09 Dec 2023, 12:32

Climate campaigners slam OPEC bid to thwart oil phase-out

DUBAI, Dec 9, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - OPEC caught flak Saturday from activists and a coalition of countries seeking ambitious climate action, after the oil cartel urged its members to thwart any deal targeting fossil fuels at the COP28 conference.

OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais sent a letter to the group's 13 members and 10 Russian-led allies this week after negotiators at talks in Dubai released a draft deal that included calls for a phase-out of fossil fuels.

"OPEC's desperate resistance to a fossil fuel phase-out reveals their fear of a changing tide, evident in COP28 discussions," said Cansin Leylim, associate director of global campaigns at the NGO.

"OPEC needs to get with the programme or move out of the way of our just transition to a 100 percent renewable energy-powered future," Leylim said.

The High Ambition Coalition, a broad group of nations ranging from Barbados to France, Kenya and Pacific island states, also criticised the OPEC move.

"Nothing puts the prosperity and future of all people on earth, including all of the citizens of OPEC countries, at greater risk than fossil fuels," said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, which chairs the coalition.

"This is why the High Ambition Coalition is pushing for a phase-out of fossil fuels, which are at the root of this crisis," Stege said.

She added that the world's goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is "not negotiable, and that means an end to fossil fuels".

In the letter sent Wednesday, Ghais said 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".

He urged the 23 members and allies to "proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions".

Assem Jihad, spokesman for Iraq's oil ministry, told AFP his country "supports" the OPEC letter.

He said Iraqi oil minister Hayan Abdel Ghani has asked his country's delegation at COP28 to "ensure that the wording of the final statement puts the emphasis on world cooperation on a reduction of emissions in order to preserve the environment and climate".

The minister "has rejected attempts to target fossil fuels and the violation of the rights of producing countries and their populations".