UN climate chief calls phasing out fossil fuels key to curbing warming, but may not be on talks agenda

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The world needs to phase out fossil fuels if it is to curb global warmingthe UN climate chief said in an interview with the Associated Press. But he said the idea may not enter the agenda of decisive international climate negotiations this fall, stumbled upon an oil haven.

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A phase-out of heat-trapping fossil fuels is something that is at the top of every discussion or most of the discussions going on, said United Nations Executive Secretary for Climate Simon Stiell. It is an issue that has global attention. We will see how this translates into an agenda item and an outcome (climate talks).

Stiell told the AP he couldn’t quite promise he would get a place on the agenda at the climate talks, called COP28, in Dubai later this year.

That agenda decision rests with the negotiating chair, Stiell said. He is the head of the Abu Dhabi state oil company, Sultan al-Jaber.

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Host nation UAE’s decision to appoint al-Jaber to head climate conference has sparked fierce opposition by lawmakers in Europe and the United States, as well as by environmental advocates. UAE officials have said they want to change the game results in the climate talks and notes that al-Jaber also runs a large renewable energy company.

At last year’s climate talks, a proposal by India to phase out all fossil fuels, backed by the United States and many European nations, was never on the agenda. What is being discussed is decided by the president of the COP, who last year was the foreign minister of Egypt, a nation that exports natural gas.

When asked if Egypt’s leaders had kept the concept off the agenda, Stiell, speaking via Zoom from Bonn, Germany, where preliminary talks begin on Monday, said he could not comment except to say he is within their jurisdiction.

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An engineer turned government official and diplomat, Stiell walked a fine line between talking about the importance of phasing out fossil fuels and supporting the United Nations process that mandated oil and natural gas exporting countries to negotiate on global warming for two consecutive years.

According to scientists monitoring emissions at the Global Carbon Project, about 94 percent of human industrial heat-trapping carbon dioxide activity put into the air last year came from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas. Al-Jabers company has the capacity to produce 2 million barrels of oil and 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day and said he plans to increase that drilling to 5 million barrels per day by 2027.

Phasing fossil fuels off the agenda this year depends on conference chairman al-Jaber and whether there is enough pressure from other nations, Stiell said.

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What better place to discuss…than in a region where fossil fuels are at the heart of their economy? Stiell asked.

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

In public appearances, al-Jaber has emphasized that he is focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissionsnot necessarily the fuels themselves, promoting carbon capture and removal of the pollutant from the air.

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Stiell rejected the idea that carbon removal could be a short-term solution.

Right now, in this critical decade of action to achieve those deep reductions, science tells us it can only be achieved through reduced use, significantly reduced use, of all fossil fuels, Stiell said in the interview.

Stiell defended consecutive years of ongoing climate negotiations by fossil-fuel exporting nations as the wishes of the parties or countries involved.

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This year will be pivotal as it is the first global inventory to see where the world stands in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. To reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, greenhouse gas pollution needs to be halved by 2030, he said.

We know we are a long way from where we need to be, Stiell said.

This year’s inventory sets out a new round of pledges for even tougher emissions reductions by telling nations the stark truth about how bad the situation is, Stiell said. The problem hasn’t been the nations who know how bad it is, he said.

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Its lack of implementation, said Stiell. I don’t think it’s lack of knowledge. There has been report after report after report all saying the same thing, all with increasing urgency.

After less than a year on the job, but years before as a national negotiator, Stiell said he was beyond frustration. What drives me is the desire to make a difference.

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Frank Jordans contributed from Berlin.

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Follow the PA’s climate and environmental coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears

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The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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