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COP28: Germany's Scholz calls to phase out coal, oil and gas

Published December 2, 2023last updated December 2, 2023

At COP28 in Dubai, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for a phase out of fossil fuels, the US announced $3 billion in new climate funding and France pushed for nuclear energy as a way to reduce emissions.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaking at COP28 on Saturday
Olaf Scholz touted the "Climate Club," which Germany co-chairs alongside ChileImage: AP/Rafiq Maqbool/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for coal, oil and gas to be phased out at the COP28 summit in Dubai on Saturday.

"We must now all show a firm determination to phase out fossil fuels — first and foremost coal. We can set sail for this at this climate conference," Scholz told delegations from around the world.

Scholz said Germany is leading the development of a number of clean energy solutions and reiterated Germany's pledge to be climate-neutral by 2045.

"The technologies are there: wind power, photovoltaics, electric motors, green hydrogen," he added.

More than 100 countries at the summit have also called for a "phaseout" of fossil fuels rather than a "phasedown," with US Vice President Kamala Harris joining the calls on Saturday. 

Much at stake for African nations at COP28

Environmentalist groups welcomed the goals set out by Scholz but said his government had not demonstrated enough action on the issue.

"While the German government is sending positive signals in Dubai, in Germany, court rulings are first needed to force the government to act," said Viviane Raddatz, head of climate policy for the WWF in Germany.

Greenpeace Germany's executive director Martin Kaiser said Scholz lacked "consistency and credibility" in his climate policy.

More than 100 nations pledge to triple renewables

Scholz also reiterated calls to triple renewable energy expansion to triple by 2030.

"It is still possible for us to reduce emissions enough in this decade to meet the 1.5 degree target," he said.

"Let's agree here in Dubai on two binding targets: one is to triple the expansion of renewable energy and the other is to double energy efficiency — both by 2030."

At least 118 nations have agreed to the target including Brazil, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Canada, Chile. China and India have indicated support but have so far not officially backed the pledge.

Germany launches climate club on industrial policy

Scholz said Germany has already spent $6.5 billion (€6 billion) on international climate financing and pledged another $100 million (€92 million) for a new climate fund established at the summit on Thursday.

He also touted the ambitions of the "Climate Club," a group of 36 nations co-chaired by Germany and Chile that aims to make high-polluting industries more sustainable in developing countries, but called on countries like China and the Gulf states to take on more responsibility in this area.

"For the countries whose prosperity has grown enormously over the last decades and which have contributed to a large extent to today's global emissions also bear responsibility: We need your support too," he said.

Leaders discuss international climate financing

At COP28, the US vice president also made a new $3 billion (€2.8 billion) pledge to the Green Climate Fund that helps developing countries with climate adaptation and mitigation.

"This is a pivotal moment. Our action, or worse, our inaction today ... will impact the lives of billions of people for decades to come," Harris said.

However, she acknowledged that "there is more work to do."

US Vice President Kamala Harris being greeted by UAE Minister for Advanced Technology Sarah Al Amiri
Kamala Harris announced more global climate funding at COP28Image: Amr Alfiky/REUTERS

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said earlier that major countries and financial institutions should do more to fund international climate adaptation.

"Loss and damage alone, however, is only a part of the equation," she said. "Because for every dollar that we spend before disaster, we can save $7 in damage, and indeed loss of lives."

Some delegates were skeptical about international climate financing as it stands.

Timor-Leste's President Jose Ramos Horta slammed what he called "shark loans" that burden developing countries with debts they cannot easily recover from.

Pope Francis, unable to attend the summit due to ill health, meanwhile said he hoped COP28 would be a "turning point" in a speech read out by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in Dubai.

"Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired. Even so, I am with you, because time is short," the pope said in his message.

Brazil contends fossil fuel use can finance renewables

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walked a fine line between defending his country's participation in the 23-member OPEC+ group of oil-producing countries while also attempting to push for a transition away from fossil fuels.

"It's important for us to take part in OPEC+, because we need to convince the countries that produce oil that they need to prepare for the end of fossil fuels," Lula said on Saturday. "Preparing means using the money they make to invest so that continents like Africa and Latin America can produce the renewable fuels they need, especially green hydrogen," he added.

Brazil's mines and energy minister, Alexandre Silveira, said, "Under the leadership of President Lula we want to use oil revenues to finance clean and renewable energy."

Brazil is the largest oil producer in South America, at 4.6 million barrels per day of oil and gas, of which 3.7 million bpd are crude.

France and others call for nuclear energy expansion

Nuclear energy, a nonrenewable energy source which does not produce greenhouse gas emissions, was also on the agenda at COP28.

A group of more than 20 nations including France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada and Ghana pushed for nuclear energy output to triple by 2050.

"I want here to reiterate the fact that nuclear energy is a clean energy and it should be repeated," said French President Emmanuel Macron.

French President Emmanuel Macron with UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazroui at COP28
Emmanuel Macron made the case for nuclear power at COP28Image: Peter Dejong/AP/dpa

France gets around two-thirds of its electricity from nuclear power — more than any other industrialized country.

"Nuclear energy is back," Macron added.

Critics of nuclear energy say it presents waste storage challenges and poses a security risk. Germany phased out nuclear energy in April, over a decade after a government decision triggered by the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.  

zc/kb (dpa, epd, AP, Reuters, AFP)