COP28 Debates Fossil Fuel Phase-Out Despite OPEC Opposition

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COP28 Debates Fossil Fuel Phase-Out Despite OPEC Opposition
09 Dec 2023
4 min read

News Synopsis

COP28, a crucial climate summit, witnessed intense debates as over 80 countries advocate for a definitive end to fossil fuel usage, posing a challenge to OPEC's staunch resistance. The summit's latest draft agreement unveiled options outlining a potential phase-out, setting the stage for a contentious battle over the future of oil and gas.

Draft Agreement Contains Range of Options

The latest draft of the COP28 agreement reflects the ongoing debate, offering a range of options regarding fossil fuels. These options include:

  • Phase-out of fossil fuels in line with best available science: This would be the most ambitious option, aligning with the scientific consensus on the need for rapid decarbonization.

  • Phase-out of unabated fossil fuels: This option would allow for continued use of fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage technologies.

  • No language on fossil fuels: This option would essentially maintain the status quo, avoiding any commitment to phase out fossil fuels.

OPEC's Stand and Divisions Among Nations

OPEC, through its Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais, rallied its members against language targeting fossil fuels, warning of irreversible consequences should undue pressure persist. The group urged rejection of any final deal aiming at fossil fuel curtailment, emphasizing the necessity of investments in various energy sources.

Disagreements on the Fossil Fuel Phase-Out

The draft agreement at COP28 presents diverse options, from a complete phase-out of fossil fuels to measures aligned with scientific recommendations. However, disparities persist among nations.

France's climate ambassador highlighted concerns about countries like Saudi Arabia relying on carbon capture technologies to continue fossil fuel production, raising doubts about practicality.

Complexities and Differing Perspectives

Countries hold varied stances, with some insisting that the burden of a fossil fuel phase-out should primarily fall on wealthy nations that historically exploited these resources. This perspective stresses the need for differentiation in responsibilities concerning the energy transition, particularly between developed and developing nations.

Challenges and Compromise

The discussions at COP28 emphasize the complexity of addressing the fossil fuel phase-out issue. Representatives from the G77+China bloc suggested revisiting the language concerning "phase-down/phase-out," calling for a rephrasing that considers the disparities in means and capabilities among nations. They advocate for increased support, both financial and technological, for developing nations during this transition.

Scientific Imperatives

Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, highlighted the urgency, emphasizing that exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold would render vast areas uninhabitable for billions. This underscores the imperative for collective action to adhere to the outlined temperature limit.


The debate over fossil fuels at COP28 highlights the complex challenges of addressing climate change. While there is broad agreement on the need for action, differences over approaches and responsibilities remain.

Finding a common ground through compromise and collaboration is crucial to ensure a successful COP28 and a sustainable future for the planet.

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