WASHINGTON — The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday that countries should agree to phase out fuel emissions — not the production of oil, gas and coal — at the upcoming United Nations climate change negotiations that it will host in December.
The comments reflect deep divisions between nations over how to combat global warming ahead of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP28, talks. Some wealthy Western governments and climate-afflicted island nations have been pushing for a phaseout of fossil fuels, while resource-rich countries have campaigned to keep drilling.
UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Mariam Almheiri told Reuters 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, saying this strategy allows countries to fight global warming while continuing to produce oil, gas and coal.
"The renewable space is advancing and accelerating extremely fast, but we are nowhere near to be able to say that we can switch off fossil fuels and solely depend on clean and renewable energy," Almheiri said on the sidelines of the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate conference in Washington.
"We are now in a transition and this transition needs to be just and pragmatic because not all countries have the resources," she said.
At last year's climate summit in Egypt, over 80 countries and regions, including the European Union and small island nations, agreed to include language in the final outcome calling for a phase-down of all fossil fuels.
This month, G7 countries agreed to hasten their phaseout of fossil fuel consumption but they did not set a firm date.
Almheiri pointed to the UAE's example of relying on new carbon capture technology and renewables to decrease the emissions intensity of its oil and gas operations.
The UAE has a goal to have 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050 from the current level of 25 percent, and could strengthen that goal, she said.
Alongside energy, global food supply will be a major focus of COP28 because it accounts for nearly one-third of global emissions, she added.
As with energy, technology and innovation can solve food security problems, Almheiri said, noting that it has helped the UAE, with its parched desert landscape, devise a food security strategy.
Tackling inefficiencies of the global food system can also help address problems like malnutrition, food waste and climate change all at once, she said.