COP27: Fossil fuel phase-down wording proposal ‘risks delaying coal shutdowns’

Strong points

Timmermans warns against coal-gas linkage

The text “must move forward on Glasgow”: MEP

Shoukry warns of lingering divergence

Referring to all fossil fuels in new ‘phase-down’ language in a UN COP27 climate statement risked slowing the shutdown of coal-fired power plants, the European Commission’s executive vice-president says , Frans Timmermans, in Sharm el-Sheikh on 17 November.

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With the UN climate conference a day away, the Egyptian presidency is struggling to finalize a cover story summarizing the progress of political intentions stemming from the talks.

“The one thing I want to avoid is that we put all fossil fuels in the same boat when we talk about phase-down, because we all know it will take a lot longer to phase-down natural gas than to phase out the coal,” says Timmermans.

Bundling all fossil fuels, as India suggests, would risk “synchronizing” coal shutdowns with natural gas, he said.

“Coal is so much dirtier than natural gas, the sooner we can get rid of it the better,” he said, calling on parties to accelerate climate efforts before 2030.

India and China helped water down language on coal in the Glasgow Climate Pact last year, removing the call for a phase-out and replacing it with “phase-out”.

Now India has called for coal to be replaced by all fossil fuels in a gradually updated cover text appeal.

“If the conclusion of this COP merely reaffirms the Glasgow pact, then Sharm el-Sheikh would be a failure,” said MEP Bas Eickhout, vice-chairman of the Environment, Public Health and of food safety of the European Parliament.

“1.5 degrees Celsius is not a goal, it’s a limit,” he said.

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In a baseline scenario, India’s carbon emissions are projected to rise from 2.41 billion tonnes/year in 2022 to 2.89 billion tonnes/year in 2030, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights’ Integrated Energy Model.

The electricity sector is a major driver of these emissions, with coal-fired generation expected to peak in 2045 at 1,980 TWh.

Addressing the summit in the early evening of November 17, COP27 President Sameh Shoukry said: “It is evident that at this late stage in the COP27 process there are still a number of issues where progress remains insufficient with continuing divergent views between the parties.”

The work program on mitigation has yet to come to fruition, adaptation has been hampered by procedural issues and “ambitious results on finance have yet to materialize,” Shoukry said.

Parties were also hesitant to make tough political decisions about loss and damage, he said.

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