EU supports India call for phase down of fossil fuels, with riders

Updated on Nov 16, 2022 11:47 AM IST

Sharm El Sheikh The European Union (EU) supports a call by India to phase down fossil fuel use as part of a COP27 deal, the bloc’s climate policy chief Frans Timmermans on Tuesday said, provided it does not weaken previous agreements on reducing the use of coal.

Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission, speaks with members of the media at the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty) (AP) PREMIUM
Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission, speaks with members of the media at the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty) (AP)
ByJayashree Nandi

Sharm El Sheikh The European Union (EU) supports a call by India to phase down fossil fuel use as part of a COP27 deal, the bloc’s climate policy chief Frans Timmermans on Tuesday said, provided it does not weaken previous agreements on reducing the use of coal.

The stance by Timmermans, executive vice-president, European Commission for the European Green Deal, drew criticism from independent experts and members of the Indian delegation, who said it shows that the EU still wants to single out coal as most of the developing countries are dependent on it.

“Ha ha! Does EU need to be reminded that it is scouting for all fossil fuels, including coal, worldwide,” said a developing country negotiator, asking not to be named.

All developed countries, this person added, were mostly focussed on coal in the cover text, which will form a part of the official outcome of the climate discussions.

The latest discussions at this year’s UN Climate Conference (COP27) being held at Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh are navigating a host of sticky issues, one of which is the focus on emissions reduction efforts – rich countries have pushed for a greater focus on coal, a fuel they are less dependent on than developing nations.

India has proposed that the cover text should have language covering all fossil fuels and not single out any one of them. “Recognise that the global carbon budget is shrinking rapidly and the necessity [is] of its equitable sharing. Note also the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s AR6 (IPCC-AR6) report highlighted disproportionate use of the global carbon budget since 1850 onwards,” India has proposed. The disproportionate use refers to how rich countries have historically spewed most of the greenhouse gases.

India flagged that IPCC-AR 6 pointed out that meeting the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement requires phase down of all fossil fuels.

“Selective singling out of sources of emissions, for either labelling them more harmful or labelling others “green and sustainable” even when they are sources of greenhouse gases has no basis in the best available science,” India said, adding that the cover text should urge the acceleration of the global clean energy transition, as per national circumstances, and acknowledging that all fossil fuels contribute to greenhouse gases emissions.

The Egypt Presidency officials in a press briefing on Tuesday said India’s proposal for phase out of all fossil fuels will be discussed by parties and considered for cover text.

According to observers, eight deals for supply of gas to European and other countries from African countries, specifically Nigeria, Egypt and Tanzania have been agreed upon at COP27. “We are trying to source more details on the gas deals here. The issue of 1.5°C goal is also a redline with the environment integrity group pushing for focus only on 1.5°C goal and not the entire Paris Agreement goal. Developing countries have objected and pushed that adding principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities are critical to Paris Agreement goals,” said one of the observers.

“We have to make sure this call doesn’t diminish the early agreement we had on phasing down coal. So, if it comes on top of what we had already agreed in Glasgow then the EU will support India. But it should not divert our attention and efforts to phase down coal as we have agreed last year in Glasgow,” said Timmermans at a press conference on Tuesday.

India, in its national statement, separately said that it has updated its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in August 2022, and embarked on far-reaching new initiatives in renewable energy, e-mobility, ethanol-blended fuels and green hydrogen as an alternate energy source as part of efforts to increase its commitment to do more for the climate crisis.

When asked about the EU looking to source natural gas from Africa, Timmermans said : “We have to make sure our households and businesses survive in the next couple of years. We will be faced with this winter and next two winters where we have to ensure we have fossil fuels to survive. Because of speeding up deployment of renewables and because of consumption reduction we are still on target. So yes, we are burning more coal than we had intended and look for LNG where we can find it but that’s only for next three years.” The reference was to the disruption in gas supply to Europe due to the Ukraine crisis.

“I am not telling African countries not to invest in fossil fuels. I am just telling them be careful of what you do because if you invest in coal now you are sure to create stranded assets, if you invest in oil you are probably going to create stranded assets,” he added.

With the EU supporting the call for phase down of all fossil fuels, India’s proposal may gain strength in the cover text.

India’s proposal for inviting parties to join the sustainable lifestyles movement (LiFE) has found its way in the annexures to the text on mitigation work programme (matters related to urgently scaling up mitigation to meet Paris Agreement goals) according to delegates from India. “It’s still in the annexures. We have to see if they can mention all 75 sustainable lifestyle interventions from LiFE. But it’s significant that it’s there,” a member of the delegation said.

India has also proposed that the cover decision includes the call to join LiFE movement. “Invite parties to consider SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production and to promote a global mass movement for sustainable lifestyles,” states the proposal that India has submitted for the cover text.

A new International Energy Agency special report, “Coal in Net Zero Transitions: Strategies for Rapid, Secure and People-Centred Change”, said on Tuesday that global coal consumption occurs in countries that have pledged to achieve net zero emissions. However, far from declining, global coal demand has been stable at near record highs for the past decade. If nothing is done, emissions from existing coal assets would, by themselves, tip the world across the 1.5°C limit.

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