At the heart of the ongoing negotiations at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), the United Nations climate change conference, is the inclusion of a transition away from fossil fuels in the text of the agreement. While more than 100 European, African and island nations have signed a joint statement in support of an unabated phase-out of fossil fuels, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey stand out as vocal opponents.
COP28 began on 30 November in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and will run until 12 December. The Global Assessment of Climate Policies, the main text under discussion at COP28, includes an “energy package” with targets to phase out fossil fuels, triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman, has publicly rejected any notion of phasing out fossil fuels, and Turkey, in addition to opposing fossil fuel reductions, has been criticised for not committing to tripling its installed renewable energy capacity. The country is also demanding a share of the Loss and Damage Fund.
The Loss and Damage Fund, one of the focal points of COP28, was set up to compensate nations affected by climate change. The underlying principle is that the first and most significant contributors to the climate crisis should bear the responsibility for paying the debt. The primary beneficiaries of this fund are those nations that have been adversely affected by climate change, have no responsibility for causing it and lack the means to effectively address its consequences.
Despite positioning itself as an advanced economy and a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G-20, Turkey has demanded a share of the fund, emphasising its vulnerability to the effects of climate change. This move has raised eyebrows and drawn criticism, given Turkey’s simultaneous resistance to reducing fossil fuels and its advanced economic status. Turkey remains adamant that it will not make any concessions on coal phase-out at the climate summit, and its position does not even mention natural gas.
The controversy surrounding COP28 began even before the summit, with the UAE, a major oil and gas producer, hosting the summit. Critics argue that this dual role, exemplified by Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the national oil company Adnoc and the UAE’s climate envoy, represents a significant conflict of interest.
In the run-up to the summit, it emerged that the UAE intended to use climate meetings with other nations to secure deals for its national oil and gas companies. Documents obtained by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) and reviewed by the Guardian include briefing papers prepared by the COP28 team in advance of Al Jaber’s bilateral meetings with representatives from 27 governments, a crucial part of the diplomatic preparations for the climate summit.