COP28: Germany and the EU Buck Calls to End Fossil Fuel Use
Germany and the European Union answered calls to sign on to a pact calling for a fossil fuel phaseout during preparatory talks on COP28 this week with a resounding “no”, delivering a blow to efforts calling for the immediate and hasty scale down of essential oil and gas resources.
The High Ambition Coalition (HAC), a group of 15 countries, is calling for a swift phase out of fossil fuel production ahead of COP28 Summit, happening by the end of the month. However, the coalition, which includes some European countries like France, Spain, and the Netherlands, notably does not include Germany and the EU, both of which refused to back such efforts.
Politico reports that this wouldn’t be the first time that Germany has refused such calls to end fossil fuels:
“In September, Table.Media reported that Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz had prevented Germany from signing another HAC statement on fossil fuels amid coalition infighting. And green policy disagreements are multiplying in Berlin — on Wednesday, liberal Finance Minister Christian Lindner suggested the government should “end the dream” of bringing forward Germany’s coal exit from 2038 to 2030.”
Similarly, the EU last year backed calls to label natural gas as “climate friendly.” At the time, Ingbert Liebing, managing director of Germany’s local utility association VKU, called this declaration “an important sign of the role of natural gas as a bridge to achieving climate goals.”
EID has discussed repeatedly that an energy transition without natural gas is doomed to fail, and those countries and activists calling for an immediate scale-down are ignoring direct and indirect impacts that would come with a quick transition away from dispatchable fossil fuel resources.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential risks and contradictions of the initiative.
No fossil fuels, despite natural gas growth in the EU
The rapid end of reliance on fossil fuel resources ignores the energy reality of the majority of countries, particularly in Europe: an unreliable energy matrix, outdated shared energy infrastructure, and high dependence on Russian gas imports, among others.
It is unclear how the HAC rationalizes advocating for massive reductions in fossil fuels while heavily relying on those very same resources. As discussed previously by EID, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, LNG has played a significant role in stabilizing energy markets globally and providing much-needed gas to European consumers.
In fact, the EU’s reliance on natural gas is at its highest ever. According to the latest International Gas Union (IGU) World LNG Outlook, European LNG imports grew by 66 percent compared to 2021, positioning the bloc as the second largest LNG importing region in the world.
Ironically, the European members of the coalition reported record LNG imports over the last year:
“Nearly all markets in the region [EU] increased their LNG imports, with France (+13.4 MT) topping the list, followed by the UK (+8.2 MT), Spain (+7.3 MT), the Netherlands (+6.4 MT), Belgium (+5.6 MT) and Italy (+3.6 MT).”
For instance, France president Emmanuel Macron announced a strategy last September to reduce the country’s “dependence on fossil fuels, essentially coal, oil and gas… from 60 percent to 40 percent by 2030.” Yet, per the IGU report, France increased its LNG imports by 109 percent over the last year, “the largest increase seen in 2022.”
Devaluing Carbon Capture, despite science’s support
Not only is the HAC urging a full stop to fossil fuels use, but the group is also questioning the benefits and impact of carbon capture and storage (CCS), a key technology for reducing emissions from hard-to-abate sectors. Despite the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fully supporting CCS, the High Ambition Coalition argues that CCS plays a “minor role” in industries like cement and steel.
However, countries like Saudi Arabia pushed back against these efforts, saying CCS is critical in tackling the lifecycle of renewable technology as well. Politico reports:
“We must act immediately to tackle emissions from all sources … and not cherry pick one energy source over the other.”
“We must also act immediately to address their lifecycle emissions in the near term. This will require emissions removal…The only way to limit global warming “is to accelerate renewable deployment whilst also deploying and scaling up removal approaches.”
EID has previously addressed the rampant misinformation campaign currently plaguing CCS efforts from the unfounded accusations of greenwashing, to correcting narratives around the feasibility of CCS at scale, and its wide-ranging application beyond the energy sector, including hard-to-abate industries.
In fact, a 2021 MIT study argues that industrial CCS “benefits total industrial production, global, sectoral and regional emissions, and global welfare,” and without CCS, global costs of reaching the 2C global temperature target “are higher by 12 percent in 2075 and 71 percent in 2100.”
Bottom Line: While the High Ambition Coalition and others may loudly call for ill-advised and hasty termination of fossil fuel resources, major economies like Germany and the EU aren’t taking the bait and continue to stand against anti-energy policies that would be detrimental to their citizens.