EU seeks to virtually phase out fossil fuels at COP28

Dubai will host the UN COP28 climate talks aimed at reducing the effects of climate change

Dubai will host the UN COP28 climate talks aimed at reducing the effects of climate change.

The European Union seeks to phase out fossil fuels globally and bring their use to a peak this decade, according to a common position of member states adopted unanimously late on Monday.

At the UN COP28 climate talks in November, the bloc will also call for the removal of subsidies “as quickly as possible” for fossil fuels that do not help fight energy poverty or ensure a “just transition” – but without setting a deadline as NGOs hope. .

A statement issued after a meeting of European Union environment ministers said: “The (European) Council stresses that the transition to a climate-neutral economy will require a relentless global phase-out of fossil fuels and reaching their peak consumption in this decade.”

At the same time, the 27 European countries will champion “the importance of making the energy sector mostly free of fossil fuels well before 2050,” a formulation this time expressed without mentioning the phrase “relentlessly.”

EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg disagreed strongly about including the word in the negotiating mandate for the new EU Climate Commissioner, Wopke Hoekstra, who will represent them at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai from November 30 to December 12.

Brussels aims to triple the amount of global renewable energy used by the end of this decade and double energy efficiency in line with the goals of the COP28 presidency.

The EU has already set itself a horizon by 2050 to phase out fossil fuels “unrelentingly” – that is, those dependent on coal, oil and gas that have no mechanisms to capture or store carbon.

The issue is expected to be hotly debated at the UN climate conference in Dubai, and has been the subject of tense debate among EU countries.

In cooperation with NGOs, some governments wanted to withdraw the “uncompromising” label or impose strict conditions attached to the use of carbon capture technology, to prevent it being used as a justification for continuing to burn fossil fuels.

“There is no alternative to reducing emissions across the board,” Hoekstra said.

“But some sectors are very difficult to mitigate,” he added, and therefore carbon capture technology is needed “as part of the overall solution space.”

French Energy Transition Minister Agnes Panier-Ronacher described the technology as “interesting”, but added that it should be reserved for sectors that were not able to decarbonise otherwise.

Ultimately, the phrase “unrelenting” was retained in the agreed text, but was no longer mentioned in the formulation of the long-term goal of a mostly fossil fuel-free energy sector “well before 2050”.

The “driving force” for change

Spain’s Minister of Environmental Transition, Teresa Ribera, explained that in the near future, carbon capture technologies should be linked “to sectors where it will be difficult to engage in decarbonisation, as it is difficult to get rid of fossil fuels in some industrial processes.” whose country chaired the Luxembourg meeting.

“The long-term goal is to phase out fossil fuels in our energy mix as we try to promote decarbonization,” she said.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), many countries will seek to secure an unprecedented commitment to move away from fossil fuels “unrelentingly”.

But Hoekstra said a global commitment to eliminate fossil fuels entirely would be “very complex.”

He added that when it comes to an agreement that UN member states will agree to, “it takes 192 countries to tango.”

It also calls on the EU to “strive for a fully or mostly zero-carbon global energy system in the 2030s.”

The bloc also called for global action towards tripling installed renewable energy capacity by 2030 as well as doubling energy efficiency, in line with the roadmap drawn up by the President of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).

The Europeans also discussed in Dubai whether to maintain their legally set target of reducing the bloc’s greenhouse gases by 55 percent by 2030 or the 57 percent it should reach de facto under policies already adopted.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic and other officials said the 57 percent announcement would boost Europe’s ambition to become a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Finally, they simply updated their report to note that the bloc aims to reduce its emissions “by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.”

“It was very important that we insisted on the real-world impact of what we were doing,” Ribera said.

She said that the European Union, by its example, “constitutes a driving force for change.”

The bloc will also call for strengthening existing financing arrangements introduced at COP27 to compensate poorer countries as they transition to greener energy production and use.

© 2023 Agence France-Presse

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