New climate chief under fire for weakening EU position at UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) on fossil fuel exit – EURACTIV.com

The EU’s new climate commissioner has been criticized for backing away from his commitment to push for the phase-out of fossil fuels at the upcoming COP28 climate summit in Dubai, ahead of talks on Monday (October 16) where EU countries are expected to agree their position.

Dutchman Wopke Hoekstra was officially nominated on Monday (October 9) on the back of several promises he made to the European Parliament to push for an ambitious EU stance at the COP28 summit later this year.

These pledges included: The European Commission “will call for the reference to fossil fuels to be dropped or uncompromisingly reduced” when negotiating the EU’s position on COP28 with the bloc’s 27 member states.

“Unabated” fossil fuel means that no technologies are applied to reduce emissions reaching the atmosphere, a term often used to refer to carbon capture and storage technology, or CCS.

But ahead of Monday’s talks with EU ministers, Hoekstra failed to reiterate that pledge in an online chat with African climate activist Vanessa Nakate, just one day after he was officially appointed.

“The word relentlessly leaves a loophole for carbon capture and storage, or CCS, a technology that is not commercially available and will not be viable for many years,” Nakate said at the online event hosted by the Green Party in the European Parliament.

“Given the speed and scale at which we need to reduce emissions, carbon dioxide capture and storage is a fantasy solution,” she warned. “Fossil fuels kill people,” she continued. “They will continue to kill people, whether there is some kind of rollback or not.”

Although Hoekstra supported the goal of phasing out fossil fuels, he did not directly respond to Nakati’s call to “relentlessly” remove language about fossil fuels from the EU position.

Observers also pointed to Hoekstra’s post on X (formerly Twitter), in which he said more work needed to be done to promote clean energy ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) and “unrelentingly phase out fossil fuels.”

“Sorry, things have come roaring back faster than expected,” commented Linda Kalcher, executive director of the Strategic Perspective Foundation, a European think tank.

Green legislator Michael Bloss also picked up on the fossil fuel expression “unabated” during the discussion with Nakate, expressing concern.

You can’t just be a hero for one day when you get elected and then not say the same things you said before the election. “I think this is exactly the opposite of what is needed to gain confidence,” Bloss said, warning that lawmakers in the European Parliament would hold Hoekstra accountable.

Mixed messages

Speaking at a panel discussion on COP28 earlier this week, Nakatei criticized Europe for mixed messages about phasing out fossil fuels.

“I’ve been told that the EU wants to be a partner to Africa and climate-vulnerable countries across the Global South. We who live on the front lines of the climate crisis want to believe that. But the reality is that we are receiving mixed messages and broken promises,” Nakate said. Since the period”.

Frederik Otto, a climate scientist who spoke at the event, stressed the urgent need to stop the use of fossil fuels, saying that recent natural disasters, such as the Libyan floods, have become more likely due to global warming.

“Nowhere is safe,” she told attendees, and vulnerable communities are often the most affected.

“The longer we wait, the more carbon dioxide will build up in the atmosphere, and the worse these extreme events become, the worse the impacts will become,” she added.

Otto warned that eEven without opening new oil, gas and coal projects, the world is expected to exceed its goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, stressing that countries around the world need to phase out fossil fuels “today” and “without any excuses.”

“We have the technology and we have the knowledge. We know how to do solar. We know how to do wind. We know we need to insulate buildings. We know all the cheap and easy things to do now that need to be done first — and they haven’t been done,” Otto said. “Implement it.”

Nakatei also stressed that funding is needed to help the region The Global South is working to increase its renewable energy capacity and support adaptation to loss and damage.

but, She added that the shift towards renewable energy sources and energy efficiency cannot negatively impact vulnerable communities and indigenous peoples.

“We’ve seen a lot of conversations, for example, about switching to electric cars, but some of my fellow activists, for example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, don’t see that as a climate solution, because that hurts the communities where these important minerals are located,” she explained.

In response, Bloss said a new form of partnership is needed that moves away from extractivism and toward benefiting the communities in which the materials are found.

UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) will be ‘very difficult’: Hoekstra

In response to Nakate, Hoekstra said the UN climate change conference would be a “pivotal moment” but an “uphill climb” for EU negotiators in Dubai, as The European Union needs to redouble its efforts on climate action and engage other countries in a difficult geopolitical context.

“It’s going to be very difficult, with all the geopolitical tensions that we’re seeing around the world, to make sure that nearly 200 countries are actually able to unite on more climate action, more ambition on mitigation, more ambition on adaptation, and make sure We also provide countries that need it with the means to do so.

Hoekstra added that the EU would continue to “strive to lead the way”, and also acknowledged that it needed to do “more” to quickly reduce its emissions and build partnerships with foreign countries.

Nakate responded that the challenges are already being faced by people on the front lines of the climate crisis, including those killed by floods in Libya and those facing drought in other parts of Africa.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) will take place from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai, and is likely to witness intense debate on the role of fossil fuels, carbon capture and storage technology, and climate finance.

(Editing by Frédéric Simon and Zoran Radosavljevic)

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