Sharm el-Sheikh: The European Union has said it will support India’s proposal to phase down “all” fossil fuels as long as it “doesn’t diminish the earlier agreement we had on phasing down coal”, Frans Timmermans, executive vice president for the European Green Deal, European Commission, said Tuesday, in a press statement at the ongoing COP27 climate summit in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh.
The EU’s statement doubled down on what was finally agreed on during the COP26 in Glasgow last year, which singled out coal phase down, and had initially called for it to be phased out.
India was among the countries that opposed the phase out of coal, citing the government’s responsibility to provide its citizens with energy security. Most of India’s electricity generation is coal-dependent.
India’s midnight intervention at the COP26 had led to the final adoption of a clause that encouraged countries to move towards “the phase down of unabated coal power and phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances”.
Last week, India submitted a proposal to the COP27 Presidency which stated that limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels “requires phase down of all fossil fuels”, and not just one, emphasising the common but differentiated responsibilities that govern climate action under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Timmermans said the EU would support India’s proposal “if it comes on top of what we already agreed in Glasgow”, signaling the phase down of oil and gas would follow a phase down of coal.
“It should not divert attention to our efforts to phase down coal as we had agreed last year,” he said.
Timmerman’s statement comes after the EU has signed multiple deals to import millions of cubic meters of gas and oil to reduce its dependence on Russia in light of the war on Ukraine.
“India’s proposal to phase down fossil fuels should be seen as positive, and the EU has expressed support but wants to ensure there is no backtracking on the commitment to phase down coal. I don’t think the EU is opposed to it,” Lola Vallejo, climate programme director at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), told ThePrint.
On 11 November, Egypt announced it had signed a deal with the US and Germany to expand its renewable energy resources and divert its gas to Europe, which is facing a crisis in energy.
According to observers, the COP27 has seen at least eight oil and gas deals materialise, four of which include supplies to Europe.
“The gas panic shopping noticed ahead of the COP, as well as the hydrogen hype during the climate summit leading the EU Commission president to sign various agreements with African countries is more than doubtful,” said Esther Bollendorff, gas policy expert at Climate Action Network (CAN), Europe.
She added: It is questionable if these countries have a genuine interest in renewable hydrogen or rather a hidden gas agenda, but also the EU risks expanding hydrogen imports beyond its real needs and mainly overruling the needs of exporting countries themselves which still need to embark on their energy transition.”
‘Must be pragmatic about loss and damage’
Asked about the EU’s position on loss and damage finance — an item of discussion that is deadlocked in negotiations — Timmermans said the EU was focussing on “finding solutions that are agreeable, which will at the same time make it easier to organise finances”.
Developing countries have asked for a finance facility that will fund losses and damages arising from the effects of climate change. In negotiations, the EU stopped short of saying it supports a finance facility, instead saying it backs setting up a “process to identify ways to address the challenges vulnerable people face due to loss and damage”.
Its submission also supported the Global Shield — a scheme launched by Germany to insure vulnerable countries against loss and damage.
Activists and civil society groups have criticised the Global Shield, claiming vulnerable countries may not be able to afford premiums, and that increasing losses and damages due to climate change cannot be insured for much longer.
“Disproportionate focus on a new mechanism that does not cover slow onset events such as rising sea levels or loss of language and culture cannot meet the needs of communities on the ground,” said Harjeet Singh, Head of Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International.
He added: “The Global Shield cannot take away attention from the primary demand of developing countries for establishing a finance facility for Loss and Damage at COP27.”
(This is an updated version of the copy.)
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)