COP28: Leaked OPEC letters reveal plans to curb fossil fuel phase-out

COP28: Leaked OPEC letters reveal plans to curb fossil fuel phase-out
As the UN climate summit enters its final days, a leaked letter reveals OPEC's growing concerns that negotiations may result in a call for phasing out fossil fuels to address the escalating climate crisis.
3 min read
Dubai, UAE
09 December, 2023
Activists call for a fossil fuel phase out during a protest at the UN climate conference in Dubai, UAE on 5 December 2023. [Getty]

A leaked letter has revealed that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has warned its members that “pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences” at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Letters written by the OPEC secretary general were sent to each of the group’s 13 members expressing concern and “utmost urgency” that ongoing discussions at the UN climate summit “put our people’s prosperity and future at risk”, several media outlets reported on Friday. 

The leak comes as COP28 enters its final days of negotiations, with momentum building for calls to deliver a first-ever commitment to phase out all fossil fuels

More than 100 countries globally have signalled their support for an agreement that would lay out a plan to phase out the burning of fossil fuels, which is the primary driver of climate change.

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In September, the first ever Global Stocktake report found that the world is far off target to keep global warming under the threshold of 1.5 degree Celsius, and that the window to get back on track is “rapidly narrowing”.

To meet the goal of the Paris agreement, global emissions must fall by 43% by 2030. But they continue to rise. 

OPEC has called on its members to “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy, ie fossil fuels, rather than emissions” at COP28. Together, OPEC countries own 80% of global oil reserves.

“They need to embrace that a fossil fuel phase out is inevitable, and start innovating and diversifying the economy from now,” Ghiwa Nakat, executive director of Greenpeace MENA, told The New Arab, directing her comment towards OPEC Gulf states.

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Previous summits have failed to include language calling for the phase out of fossil fuels despite long negotiations and widespread pressure. This year, experts and activists have expressed cautious optimism, despite pushback from big emitters and the oil & gas lobby. 

The fossil fuel industry has a significant presence at COP28, with more than 2,400 delegates present, almost four times as many as the previous year. 

COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber, himself the head of the UAE’s national oil company, as well as the head of UN Climate Change have defended the presence of the industry, saying it is an integral part of the energy transition.

But activists are sceptical, expressing concerns that fossil fuel delegates will continue to push an agenda against a phase out.

The New Arab will have continuous coverage of COP28 from Dubai. Click here for more.