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COP28 looks set to close as Saudis signal fossil fuel transition is acceptable

Bloomberg
Bloomberg • 2 min read
COP28 looks set to close as Saudis signal fossil fuel transition is acceptable
Saudi Arabia signalled it would support a new draft agreement published on Dec 13. Photo: Bloomberg
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The COP28 summit looks set to close with a call for a global transition away from fossil fuels, after Saudi Arabia signalled it would support a new draft agreement published on Dec 13.

The kingdom, which had pushed back hard on the idea of phasing down or phasing out fossil fuels, is fine with the version of the deal that calls for a transition instead, according to person familiar with the matter. 

Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman was personally involved in negotiations and was seen walking into the presidency’s office late into the evening of Dec 12 in Dubai’s Expo centre.

The current language is acceptable to Saudi Arabia and other large oil producers because it allows them a large degree of discretion about how to get there.

A draft of the final communique, published Dec 13, included much stronger language on moving away from the dirtiest sources of energy, in line with a target to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. If a deal is reached, it could be the first time oil and gas is included in an agreement in nearly three decades of climate talks. 

A key paragraph in the new draft text commits countries to transitioning away from fossil fuels “so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”. 

See also: Vietnam coal power project moving forward despite JETP phase-out deal

But that will be unacceptable to many key countries, including China and India that have set net zero targets for post mid-century.

China aims for it in 2060 and India in 2070. So, would they agree to the wording in the new draft? That will be worth watching when countries speak at a coming plenary. A meeting of ministers is due at 2.30pm Singapore time to discuss the text.

Abdulaziz made headlines in the first week of COP28 when he said the kingdom will not agree to a text that calls for the phase-down of fossil fuels.

See also: Are we underestimating the impact of climate change? Schroders thinks so

“Absolutely not,” he said when asked in a TV interview in Riyadh whether his country, the world’s top oil exporter, would be happy to see the language added. 

Follow The Edge Singapore’s coverage of COP28 here.

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