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COP28 can’t truly succeed unless UAE backs phasing out fossil fuels | Climate News

COP28 can’t truly succeed unless UAE backs phasing out fossil fuels | Climate News

COP28 can’t truly succeed unless UAE backs phasing out fossil fuels | Climate News

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To a lot of people, Dubai might seem a dubious choice for a climate summit.

It owes its very existence to oil money. Not to mention energy-hungry air conditioning. Temperatures can reach 50C (122F) in the desert in summer.

It’s something that could help focus the minds of delegates from 198 countries as they arrive in the United Arab Emirates for COP28.

This year’s COP president, Dr Sultan, who is also head of the state oil company ADNOC, wants them to focus on something else: the UAE as a leader in the transition to low-carbon energy.

The small confederation of Arab monarchies is one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers but has been spending a good chunk of that wealth on clean energy.

By one estimate it’s invested around $200bn (£157bn) globally in solar, wind and other renewable energy projects.

At home, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned renewable company Masdar has just completed the largest single-site solar plant in the world.

ADNOC has brought forward its pledge to reach net-zero emissions to 2045 – not from the oil and gas it produces – but the energy it expends extracting and shipping it to customers.

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0:58

COP chief denies using summit for oil deals

But, before the global climate talks had even begun, Dr Sultan was forced to respond to reports that, as hosts, they were planning to use a summit about cutting emissions to cut deals with other oil producers.

That could be dismissed as “false” and “untrue”. What is harder for the UAE to deny is that its significant investment in renewables is dwarfed by its spending on oil and gas.

“The reality is the world needs energy,” said Mussabeh al Kaabi, director of low-carbon solutions at ADNOC.

A commitment to phasing out fossil fuels – a key ask of many of the 198 nations represented at COP – isn’t up for discussion.

“If you look at the energy demand growth from now until 2050, you’re talking about 20% minimum additional demand,” he said.

“The issue now is how do we achieve these 2050 targets of net zero with a more practical, pragmatic way,”

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1:09

Climate clash as COP28 gets under way

Pragmatism at COP is needed. A fact not often discussed among environmentalists is that 80% of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels – and emissions are the highest they’ve ever been.

That, despite 28 years of climate summits.

One reason for the lack of progress is fossil fuel-dependent economies have consistently blocked it.

Read more:
What is COP28, who’s going, and what’s at stake?
Activists criticise oil chief as COP president

As hosts of COP, the UAE, which is allied with many major oil producers, could help influence them: Around the climate science that informs the climate summit process and calls for net-zero emissions by 2050, for example.

“I strongly believe that they can be met,” says Mussabeh al Kaabi.

“Let’s not underestimate human innovation. When we come together, we act. Let’s not underestimate when there is a clear and present danger.”

Stark language from an oil executive. But until emissions start falling, and falling fast, the danger is increasing.

The UAE wants to use its presidency to inject pragmatism into the climate talks, but unless it can support the call to phase out fossil fuels – as well as accelerate clean energy – it’s hard to see how COP28 can be called a success.

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COP28 can’t truly succeed unless UAE backs phasing out fossil fuels | Climate News

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