package and must be struck," she said.

OPEC said in a reply to Reuters questions over its Dec. 6 letters that it would continue to advocate reducing emissions, not choosing energy sources.

"The world requires major investments in all energies, including hydrocarbons, all technologies, and an understanding of the energy needs of all peoples," a statement sent to Reuters said.

Li Shuo, director of China Climate Hub at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said of the new draft COP28 agreement: "This is the beginning of the end."

He said the first version included options from "two extreme sides of the political spectrum" and the new options were filling in "the empty field in the middle".

(Reuters - Reporting by Youssef Saba and Maha El Dahan, additional reporting by Sarah McFarlane, David Stanway and Alex Lawler; Editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans)

Categories: Energy Oil Natural Gas

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