The United Arab Emirates (UAE) stated on Tuesday that countries should agree to phase out fuel emissions, not the production of oil, gas, and coal, at the upcoming UN climate change negotiations that it will host in December.
This reflects deep divisions between nations over how to combat global warming ahead of the talks at the upcoming UN climate change conference in the UAE, also known as COP28. While some wealthy Western governments and climate-affected island nations have been pushing for a phase-out of fossil fuels, resource-rich countries have campaigned to keep drilling. UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Mariam Almheiri told Reuters in an interview that phasing out fossil fuels would hurt countries that depend on them for revenue or cannot easily replace them with renewable sources.
She favored phasing out fossil fuel emissions using capture and storage technologies while ramping up renewable energy, stating that this strategy allows countries to fight warming while continuing to produce oil, gas, and coal. Almheiri added that the transition needs to be just and pragmatic because not all countries have the resources to solely depend on clean and renewable energy. She made these comments on the sidelines of the Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate conference in Washington.
The UAE is co-hosting the AIM conference with the United States. Over 80 countries, including the EU and small island nations, agreed to include language in the final outcome calling for a phase-down of all fossil fuels at last year's climate summit in Egypt. However, countries such as Saudi Arabia and China urged Egypt not to include that language in the final text. This month, G7 countries agreed to hasten their phase-out of fossil fuel consumption, but they did not set a firm date.
UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Mariam Almheiri pointed to the UAE's example of relying on new carbon capture technology and renewables to decrease the emissions intensity of the OPEC member's oil and gas operations. The UAE aims to get 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050, up from the current level of 25 percent, and could strengthen that goal.
Almheiri added that global food supply would be a significant focus of COP28 because it accounts for almost a third of global emissions. Technology and innovation can help solve food security problems, as it has helped the UAE devise a food security strategy despite its parched desert landscape. Addressing inefficiencies in the global food system can also help tackle problems such as malnutrition, food waste, and climate change all at once. "We are making sure that the food systems dialogue is on center stage along with the energy dialogue at COP28," she said.