India is building on its proposal for countries to agree to a phase-down of all fossil fuels at the UN climate summit in Egypt, rather than the narrower agreement to phase down coal that was concluded at the last summit.
The country which derives the majority of its electricity supply from coal has been accused, along with China, of weakening the final agreement to end the use of coal at the Glasgow summit last year.
India’s attempt to divert attention from coal at COP27 has unexpectedly gained traction. EU Green Leader Frans Timmermans said on Tuesday the bloc favored “any call for the phasing out of all fossil fuels”.
A broad commitment to phase out all fossil fuels never appeared in a final COP agreement. But shifting away from the use of coal, oil and gas is crucial to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and curbing climate change, the scientists conclude.
Timmermans said that provided the commitment to phase out coal was not compromised, the Indian proposal would be acceptable.
The risk could be that an all-fossil fuel deal would lead to a slower phase-out of coal-fired power plants, if aligned with the oil and gas phase-out schedule.
Any deal “must not divert our attention and our efforts to phase out coal,” Timmermans said.
Another flashpoint surrounds any reference to limiting global warming to 1.5°C, which dates back to the Paris Agreement. Extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and more severe with each fraction of a degree of warming. Temperatures have already risen by at least 1.1°C in the industrial age.
Reaching the 1.5°C target requires tougher and faster action than limiting warming to 2°C, the less ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement.
US climate envoy John Kerry told a weekend briefing that “very few” parties had raised the issue, and he didn’t think Egypt’s COP27 presidency would want its legacy be associated with the removal of the global warming objective.
The Egyptian team met with the countries to discuss their priorities and concerns on Tuesday afternoon, before drafting a final text.
COP27 Ambassador Wael Aboulmagd said the presidency “would of course do everything in its power to encourage the parties to come to an agreement”.
India’s proposal to include all fossil fuels in the Egyptian deal builds on talks in Glasgow last year. At COP26, India was “very consistent in the negotiating rooms” in asking for the commitment to include all fossil fuels, not just coal, said David Waskow, director of international climate action at the WRI.
“There were people who thought at first [of COP] it was a negotiation bet” on the part of the Indian delegation, he added. However, there was now growing support for it, he said.
However, any comprehensive policy to end the use of all fossil fuels is likely to meet fierce resistance from countries dependent on oil and gas exports.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview that tackling climate change is “not about fossil fuel production” but about reducing emissions across all sectors. When asked if Riyadh thought a phase-down or phase-out of oil and gas would be necessary to limit global warming, he replied “not even a phase-down”.
India’s proposal could lead to a “showdown” between OPEC nations and others, an energy analyst told COP27. Securing such a commitment in a final COP agreement would be a “long shot”, they said.
The OPEC member United Arab Emirates will host next year’s COP28 summit.
Climate experts also raised concerns about the influence of the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists at COP27. The Gas Exporting Countries Forum and OPEC hold a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday to discuss “the importance that oil and gas will continue to play” in global energy. The groups will make official statements at the conference on Wednesday.
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