A fossil gas phaseout or phasedown: Does it matter?

The heated situation of fossil gas power, which is accountable for a lot of the planet-warming greenhouse fuel emissions within the environment, has at all times been divisive at UN local weather conferences.

The incontrovertible fact that this yr’s summit is being hosted by petrostate United Arab Emirates (UAE), a worldwide chief within the oil and fuel business, is focusing the highlight on the difficulty much more.

Sultan al-Jaber, who’s presiding over this yr’s COP28 local weather talks and in addition runs the host nation’s state-run oil large ADNOC, has denied media stories wherein he appeared to query the scientific consensus that coal, oil and fuel have to be phased out to curb international warming.

Speaking with reporters on December 4, al-Jaber insisted his remarks had been taken out of context and that he’s “laser-focused” on discovering a approach to restrict international temperatures to 1.5 levels Celsius (2.7 levels Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial instances.

“I have said over and over that the phasedown and the phaseout of fossil fuels is inevitable, that it is essential,” stated al-Jaber.

Phaseout, phasedown: What’s the distinction?

It may solely be a phrase of distinction, however it’s significant.

The phasing down of fossil fuels would imply that nations conform to cut back their use of fossil fuels in favor of extra climate-friendly power — non-fossil sources like wind, photo voltaic and hydro, and nuclear power. But it nonetheless implies that fossil fuels can be part of the world’s power combine as efforts to get local weather change below management proceed.

A phaseout, nevertheless, calls for an entire finish to burning fossil fuels for power. That motion plan, thus far, hasn’t discovered a lot assist with delegates at earlier local weather summits, particularly from nations relying on oil and fuel exports for income.

Taking inventory: Global coal phaseout

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Major producers just like the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia have beforehand resisted requires eliminating the usage of fossil fuels. Most not too long ago, on December 4, Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman stated he would “absolutely not” conform to phasing down fossil fuels, by no means thoughts phasing them out.

“And I assure you not a single person — I’m talking about governments — believes in that,” he informed Bloomberg TV.

Earlier this yr, UAE Climate Change and Environment Minister Mariam Almheiri as a substitute backed the phasing out of gas emissions, not the exploitation of oil, fuel and coal. She argued {that a} phaseout would solely harm nations that rely on fossil fuels to prop up their economies.

“The renewable space is advancing and accelerating extremely fast but we are nowhere near to be able to say that we can switch off fossil fuels and solely depend on clean and renewable energy,” Almheiri informed the Reuters information company.

“We are now in a transition and this transition needs to be just and pragmatic because not all countries have the resources,” she stated. A November 2023 report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) discovered that the UAE’s state oil firm, ADNOC, has a $150-billion (€140-million) funding plan to spice up its oil manufacturing capability by 2027.

COP28 local weather talks in United Arab Emirates draw controversy

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Instead, Almheiri urged eliminating fossil gas emissions utilizing carbon seize and sequestration expertise, saying nations may combat warming and proceed to provide oil, fuel and coal.

Critics, nevertheless, have stated this strategy can be too costly. And with lower than 0.1% of worldwide emissions captured by such expertise at present, in keeping with analysis agency BloombergNEF, it is unlikely to be a big a part of the answer any time quickly.

Calls for phaseout comparatively new at COP

Even although huge physique of scientific analysis has linked again the ongoing use of fossil fuels to local weather change for years, COP delegates haven’t formally spoken about plans to get rid of them till not too long ago.

It was solely two years in the past at COP26 in Glasgow that negotiators agreed, for the primary time, to “phase down unabated coal power and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”

A yr later at UN local weather talks in Egypt, a bunch of greater than 80 nations together with the European Union and small island nations agreed to improve that language to incorporate all fossil fuels. They had been finally blocked by oil, fuel and coal-producing nations against the transfer.

Despite the 2022 setback, campaigners hope the UN’s first international stocktake report, launched in September as a evaluation of the world’s collective progress towards limiting international heating, will spur delegates to motion in Dubai. The UN report known as for “scaling up renewable energy and phasing out all unabated fossil fuels,” a suggestion echoed by many local weather teams and scientists.

“Even a few years ago, it was unthinkable to have a decision on fossil fuel phaseout at COP because of the influence of oil and gas producing countries,” Romain Ioualalen of the advocacy group Oil Change International informed DW.

With international carbon dioxide emissions anticipated to hit a report excessive in 2023, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated on the opening of the COP28 local weather summit on December 1 that it was time to behave.

“We cannot save a burning planet with a firehose of fossil fuels,” he stated. “The science is clear: the 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate. Phaseout — with a clear timeframe aligned with 1.5 degrees.”

Edited by: Tamsin Walker