COP28: EU to defend eliminating fossil fuels well before 2050

The European Union will defend eliminating fossil fuels well before 2050 at the November COP28 climate summit in Dubai. This is rated in the joint position adopted unanimously by the 27 member states.

“The transition to a climate-neutral economy requires the elimination of ‘unabated’ fossil fuels at the global level,” meaning no CO2 is captured or stored. The energy sector must be predominantly fossil fuel-free by 2050, the European Council said, following the meeting of environment ministers.

It also calls for striving for a wholly or predominantly decarbonized global power system in the 2030s, as well as a phase-out as soon as possible of fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transition.

Bitter discussion

China and many oil countries do not yet want to phase out oil, gas, and coal. They believe these can still last for years if their use is compensated. But even within the EU, not everyone is in line when it comes to saying goodbye to fossil fuels, as the EU ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on Monday showed.

There was a somewhat bitter discussion about including the word “unabated” in the text. In unison with NGOs, some countries wanted to remove the adjective “unabated” or attach it to restrictions on carbon capture technologies for fear that this would serve as a pretext to continue burning fossils and offer an escape route to the oil and gas sector.

Others, such as Austrian Minister Leonore Gewessler, backed by countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Slovakia, warned that these technologies are needed in sectors where emissions in production are unavoidable, such as cement.

In the end, the adjective remained in the text but is no longer mentioned in the wording of the long-term goal of a predominantly fossil-free energy system “well before 2050”.

Long way to go

The EU now starts from the position that CO2 capture technologies are necessary but should be reserved soon for sectors where it is difficult to phase out fossils for part of the industrial process. Thus, the long-term goal for 2050 remains for those fossils to be phased out of the energy mix.

But it will be quite a task for the new European Commissioner for Climate Policy, Wopke Hoekstra, to convince the rest of the world at the summit in Dubai at the end of November.

According to Agoria Energiewende and Ember’s annual study, renewables overtook fossil fuels to become the European Union’s primary source of electricity for the first time in 2020. But there is still much work to be done before that happens, which should be apparent from the generous hand most governments keep open for industry.

An investigation by De Standaard, for example, shows that in Belgium alone in 2020, the federal government spent at least 13 billion euros in subsidies for fossil fuels. According to the newspaper, suppose you include free emission allowances and the cost of heavy fuel oil in shipping. In that case, that bill quickly rises to 20 billion euros – in 2019, this was 2,7 billion euros.

‘Motor of change’

Furthermore, the EU agreed in Luxembourg to aim for “wholly or predominantly zero carbon” electricity generation globally starting in the 2030s. It also targets a tripling of installed renewable energy capacity by 2030 and a doubling of energy efficiency, in line with the COP28 president’s roadmap.

The EU, which sincerely believes it could project itself as a motor of change, is also sticking to its legislated target of reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990.

The EU will also call for strengthening funding mechanisms for the loss and damage fund, created at COP27 and designed to help poor countries.

Although Hoekstra is aware of the difficult job ahead of him, due in part to mutual tensions over the war against Ukraine and the Middle East conflict. “But we can’t do anything else. If we don’t do enough, the planet will boil over.”

At the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, scheduled from November 30th to December 12th, the fate of fossil fuels will be central to the debates between nearly 200 countries. Those fuels are the big culprits in global warming.

After a September with record temperatures, this year will almost certainly be the warmest on record, the US meteorological organization NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has stated in a new report.

OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, first expected global demand for crude oil to keep rising until 2035, but in their latest report, they have revised that to 2045.


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