BERLIN: Germany called Tuesday for governments around the world to work on setting an ambitious target for renewable energy that would “ring in the end of the fossil fuel age” and help prevent dangerous global warming.
Speaking at the start of a two-day meeting in Berlin attended by dozens of top climate envoys, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock noted that the world needs to sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
“But we also know that not all countries are prepared to do so,” she said. “That is why I want to open the debate ... on whether we should and can reach a target on renewables at the next climate conference.”
Baerbock’s proposal flips the script on a previous push to set a deadline for phasing out all fossil fuels, which faced stiff resistance from major oil and gas exporting nations. They instead back the idea of capturing planet-warming emissions as a way to reducing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Experts say such technologies, known as carbon capture and storage, are aren’t proven at scale and could require huge investments at the expense of cheaper alternatives such as solar and wind power.
Addressing officials from about 40 countries attending the annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue in the German capital, Baerbock said that renewables such as solar and wind power are already the most cost-effective form of generating energy in most places around the world.
“Our goal for the (climate conference) in Dubai must be to ring in the end of the fossil fuel age,” she said.
The idea received a cool response from the United Arab Emirates, which will host this year’s UN climate summit.
“In a pragmatic, just and well-managed energy transition, we must be laser-focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions, while phasing up and scaling up viable, affordable zero-carbon alternatives,” said Sultan Al-Jaber, a former oil company executive who will preside over the COP28 climate summit from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. He placed particular emphasis on the word “emissions” as he spoke.
“We know that the energies used today will continue to be part of the global energy mix for the foreseeable future,” he added. “As such, we will work with the world to decarbonize the current energy system while we build a new one, capable of transitioning even the most heavy-emitting industries.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to all fossil fuel use, which is blamed for the majority of global warming that has occurred since the start of the industrial era, warning that otherwise the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) may be missed. But so far only coal has been put on notice, with a commitment by nations two years ago to “phase down” its use.
Environmental campaigners say solutions also need to be found for millions of workers in the coal, oil and gas industry if it is to be wound down successfully, as well as alternative sources of energy for billions of people around the world who still rely on cheap fossil fuels.