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COP28: Anxiety, intrigues at UN Climate Summit as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, OPEC, others push for ‘fossil fuels deal’

COP28 Running into Overtime as Negotiators Work on a New Draft on Fossil Fuels Photo: SBS

*Several negotiators, including Nigeria, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries have conmtinued to make last-ditch afforts at striking an acceptable fossil fuels deal at the ongoing Climate Change Conference, in Dubai, UAE

*We wanted the (first) draft to spark conversations ─Majid Al-Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The time for the stakeholders’ final, far-reaching decision on possible fossil fuels “phase out” at Dubai2023 global Climate Summit is ticking.

As the ongoing 2023 United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNCCC), also known as COP 28 Conference, holding in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), is fast approaching its end Wednesday, December 13, several negotiators, including Nigeria, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) made last-ditch afforts at cutting an acceptable fossil fuels deal with other global stakeholders.

ConsumerConnect leanrt the COP28 climate talks in Dubai even ran into overtime as negotiators worked on a new draft deal that would bridge the divide between those demanding the outright ‘phase out’ of fossil fuels and a coalition of oil exporters and developing countries adamantly opposed to the idea.

Malam Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Limited (r), at COP 28 in Dubai, advocates Nigeria cum Africa needs ‘a just, differentiated energy transition’

The first draft of the agreement, which did not mention any fossil fuels ‘phase out’ was criticised as “too weak” by several countries in Dubai, just as other stakeholders in favour of retaining fossil fuels, such as Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have been strongly opposed to fossil-fuel cuts, accordng to reports.

Diplomats are now running between bilateral meetings as the host, the United Arab Emirates, tries to broker a new draft, expected evening of Tuesday, December 12. Negotiators will then scrutinise every word — likely through the night — in an attempt to reach a consensus, Bloomberg report also stated.

We wanted the (first) draft to spark conversations, says COP28 Director-General

Responding to the Green Climate politics and intrigues playing out at the summit, Majid Al-Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28, in a birefing declared: “We wanted the draft to spark conversations and that’s what’s happened.

“What we’ve seen since is that the parties have deeply held and deeply split views, especially on the language around fossil fuels.”

A 21-page document earlier released Monday was said to have pitched a cut in consumption and production of fossil fuels, as the UAE tried to craft a compromise. The United States (US) and the European Union (EU) were among those that opposed that version, as they observed that the version of the document did not go far enough with a ‘phase out of polluting energy’, and instead allows countries loopholes and opt-outs.

Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati oil executive running COP28, has the task of getting almost 200 countries to agree to a text that will govern the global fight against climate change.

Still, a broad coalition of other stakeholders wants stronger language calling for the phase out of fossil fuels, but that’s adamantly opposed by Saudi Arabia, other OPEC+ countries and some developing nations.

Nigeria, Africa’s position on phasing out fossil fuels

Commenting on the need for an accepetable fossil fuels deal at the end of the global conference in Dubai, Iziaq Kunle Salako, Honourable Minister of State for Environment, on behalf of the West African country, said: “Asking Nigeria to phase out fossil fuels, or indeed, Africa to phase out fossil fuels is asking us to stop breathing without life support.”

“It is not acceptable,” Salako declared.

Earlier in his pronouncements at a Regional CEO Panel organised by McKinsey & Company, Monday, December 4, 2023, on the sidelines of COP28, in Dubai, Malam Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, had advocated that the African continent needs “a just, differentiated transition” to enable it to harness its resources for today for the benefit of its future generations.

Kyari, on finding sustainable solutions for a decarbonised energy future continue to hold globally, had joined other global energy leaders from the United States (US), Holland, and Oman to highlight energy perspectives and insights on the evolving energy market.

Majid Al-Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28 assures a new draft text will address the ‘red lines’ from the stakeholders

Olufemi Soneye, Chief Corporate Communications Officer at NNPC Limited, also stated the GCEO of NNPC Limited, that the global world must understand Africa’s peculiarities in addressing the effects of climate change on energy businesses.

“I have always advocated for a differentiated and just energy transition. In Africa, we have different circumstances compared to other places in the world,” he said.

Kyari further explained the continent’s position to other global stakeholders: “In Africa today, 75% of our population don’t have access to electricity, leaving us with biomass as a key energy source.

“The world needs to recognise that the most practicable thing to do today is to substitute what we have in the short term to close the energy gap for our rising population.”

On the continental level, NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of African Energy Chamber (AEC), based in Johannesburg, South Africa, in one of his riveting pieces on the need for a fair deal for the African continent at COP28, said: “Considering that 600 million people on the continent have no access to electricity and 900 million people lack access to clean cooking technologies, it’s impossible — if not altogether inhumane — to discuss climate change without looking at energy poverty.

“As I recently wrote in an article published by Medium, we cannot transition from the dark to the dark.”

Ayuk emphatically said: “We must deliver energy to the people of Africa, and then worry about transitioning to environmentally friendly alternatives, just like we have everywhere else in the world.

“This has been our platform at COP28, and we will continue to stand by it in 2024 and beyond.”

Reactions as first draft text proposed ‘just’ and ‘orderly’ reduction of fossil fuels

The first draft of the document has proposed a “just” and “orderly” reduction of fossil fuel use — adjectives designed to appease more cautious countries, report stated.

However, the text presented those reductions, along with boosting efficiency and renewable power, as “merely options”.

In a meeting of lead negotiators late Monday, US climate envoy John Kerry said the proposed text does not meet the moment. A State Department Spokesperson reportedly noted the fossil fuel language needed to be “substantially strengthened.”

European officials may be more willing to fight for stronger language urging countries to reduce fossil fuels in line with keeping warming to the 1.5C goal than they were last year, when a fund for climate loss and damage was the main issue at play.

The officials believe that they have a “super majority” of countries willing to push for such an outcome in the face of around 18 countries in Saudi Arabia’s blocking coalition, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why COP28 agreements require consensus

“We have made progress, but we still have a lot to do,” Al Jaber told a plenary session of the summit after the first draft was published Monday.

He stated: “You know what remains to be agreed, and you know I want you to develop the highest ambition on all items, including on fossil fuel language.”

The new draft deal will arrive hours after the summit’s scheduled 11 a.m. close, according to report.

In regard to the fossil fuels language, for some, the inclusion of fossil fuels in the draft text and getting countries like Saudi Arabia, whose economies depend heavily on oil, engaged in discussions about it already goes a long way.

But that praise was mixed with pushback from others for stronger action, showing an agreement was some way off.

Speaking on the burning issue in Dubai, John Silk, Head of delegation for the Marshall Islands, a country at risk from rising sea levels, also said: “The Republic of the Marshall Islands did not come here to sign our death warrant. What we have seen today is unacceptable. We will not go silently to our watery graves.”

As global temperatures continue to rise ….

The draft text also presents some actions — from tripling renewables to reducing the consumption and production of fossil fuels — as options, rather than prescribed steps.

Those items in the text are preceded by the phrase: “take actions that could include.” That qualifier “makes all the listed actions optional for nations,” said Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Cleetus said the draft text on fossil fuels deal at COP28 is “extremely disappointing, concerning, and nowhere close to the level of ambition people around the world deserve.”

Other key elements of the draft included the first agreement to go beyond carbon dioxide by targeting methane and other potent greenhouse gases with substantial reductions by 2030, report said.

That follows a voluntary pledge for a 30 percent global reduction in methane first introduced by the US and EU two years ago.

It was gathered that the move is significant because methane, fluorinated gases and nitrous oxide are far more powerful at warming the earth’s temperature.

A framework on how to adapt to climate change — known as the global goal on adaptation — was given stronger references to finance, addressing the need to close the gap in funding, according to report.

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