France slams OPEC call to reject fossil fuel deal at Cop28 climate talks

DEC 9, 2023 LISTEN

France's Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has expressed that she was "stunned" after the oil cartel OPEC urged its members to thwart any deal targeting fossil fuels at the Cop28 conference.

Speaking at the Cop28 climate talks in Dubai on Saturday, the French minister said: "I am stunned by these statements from OPEC. And I am angry," adding that "OPEC's position endangers the most vulnerable countries and the poorest populations who are the first victims of this [climate change] situation".

Pannier-Runacher said she was "counting on the presidency of the Cop not to be influenced by these declarations, and to reach an agreement which affirms a clear objective of phasing out fossil fuels".

OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais sent a letter to the cartel'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.

In the letter sent Wednesday, Ghais urged the group to "proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions".

The letter has drawn anger from activists and the High Ambition Coalition, a broad group of nations ranging from Barbados to France, Kenya and Pacific island states.

Strugggle to find compromise

The tone has veered between optimism and concern about the pace of the Cop28 talks in Dubai as negotiators have held marathon sessions aimed at finding a compromise on the fate of oil, gas and coal.

"I think that it is quite, quite a disgusting thing that OPEC countries are pushing against getting the bar where it has to be," Spanish ecology transition minister Teresa Ribera, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told reporters.

Dramatically scaling up the deployment of renewable energy while winding down the production and consumption of fossil fuels is crucial to achieve the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5° Celsius.

Oil producers against fossil fuel deal

Around seven activists protested in front of OPEC's booth at the Cop28 venue, with their palms held up to show words such as "phase out", according to video footage shared by the NGO

A third draft deal released Friday offers various ways to phase-out of fossil fuels, but it also includes the option to not mention them at all in the final text.

Saudi Arabia had until now been the most vocal country against a phase-out or phase-down of fossil fuels. 

Next year's climate talks are likely to be held in another major producer of fossil fuels as Azerbaijan announced it had secured a consensus to host Cop29.