UN climate chief hails phasing out fossil fuels as key to curbing warming but may not be on the agenda of talks

The world needs to phase out fossil fuels if it wants to curb global warming, the United Nations climate chief said in an interview with The Associated Press. But he said the idea might not make it onto the agenda of this fall’s international climate talks, held in and by an oil paradise.

A phasing out of fossil fuels that store heat “is something that’s at the top of any or most discussions,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell. “It’s a topic that’s attracting global attention. We will see how that translates into an agenda item and an outcome (of the climate negotiations).”

Stiell told AP he couldn’t quite promise it would be on the agenda at the climate talks, known as COP28, in Dubai later this year.

The decision on the agenda is up to the negotiation president, said Stiell. He is head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Sultan al Jaber.

The decision by the host country United Arab Emirates to appoint al-Jaber as head of the climate conference has failed fierce resistance by legislators in Europe and the United States, and by environmentalists. UAE officials said they want to be pioneers Results of the climate negotiations and note that al-Jaber also runs a large renewable energy company.

Political cartoons about world leaders

Political cartoons


Last year at the climate talks, a proposal by India to phase out all fossil fuels, backed by the United States and many European nations, never made it onto the agenda. What will be discussed will be decided by the COP President, who last year was Foreign Minister of Egypt, a natural gas exporting country.

Asked whether Egyptian leaders had dropped the concept from the agenda, Stiell said via Zoom from Bonn, Germany, where preliminary talks start on Monday, that he could not comment other than to say that “it was in their area of ​​responsibility”.

Stiell, an engineer-turned-government official and diplomat, walked a fine line between talking about the importance of phasing out fossil fuels and backing the UN process that oil and natural gas exporting countries would second in Consequence has transferred responsibility for negotiations on global warming years.

Whether phasing out fossil fuels will be on the agenda this year depends on the conference’s president, Al-Jaber, and whether there is enough pressure from other nations, said Stiell.

“Where better to debate… than in a region where fossil fuels are at the heart of its economy?” asked Stiell.

But the topic of phasing out coal, oil and natural gas is so central to Stiell that he brought it up four times in the half-hour interview on Saturday. He said the real problem is getting something done, not putting it on the agenda.

Stiell dismissed the notion that carbon removal could be a short-term solution.

“Right now, in this crucial decade of action to achieve these deep reductions, the science is telling us that this can only be achieved through reduced, significantly reduced use of all fossil fuels,” said Stiell in the interview.

Stiell defended the consecutive years that climate negotiations have been conducted in and by fossil fuel exporting countries as a desire of the “parties” or countries involved.

This year will be crucial as it is the first global stocktake to see where the world stands in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. To achieve that Paris Agreement The aim is to limit warming up to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, greenhouse gas pollution must be halved by 2030, he said.

“We know that we are still a long way from our goal,” said Stiell.

This year’s stocktaking ushers in a new round of pledges for even tighter emissions cuts by telling nations the naked truth about how dire the situation is, Stiell said. The problem isn’t that nations know how bad it is, he said.

“It’s due to the lack of implementation,” said Stiell. “I don’t think it’s the lack of knowledge. There was report after report, all saying the same thing, all with increasing urgency.

After less than a year in office, but years before that as national negotiator, Stiell said he has “moved the frustration behind”. What drives me is the desire to make a difference.”

Frank Jordans contributed from Berlin.

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Brian Ashcraft

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