08 Dec 2023, 13:38
Julian Wettengel

CCS cannot replace full global fossil fuel phase out - German foreign min

Clean Energy Wire

The challenge to reach an agreement on phasing out fossil fuels is going to be the toughest nut to crack at the ongoing UN climate change conference COP28 in Dubai, said German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock. “In the end, the biggest tussle will be over this point,” Baerbock said at a press conference, arguing many countries were still interested in fossil fuels. The minister emphasised that it is not enough to call for an exit from emissions, a formulation used by several fossil fuel extracting countries and also by COP president Sultan Al Jaber. The idea is that, with the help of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, states can continue to use fossil fuels. However, ramping up the relevant infrastructure would take many years, not all emissions could be captured, and costs for CCS technology are significant. “We need a phase-out of fossil fuels and not just a phase-out of fossil emissions,” said Baerbock. “That is a huge difference.”

At a separate press briefing, Austria’s climate minister Leonore Gewessler called the debates about phasing out emissions “an effort of diversion” from talking about their source – fossil fuels. “We have to phase out fossil fuels, reduce the use of fossil fuels, to lower emissions” to the extent that science says is necessary to keep 1.5°C within reach, she said. The minister added that – while not perfect – the annual UN climate conferences are “the best process we have” to tackle climate change. “Every year, it is about fighting for progress, to get the maximum possible out of it,” said Gewessler. “However, if you ask me whether this COP will bring the big breakthroughs – I am sceptical.”

COP28 is currently taking place in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates until 12 December. Global cooperation on climate change has taken on a new sense of urgency as 2023 has seen many climate records shattered, with unprecedented air and ocean temperature anomalies and low sea ice coverage. However, negotiations at COP28 are exceptionally difficult due to fossil fuel interests by key countries, but also complicated by new geopolitical realities, which are exemplified by tensions between western countries and Russia, or around the violent conflict in the Middle East.

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