sábado, junio 15

OPEC chief asks members to block any climate summit deal to cut fossil fuels

The head of the OPEC oil cartel, alarmed that nations meeting at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai are considering a deal to phase out fossil fuels, has ordered members of the group to scuttle any deal that would affect continued production and sales of oil. gas and coal.

In a letter dated December 6, Haitham Al-Ghais, secretary-general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, warned all members that there was growing pressure at the summit to target fossil fuels. He called the plans «politically motivated campaigns» against oil-rich countries that put «the prosperity and future of our people at risk.»

“It appears that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels could reach a critical point with irreversible consequences,” Mr. Al-Ghais wrote. The letter was sent to the top ministers of the 13 OPEC countries as well as 10 other countries in a broader group known as OPEC Plus, which includes Russia.

He urged oil producers to “reject any text or formula targeting energy, that is, fossil fuels rather than emissions.”

Emissions from burning fossil fuels are dangerously warming the planet. The fossil fuel industry has sought to present the problem as an emissions problem; If greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane could be contained or removed from the atmosphere, the world could continue burning oil, gas and coal, they argue. Others argue that this is technically impossible at the moment and that fossil fuels must be replaced by solar, wind and other renewable energy.

The OPEC letter, first reported by Reuters, is important because, under U.N. rules, any deal reached at the climate summit must be approved unanimously. Any of the 198 participating nations can derail a deal.

OPEC declined to discuss the letter. It comes as government ministers and diplomats enter the most grueling period of the two-week summit, where they work through the night in dozens of meeting rooms to try to reach an agreement between cultures, economies and policy before the December 12 deadline.

A draft negotiating text released Friday by COP28 officials included several options for the final text, ranging from a call for phasing out fossil fuels «in accordance with the best available science» to no any mention of the future of oil, gas and fossil energy. coal.

Possibilities also included a «relentless» phase-out of fossil fuels, a vague term that suggests oil, gas and coal could continue to be used as long as there was technology to capture and store carbon emissions. resulting carbon. No such technology currently exists at the scale required by scientists.

The OPEC letter sets the stage for a potential confrontation in the remaining days of the summit between the group’s member states and other countries, including the United States, who want global economies to move away from fossil fuels.

Scientists say countries must stop burning coal, gas and oil to limit average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Scientists say this is the threshold beyond which humans will struggle to adapt to storms, heat, wildfires, drought and species extinctions that are already underway but which will accelerate.

The planet has already warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius.

As 2023 draws to a close as the hottest year on record, scientists’ warnings become ever more urgent, and as climate disasters touch every corner of the globe, pressure mounts on diplomats gathered in Dubai to take action.

“These letters show that fossil fuel interests are starting to realize that dirty energy is about to be opened up,” Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, an environmental group, said in a statement.

On Saturday, a small group of climate activists from the organization 350.org staged a sit-in at the OPEC pavilion during the summit. “This is clearly an obstruction of climate negotiations,” said one of the demonstrators. “Because we need a fast, fair and permanent phase-out of fossil fuels now. »

Among those feeling pressure is Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati energy chief who is chairing the climate summit. While Mr Al Jaber has been accused by activists of having a conflict of interest, he said on Friday that a transition to wind, solar and other renewable energy was inevitable.

If nations agreed in Dubai to phase out fossil fuels, or even phase them down, it would be a historic moment.

Past UN climate agreements have shied away from even mentioning the words “fossil fuels,” let alone considering a phase-out. The closest nations met in Glasgow in 2021, when negotiators tried to insert a «phase-out» of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, into the final deal, but China and India are opposed to it. They have opted for a “phase-down” of coal-fired power plants that lack the technology to capture their emissions, but no timetable has been established.

In Dubai, during the first week of negotiations, Saudi Arabia decided to block several proposals regarding the phase-out of fossil fuels, according to three diplomats involved in the negotiations. The negotiators, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the deliberations, said Saudi negotiators simply refused to engage in discussions about the future of fossil fuels.

Mr Adow said the fight against the climate crisis “cannot be held back by a small group of countries controlling the world’s oil supply”.

Former Vice President Al Gore is pushing for U.N. rules to be changed so that deals require approval by a so-called supermajority of 75 percent of countries, rather than unanimous consent.

Under current rules, countries must “ask permission from petrostates” to “protect the future of humanity,” Gore said at a Bloomberg event at COP28.

Sen. Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, who arrives at COP28 this weekend with a bipartisan group of House and Senate members, expressed concern about the high concentration of fossil fuel lobbyists at the summit.

The Associated Press estimated that at least 1,300 fossil fuel lobbyists, a record, were present, while a coalition of environmental groups reviewed registration records and estimated the number at more than 2,400. These lobbyists are determined to lock us into the path of fossil fuels,” Mr. Markey said.

The oil cartel set up a summit pavilion for the first time this year, in a remote corner of the grounds. Its space was no bigger than a modest studio, with a handful of chairs arranged for small-scale conferences.

Most of the space seemed devoted to sharing a wide range of facts about petroleum products. During a visit last week, as the conference opened, two OPEC staff members were preparing and distributing brochures focused on oil and gas drilling. A digital screen hanging on the wall showed the production levels of the different member countries. Visitors were few in number, but those who stopped were offered free chocolate and OPEC-branded pens.

Marty Durbin, senior vice president for policy at the US Chamber of Commerce, argued that oil executives were out in force at COP28 because they wanted to be «part of the solution.» He said references to fossil fuels in the final deal were not as significant as commitments made this week by many oil companies to reduce methane, a greenhouse gas, and carbon dioxide emissions. .

Brad Plumer, Somini Sengupta, Jim Tankersley And Stanley Reed reports contributed.