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OPEC Attempts to Influence Possible COP28’s Fossil Fuels Phase-Out Deal

December 10, 2023

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is urging its members and other oil-producing allies to reject any proposed deals to phase out fossil fuels at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference COP28 climate summit.

Producers should “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy” in the form of “fossil fuels rather than emissions,” Secretary-General Haitham Al-Ghais said in a letter dated December 6 to OPEC’s 13 members, including COP28 host the UAE.

“It seems that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences, as the draft decision still contains options on fossil fuels phase out,” Al Ghais said in the letter,

“It would be unacceptable that politically motivated campaigns put our people’s prosperity and future at risk,” he continued.

OPEC countries, which include Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq, own 80 percent of global oil reserves and produced about 40 percent of the world’s oil over the last decade.

“We are deeply outraged by OPEC’s desperate and self-serving call for its members to reject any action at COP28 against fossil fuels. This deliberate attempt by the oil and gas industry to obstruct pivotal climate action shows they are feeling the heat, as the negotiations move towards a fossil fuel phaseout,” Campaigns Lead with Greenpeace MENA Shady Khalil said.

On Friday, COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber urged delegates to reach a consensus before the scheduled end of the two-week conference on December 12.

“Let’s please get this job done,” he said, adding, “I need you to step up, and I need you to come out of your comfort zones.”

The UN climate agency published a new draft of its COP28 agreement after Al-Jaber’s remarks. The draft, which is still under negotiation, includes various options: “phase-out of fossil fuels in line with best available science”, phasing out “unabated fossil fuels”, and no language on them at all.

Carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are the primary driver of the climate crisis. Nevertheless, the UN climate summits have yet to address the future of fossil fuels in specific, and a decision to phase them out would be unprecedented.

Scientists say emissions must decrease by nearly 50 percent by 2030 and reach a net-zero level by 2050 to keep global heating to the internationally agreed 1.5C limit.

“We strongly urge oil-producing countries, including Saudi Arabia, to embrace the goal set by UAE COP Presidency and IEA to reduce fossil fuels this decade to meet 1.5°C, and to work together to make this summit a historic milestone,” Khalil said.

“When millions of people in the MENA region face the escalating impacts of climate disaster, it’s imperative that Arab countries at COP28 prioritize the safety and well-being of their people over short-term industry interests,” he added.

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