Saudi Arabia and Iraq took a steadfast stance on Sunday in defense of fossil fuels at COP28, where nearly 200 countries aim to bolster efforts against climate change.
As the largest oil exporter globally, Saudi Arabia urged other participants to “think positively, address the necessary emission reductions… but also consider our perspectives and concerns.” Iraq went further, stating that the gradual reduction and elimination of fossil fuels and associated subsidies contradict the principles of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The COP28 in Dubai convenes to establish new commitments, eight years after the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aimed to ideally limit the global average temperature increase to +1.5°C. However, not only is this goal not close, but the world has largely failed to achieve commitments made since then.
Iraq emphasized that a departure from fossil energy “will disrupt the global economy and increase inequalities.” Representatives of both countries expressed their positions in a meeting convened by conference president Sultan Al Jaber.
Despite the traditional Arabic format of a “majlis,” where ministers attended without prepared speeches, the meeting highlighted persistently rigid positions just two days before the conference’s conclusion.
Conference president Al Jaber had stated, “Failure is not an option,” emphasizing the pursuit of the common good and the best outcome for everyone. However, divisions persist, with some countries advocating for a clear “phase-out” of fossil fuels as soon as possible.
While a majority seems to support this option, countries like Iraq argue that science does not entirely rule out achieving the +1.5°C goal with continued use of fossil fuels in the energy mix.
Climatologists stress that oil, gas, and coal have been major contributors to CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and, consequently, the planet’s rising average temperature.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that current commitments will only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% compared to the ideal figure by 2030.
Brazil’s Environment Minister, Marina Silva, acknowledges the inevitability of slowing down the use of fossil fuels but notes that developing nations cannot match the pace of G20 economies.
Dubai’s conference faces challenges in achieving a balanced agreement, including establishing a clear adaptation goal for climate change. Developing countries closely monitor this issue, which lacked a text when the Dubai conference began. On Sunday, the UAE presidency published a draft of seven pages on the Global Adaptation Goal, co-chaired by Chile. However, clarity on objectives remains a point of contention, reflecting the ongoing complexities of climate negotiations.