ARKANSAS, Dec 10 (Future Headlines)- The COP28 summit in Dubai, a crucial gathering of nearly 200 countries to address climate change, has become a battleground over the contentious issue of phasing out fossil fuels. The rift between countries supporting a clear commitment to ending the use of oil and gas and those advocating a focus solely on reducing climate pollution threatens the prospects of reaching a historic agreement. Notably, nations like Saudi Arabia and Russia are opposing any explicit mention of a fossil fuel phase-out, while a coalition of over 80 countries, including the United States and the European Union, is pushing for a decisive commitment.

As of Saturday, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber urged nations to accelerate their efforts to bridge divergent positions, emphasizing that there were more areas of disagreement than agreement. The negotiations have reached a critical stage, with the window narrowing to close the gaps between opposing stances. The conflicting views were evident in the interventions of countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia, which emphasized the need for realistic approaches to emissions reduction without explicitly endorsing a phase-out of fossil fuels.

A noteworthy development in the summit was the unprecedented intervention by OPEC, with Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais urging members to reject any mention of fossil fuels in the final deal. This move, expressed in a letter, raised concerns and drew criticism from EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra, who characterized it as “out of whack” with global climate efforts. The letter from OPEC’s Secretariat, perceived by some as indicative of a sense of urgency, is seen as a unique intervention in U.N. climate talks.

The global divide on the issue of a fossil fuel phase-out is stark, with Saudi Arabia and Russia, as influential oil-producing nations, resisting explicit commitments. On the contrary, the coalition advocating for a clear commitment includes major economies like the United States and the European Union, as well as many vulnerable nations grappling with the impacts of climate change. The fate of the COP28 summit, scheduled to conclude on Tuesday, now hinges on finding common ground on this contentious issue.

The challenges faced at COP28 extend beyond environmental concerns to encompass economic interests, diplomatic grievances, and the broader implications of a transition away from fossil fuels. With fossil fuels contributing to over 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, their role in climate change cannot be overstated. The push for renewable energy sources and the resistance to a fossil fuel phase-out underscore the complexities of balancing economic development with environmental sustainability.

Saudi Arabia and Russia’s emphasis on emissions reduction rather than a fossil fuel phase-out appears to align with a reliance on expensive carbon capture technology. However, the efficacy of this approach is questioned by the U.N. climate science panel, which highlights the necessity of reducing global fossil fuel use. The potential economic impacts of a fossil fuel phase-out on oil-dependent economies could be a driving factor in the resistance from these nations.

The High Ambition Coalition, led by the Marshall Islands, emphasizes the need for a phase-out of fossil fuels to align with the global goal of limiting climate warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures. This coalition, comprising nations facing imminent threats from climate-driven sea-level rise, asserts that a fossil fuel phase-out is non-negotiable for achieving this crucial climate target.

Climate envoys from key nations, including Germany’s Jennifer Morgan, express concerns about the pace and constructiveness of negotiations as COP28 enters a critical stage. The Alliance of Small Island States raises alarms about disputes bogging down the talks, emphasizing that a target for renewables cannot substitute for a robust commitment to fossil fuel phase-out and the end of subsidies. The urgency to address these issues is heightened by the limited time available in Dubai.

The COP28 summit also becomes a platform for broader diplomatic grievances and geopolitical tensions. Russia explores the possibility of using approximately $300 billion in frozen gold reserves for a climate damage fund for developing countries, highlighting the intersection of climate action and global finance. China voices concerns about discussions on Taiwan’s participation, and a Palestinian representative brings attention to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, diverting focus from climate change efforts.

As COP28 reaches a critical juncture, government ministers from participating countries are intensifying efforts to resolve the impasse over fossil fuels. The negotiation text, with varying options from a “phase-out of fossil fuels in line with best available science” to no mention at all, reflects the ongoing tug-of-war between divergent positions. The commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius remains a key benchmark, and the outcome of COP28 will likely shape the trajectory of global climate policies.

Reporting by Moe Khaled; Editing by Sarah White