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European Union decides to promote fossil fuels ahead of the COP28 climate conference

In an effort to advance a worldwide agreement that fizzled at the COP28 climate summit last year, European Union governments agreed to promote a global phase-out of fossil fuels on Thursday.

Before the COP28 conference, which starts on November 30 in Dubai and is attended by approximately 200 nations, the ministers of the 27 EU member states endorsed a statement outlining their diplomatic priorities.

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The EU document stated that “the transition to a climate neutral economy will involve the worldwide phase-out of unabated fossil fuels,” noting the scientific agreement that such a move is required to prevent further severe climate change.

“The EU will systematically promote and call for a global move towards energy systems free of unabated fossil fuels well ahead of 2050”, it said, adding that global fossil fuel consumption should peak in the near term.

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Europe is in the midst of transforming its energy system to meet climate targets and end decades of reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

The text said countries should combine the two aims and use renewable energy or energy savings – rather than fossil fuels – to replace Russian energy.

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“There is no need for a one-to-one replacement of former Russian natural gas import volumes,” it said.

Some countries are hoping this year’s COP28 summit could secure a global deal to phase out fossil fuels, which emit planet-heating pollution. They want this to include not only coal, as agreed at previous UN climate talks, but also oil and gas.

More than 80 countries, including the EU, supported an Indian proposal to do this at last year’s summit, but Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas-rich nations opposed it.

EU countries approved their climate text two weeks later than planned, owing to a spat among countries over whether it should promote nuclear energy.

The final version scrubbed some wording that countries had disagreed on, but said that alongside renewable energy, EU diplomacy will promote sustainable “low-carbon technologies” – a phrase that often refers to nuclear energy.

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