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Coal and oil producers want more flexibility on climate targets as energy crisis deepens

Faced with rising food and fuel prices, developing economies call for more climate aid to help them adjust to the green transition

Africa, specifically Egypt's Sharm el Sheikh conference centre, is hosting the next UN Climate summit COP27 in November but the set piece arguments over finance and burden-sharing have started already (AC Vol 62 No 25, Adding up the real costs of the energy transition).

Some of those disputes held up the release on 4 April of the latest research of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Its text is to form the basis of the next round of climate negotiations in Egypt.

The IPCC's research shows what has to be done to meet the targets agreed at last year's Edinburgh summit. It calls for 'immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors'.

It sets out clear policy conclusions from its research to which the 195 participating countries agreed, in principle but the timetable for implementation will be contested. They are:

  • that coal must be effectively phased out globally;
  • new fossil fuel infrastructure is unsustainable;
  • methane emissions must be cut by a third;
  •  investment in green energy projects should increase at least sixfold;
  • vast increases in tree-planting will be necessary but not sufficient to balance the damage of carbon emissions;
  • technological fixes such as carbon capture and hydrogen-based full will help manage emissions but will not be decisive

The negotiations in Edinburgh went down to the wire last year but many countries signed up to new pledges to cut carbon emissions to hit the established 'Net Zero by 2050' target.

It has become harder since then. Some of the wider efforts to rein in emissions and help countries adjust to a green transition have been derailed by the energy and economic crisis triggered by Moscow's war on Ukraine.

As European economies scramble to cut their dependence on Russia's oil and gas, some climate targets are being sidelined. After two years of pandemic pressures, economies around the world are being hit by food and fuel price inflation.

India and Saudi Arabia were pushing hard for revisions to the IPCC's conclusions. India, which is dependent on coal like many African states, wants the relatively low contribution of developing economies to carbon emissions to be reflected in greater flexibility in demands for steep global emissions cuts.

Saudi Arabia, in line with Algeria, Angola, Nigeria, want greater flexibility on timetables for phasing out oil and gas arguing that too fast a transition would hurt smaller economies (AC Vol 62 No 16, The oil economy breaks up).

UN Secretary General António Guterres expects tough negotiations over targets and monitoring at the climate summit in Egypt. At the launch of the IPCC's latest report, he abandoned traditional diplomacy to accuse some governments and business of 'lying' when they claimed to on track to meet the target of keeping global warming below 1.5C. 'The results will be catastrophic,' he said.

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