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‘I Respect the Science in Everything I Do’, Clarifies COP28 Prez; India Skips Two Declarations

India's lack of endorsement for two declarations were because of references to a ‘phase-out’ of coal power and what officials said were targets that are unviable for India's health sector.
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube/COP28 UAE.

New Delhi: COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber said on Monday (December 4) that “everything this presidency has been working on and continues to work on is focused on and centred around the science”.

“And I have been crystal clear on that point … I have always been very clear on the fact that we are making sure that everything we do is centred around the science,” he added.

His remarks came a day after the non-profit Centre for Climate Reporting and The Guardian newspaper reported him as saying last month that there was “no science” to prove it is necessary to phase out fossil fuels in order to limit global warming.

“I am factual and I respect the science, and there is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuels is what’s going to achieve 1.5 [degrees],” he said at an online conference on November 21, calling such discussion “alarmist”.

Al-Jaber was referring to the agreement among the world’s governments in 2015 to ‘pursue efforts’ at limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.

He continued: “1.5 is my north star. A phase-down and a phase-out of fossil fuels, in my view, is inevitable, it is essential; but we need to be real, serious, pragmatic about it.”

A phase-down of fossil fuel use refers to the gradual reduction in their use but not a complete stop to it.

On Monday, al-Jaber, who is trained as an engineer and economist, said that “science has been central to my own career progress and yes, I respect the science in everything I do,” the BBC reported.

“I honestly think there is some confusion out there, and misrepresentation. I am quite surprised with the constant and repeated attempts to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency,” he also said according to the broadcaster.

The global phase-out of coal, oil and gas is proving to be controversial at the Dubai climate talks.

The UAE and several other countries have tried to shift the discussion to emerging technologies such as CO2 storage or capture, arguing that fossil fuels can still play an important role in the world’s energy mix.

But experts have said these technologies are very expensive and cannot yet be scaled up to counter global heating.

“The science is clear. The 1.5 degree target is only possible if we finally stop burning fossil fuels,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the start of COP28 on Thursday.

Also Read | Developing Nations Should Be Given Fair Share of Global Carbon Budget: PM Modi at COP28

India does not sign declarations on renewable energy and health

More than 100 countries endorsed a pledge at the COP28 meeting that was mainly about tripling renewable energy installed capacity by 2030.

India did not endorse this pledge due to references in it to the ‘phase-out’ of coal and to ending new investments in the coal sector, the Indian Express reported.

The draft of the pledge says that the deployment of renewables this decade must be accompanied by the “phase down of unabated coal power, in particular ending the continued investment in unabated new coal-fired power plants, which is incompatible with efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.”

But such goals run contrary to India’s long-standing position that it needs to rely on coal power – its largest source of energy – to increase the standards of living for its population, The Hindu reported.

India also did not sign a declaration on the impact of climate change on health.

Officials said that one of points in the declaration relating to cooling in the health sector may not be achievable in India in the short term, the Press Trust of India reported.

“We need cold storages for storing vaccines and medicines and these are linked to making our healthcare systems resilient,” secretary of the Union environment ministry Leena Nandan told The Hindu.

She added: “However, suggestions that using these are contributing to climate emissions and that we must choose some fuels over the other are not acceptable.”

With inputs from DW.

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