U.S. Backs Tough Fossil Fuel Phase Down Pledge at Climate Summit
That gives another boost to a call by India for countries at the conference to commit to phasing down all fossil fuels.
(Bloomberg) -- The US will back a proposal to phase down all fossil fuels at the UN climate conference as long as it focuses on projects with unchecked emissions, climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday.
That gives another boost to a call by India for countries at the conference to commit to phasing down all fossil fuels — going beyond last year’s pledge that focused solely on coal. On Tuesday, the European Union also said it would join the UK and small island nations in backing India’s proposal, adding pressure to the Egyptian COP27 presidency to include the wording in a drafted agreement that could be unveiled late Wednesday.
“It has to be unabated oil and gas,” Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, said in an interview at the summit in Sharm El-Sheikh. “Phase down, unabated, over time. The time is a question, but ‘phase down’ is the language we supported.”
The US position would mean tacit support for abated oil, gas and coal projects -- generally those that use carbon capture and other technology to control greenhouse gas emissions. That’s an important distinction for some fossil fuel advocates in the US, where President Joe Biden’s pre-election comment that coal plants across America will be shut down and replaced by wind and solar power, prompted a backlash.
Read More: EU, UK Join India’s COP27 push for tough pledge on fossil fuels
Even with that caveat, there is tension over the proposal, as some of the world’s largest oil producers are reluctant to embrace any commitment to a phase down of crude and natural gas. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said in an interview last week that the kingdom would be very unlikely to support an agreement that included the phase down of oil.
Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission, stressed that the effort shouldn’t be used as a tactic to back off last year’s commitment to move away from coal.
“We are in support of any call to phase down all fossil fuels, but we also have to make sure that this call does not diminish the earlier agreement we had on phasing down coal,” Timmermans told reporters. “If it comes on top of what we already agreed in Glasgow, then the EU will support India’s proposal, but it should not divert our attention and our efforts to phase down coal as we had agreed last year.”
The US is also at the center of negotiations over how to address the losses and damages countries are experiencing as a result of storms, droughts and other disasters exacerbated by climate change. On Wednesday, Kerry emphasized the difficulty in reaching an agreement at the UN summit on a new program, or “facility,” for providing technical assistance and financial aid to countries bearing the brunt of climate change.
“I don’t know how in three days you could define the various” approaches, Kerry said. “You might be able to have a list of options, but you can’t resolve to have only one thing in a matter of three days. You really have to sort through how this is going to work best for all the countries.”
The US supported putting loss and damage on COP27’s formal negotiating agenda with an outcome no later than 2024. “It could be in a month or two months,” Kerry said. “I’m convinced we will get there very quickly. Everybody shares a sense of urgency.”
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