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EU eyes push for fossil fuel phasedown ahead of COP28 -draft


BRUSSELS — European Union countries may seek support for an agreement to phase down fossil fuels ahead of this year’s United Nations (UN) climate change talks, according to officials and a draft document seen by Reuters.

While last year’s COP27 summit deal included a hard-fought fund for countries harmed by climate change, the deal left some disappointed for not including language initially proposed by India for phasing down the use of all fossil fuels including oil and natural gas.

EU country diplomats are negotiating conclusions to guide their diplomacy on climate change this year. 

On the table is an agreement to promote a shift away from so-called unabated fossil fuels, those burned without using technology to capture their planet-warming emissions, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

“While natural gas has a role in the transition, the shift towards a climate neutral economy requires unabated fossil fuel consumption to peak already in the near term. The EU will systematically promote a global move towards energy systems free of unabated fossil fuels well ahead of 2050,” the draft says.

EU officials said the aim was to make a fossil fuel phase down part of the bloc’s diplomacy priorities ahead of COP28, the UN climate summit beginning Nov. 30 in Dubai. Countries’ foreign affairs ministers aim to approve final conclusions this month.

The bloc has yet to reach an agreement, however, as some EU countries are seeking weaker wording while others want a stronger, more explicit call to phase out fossil fuels, the officials said.

Countries agreed at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 to phase down use of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel. 

India’s COP27 proposal to expand that to all fossil fuels gained support from more than 80 governments, including EU countries, but was opposed by Saudi Arabia and other oil- and gas-rich countries.

The final COP27 deal repeated the pledge to phase down coal power, but did not mention oil or gas.

Some officials and activists have said they worry a similar dynamic could play out this year at COP28, which is being hosted by the United Arab Emirates, an OPEC oil producer.

The world must substantially reduce fossil fuel energy use this decade in order to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change, UN scientists say.

The EU also plans to update its 2030 emissions-cutting target under the Paris climate accord, and set a new one for 2040 to guide countries toward the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. — Reuters

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