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EU condemns ‘out of whack’ OPEC attempt to block COP28 fossil fuel deal By Reuters



© Reuters. European Commissioner for Climate Action of the European Union Wopke Hoekstra poses for a portrait after an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 9, 2023. REU

By Kate Abnett and Mohammed Benmansour

DUBAI (Reuters) – The European Union’s climate chief on Saturday heavily criticised an attempt by OPEC to derail a COP28 deal on phasing out fossil fuels, calling the move by the oil producers’ club “unhelpful” and “out of whack”.

Nearly 200 countries meeting in Dubai for the U.N.’s COP28 climate summit are debating whether to agree, for the first time, to eventually end the world’s use of fossil fuels, the main cause of climate change.

In an unusual intervention, OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais this week urged countries in the OPEC+ group to reject any COP28 deal targeting fossil fuels, in a letter seen by Reuters.

“By many, including by me, that has been seen as out of whack, as unhelpful, as not in tune with where the world stands in terms of the very dramatic situation of our climate,” EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra said of the OPEC letter.

“We’re here not to basically pay attention to our narrowly defined national or financial interests … we’re here to do what is right for the future of the world,” Hoekstra told Reuters in an interview.

At least 80 countries including the 27-member EU, the United States and climate-vulnerable island nations are demanding a COP28 deal to phase out fossil fuels, as scientists urge ambitious action to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

“This should be the beginning of the end of fossil, and we all have to acknowledge this, whether we produce oil, consume oil, or not,” Hoekstra said.

He said it would be a “scandal” if COP28 failed to produce a deal that would give the world a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – the limit scientists say would avoid its most disastrous impacts.

A former Dutch foreign affairs minister, Hoekstra began his own career with a three-year stint at oil major Shell (LON:).

Observers and negotiators at COP28 said countries including Saudi Arabia and Russia – members of OPEC and OPEC+, respectively – have been the strongest opponents of a fossil fuel phase-out deal at COP28.

Coal, oil and gas account for more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which are fuelling worsening climate impacts including fatal heat, drought and rising sea levels.

Burning fossil fuels has served as the engine of modern life, and developing countries at the U.N. climate talks are demanding far more financial support to help them invest in clean energy.

Even with the growth of renewables, fossil fuels produce around 80% of the world’s energy.

Alden Meyer, a COP28 delegate with think-tank E3G, said it was the first time OPEC’s Secretariat has intervened in U.N. climate talks with a letter like the one it sent this week. “It indicates a whiff of panic,” he said.

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