Home / News / World /  COP27: EU supports India's call to phase down all fossil fuels than just coal

The chief of climate policy for the EU, Frans Timmermans, said on Tuesday that the EU supports India's call to phase down its use of fossil fuels as part of a COP27 agreement, so long as it does not weaken earlier coal use reduction agreements.

India, the second-largest coal consumer in the world, prefers a broad agreement to phase down all fossil fuels at the United Nations climate summit in Egypt to the more specific coal phase-down agreement reached at COP26 last year.

Timmermans told a news conference, "We are in support of any call to phase down all fossil fuels. But we also have to make sure that this call does not diminish the earlier agreements we had on phasing down coal, so if it comes on top of what we already agreed in Glasgow, then the EU will support in this proposal."

The EU is stepping up its search for coal and natural gas in the near future to combat a shortage of energy caused by high demand and supply disruptions since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the same time as Timmermans' remarks.

India might benefit from the proposal by lessening the focus on its use of coal, but developing nations with abundant oil and gas reserves are likely to fiercely oppose it because they don't want language that restricts their use.

"We have come out strongly to indicate that we should be facilitated to sustainably explore our oil and gas resources," Irene Batebe, permanent secretary at Uganda's energy ministry, told Reuters.

"For us, and that's the African Union's position, we wouldn't be pushing for a phase down, unless the phase down is clearly defined, because many of us are discovering new resources," Batebe added.

Saudi Arabia, the largest producer of oil in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is concerned that the final negotiations will "demonise" the fossil fuel sector, according to Khalid Abuleif, a representative from the Saudi energy ministry and COP27 negotiator.

India was among the countries resistant to efforts to eliminate coal at last year's climate talks at COP26 in Glasgow when the final deal at the last minute dropped wording calling for a phase out of coal-fired power, replacing it with phase down

According to Timmermans, the EU merely wanted to warn against investing in fossil fuels rather than attempt to impose its own investment policies on other nations.

"I'm not telling African countries not to invest in fossils, let me be very clear about that. I'm just telling them 'be careful what you do' because if you invest in coal now, you're sure to create stranded assets. If you invest in oil, you're probably going to create stranded assets," he said.

He further added, natural gas "is a different situation for which I have some understanding, especially if you combine that with infrastructure that is prefitted to also carry gases with other densities, such as green hydrogen or green ammonia in the future."

Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, but the process of drilling it and transporting it to market frequently results in methane leaks, a potent greenhouse gas.

On Monday evening, the Egyptian COP27 Presidency released a two-page outline of what might eventually result in a deal, with bullet points outlining many of the issues that countries have requested be included, some of which have caused significant national division.

Fossil fuels were not mentioned in the document, though a COP Presidency spokesperson later claimed that the list was not all-inclusive and did not contain the exact language that would appear in the final draft.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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