U.N. climate Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said a phase out of heat-trapping fossil fuels “is something that is at top of every discussion or most discussions that are taking place.”
He adds “It is an issue that has global attention. How that translates into an agenda item and a (climate talks) outcome we will see.”
Stiell told AP he couldn't quite promise it would get a spot on the agenda in climate talks, called COP28, in Dubai later this year.
That agenda decision is up to the president of the negotiations, Stiell said. He is the head of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Sultan al-Jaber.
The decision by host nation United Arab Emirates to make al-Jaber the head of the climate conference has drawn fierce opposition from lawmakers in Europe and the United States, as well as environmental advocates. UAE officials said they want game-changing results in the climate talks. They point out that al-Jaber also runs a large renewable energy company.
Last year at climate talks, a proposal by India to phase out all fossil fuels, supported by the United States and many European nations, never got on the agenda. What gets discussed is decided by the COP president, who last year was the foreign minister of Egypt, a natural gas exporting nation.
When asked if Egypt's leaders kept the concept off the agenda, Stiell, speaking via Zoom from Bonn, Germany, where preliminary talks start Monday, said he couldn't comment except to say that “it's within their purview.”
The issue of a coal, oil and natural gas phase out is so central to Stiell he brought it up four times in the half-hour interview Saturday. He said the real issue is getting something done, not putting it on the agenda.
In public appearances, al-Jaber has emphasized being “laser-focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions,” not necessarily the fuels themselves, by promoting carbon capture and removal of the pollutant from the air.
Stiell dismissed the idea that carbon removal can be a short-term solution.
“Right now, in this critical decade of action to achieve those deep reductions, the science tells us it can only be achieved through the reduced use, significantly reduced use, of all fossil fuels,” Stiell said in the interview.