KOne of the climate conferences in the past 20 years ended on time. But in the United Arab Emirates, the host is sticking to concluding the negotiations “at the latest” this Tuesday morning. On Monday, work on the final document and other texts stalled considerably.
That morning, the head of the UN Climate Secretariat, Simon Stiell, announced that a new draft of the text should be available “in a few minutes”. It should take almost ten hours.
The text, which the hosts then presented as a draft final document, calls on countries to recognize that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced “to a large extent, quickly and sustainably”. This should be done in a “fair, orderly manner”. But the United Arab Emirates does not want to dictate how this should be achieved.
Draft falls short of previous version
The draft states that states could “among other things” triple renewable energy capacities worldwide and increase energy efficiency twice as fast annually in the future as before. Coal-fired power generation without CO2 capture could “quickly decline,” and in general, states could accelerate their efforts to transform the global energy system “toward greenhouse gas neutrality.” To achieve this, they should rely on carbon-free or low-carbon energies well before the middle of the century. Nuclear power is also mentioned as a possible alternative energy source.
This means that the draft falls far short of an earlier version, which contained several alternative formulations for the future use of fossil fuels. The EU, among others, campaigned for its end in Dubai. The rejection from their ranks was correspondingly clear. Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) said that the EU rejects the draft of the Emirati conference presidency.
This is “a disappointment”; there are no instruments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era. The proposal also endangers the energy transition in countries in Africa, Asia and South America. If the draft goes according to plan, it would even be possible to build new coal-fired power plants. Spain's Environment Minister Teresa Ribera announced that she would fight for the 1.5 degree target.
The negotiations could drag on even longer
Representatives of the Alliance of Small Island States, which has 39 members, also criticized the draft text. Cedric Schuster, Samoa's environment minister, said on behalf of the alliance that he felt the island states' voices had not been heard in Dubai. “We will not sign our death warrant.” Schuster particularly criticized the fact that, in connection with fossil energies, there was talk of how states could deal with them. “'Could' is unacceptable. States have to get out.”
The United States' climate envoy, John Kerry, praised the efforts of the Emirati conference presidency to reach a compromise. However, Kerry called for changes and wording in connection with fossil energies needed to be sharpened.
This heralded a sleepless night for the negotiators. Every state can block an agreement in the plenary session. The Emirati Industry Minister and President of the conference called COP, Sultan al-Jaber, emphasized on Monday: “We have no other option but to work together.”
Then, as so often at this conference, he spoke of the “guiding star of all negotiations”. By this he always means “keeping 1.5 degrees within reach”. Whenever al-Jaber talks about this goal, climate activists often ask whether he is serious. From the point of view of many climate activists, the draft of his presidency seemed to be closer to the demands of Saudi Arabia, which had so far protested most clearly at the COP against a stipulated exit from fossil fuels.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres had already appealed to negotiators that morning to abandon their blockade stance. He had returned to Dubai for this appeal. He warned: “Now is the time for maximum ambition and maximum flexibility.” Of course, that was hours before the COP presidency published its draft, which revealed how far apart the states in Dubai were.
The EU then also announced that it was not expected that the conference would end in a few hours. One expects more days. And Foreign Minister Baerbock said: “We have time, and we are prepared to stay a little longer.”
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