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COPping out

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COP show. The COP28 climate conference is in full swing in Dubai and not a single day has passed since the grand opening on Thursday (30 November) without new announcements being made.

Day one started with a bang as negotiators rubber-stamped an agreement to launch the world’s first “loss and damage” fund to compensate poor countries for natural disasters caused by climate change.

Germany paved the way. Germany and COP28 hosts the United Arab Emirates committed $100 million each, followed by the UK (£40m or $50.5m), the US ($17.5m) and Japan ($10m).

As the story goes, German public officials secretly headed to the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi beforehand to ensure the fund could launch. Another rumour is that the French, upon hearing of Germany’s €100 million contribution, went “Mon dieu, if the Germans are doing it, we must too.”

Yet, the contributions are seen as too little to make a real difference, especially the US one, which some described as “embarrassing”. More on this story thanks to our media partner, Climate Home News.

Renewables pledge. But arguably the biggest announcement, made on Saturday, was a pledge by more than 100 countries to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030. The EU made this one of its key objectives for COP28 so it can already claim partial success. But there is a caveat: China and India didn’t sign up. Oh, well. Nikolaus J. Kurmayer has the story, straight from Dubai.

There was also a similar pledge on Saturday about nuclear energy, with 22 countries including France vowing to “triple nuclear energy capacity from 2020 by 2050”. The pledge was hailed as a major achievement by French President Emmanuel Macron, reports Théo Bourgery-Gonse. China and India didn’t take part to this one either.

Climate club. Another big deal for Europe was the launch of the “climate club”, a pet project of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz bringing together countries with “ambitious” climate policies. The club was officially launched on Friday, with 33 members joining, including all the G7 countries and others like Chile and Mozambique.

The climate club was initially conceived by Scholz more than two years ago to avoid trade frictions when the EU eventually launches its carbon border levy, which started applying on 1 October. Club members will work towards that by developing a standardised way of calculating the CO2 intensity of selected products to be covered by the EU’s carbon tariff, like steel and cement.

But in practice, the climate club amounts to little more than a talking shop. And the EU’s carbon border tax doesn’t provide for any exemptions anyway, reports Niko Kurmayer. So much for Scholz’s pet project.

Methane. The COP show went on over the weekend with more pledges, this time to cut methane emissions. The EU is at the forefront of the global fight on methane, with the recent adoption of an EU law to tackle methane leaks from the fossil fuel sector. At COP28, the rest of the world, meanwhile, made voluntary pledges to tackle the issue. But China, India, and Russia remain outside a Global Methane Pledge led by the EU and the US two years ago at COP26 in Glasgow, Niko reports.

Presidential trip up. As COP28 pledges slowly run out of steam, president Sultan Al Jaber was expected to reinvigorate the talks on Monday. Alas, he found himself facing a media backlash on Sunday when a November video surfaced, in which he said: “There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”

Much of Al Jaber’s energy on Monday was spent trying to deny the claims. In an urgently convened press conference, he subjected gathered journalists to a ten-minute lecture on this year’s achievements at COP before making an urgent plea to journalists to stop treating him unfairly. More on the BBC.

Fossil fuel exit/ phase out/ phase down. As COP28 enters its second week, the focus is now slowly turning to the negotiations and the texts that will eventually be adopted in Dubai. The key aspect there is whether language will be adopted or not to exit, phase out or merely phase down (unabated) fossil fuels, and whether something similar should be done about coal.

A draft text circulated in Dubai on Tuesday does include “an orderly and just phase-out of fossil fuels” among other options, Reuters reported.

But Saudi Arabia’s energy minister already showed his hand, saying he would refuse to agree a text that mentions a “phase-down” of fossil fuels, even though that formulation is considered weaker than a “phase out”. In Europe, views on the matter are not unanimous either, as we reported earlier.

Coming up: China-EU clash. The second week is also where the European Parliament comes into play. Peter Liese, a German Christian Democrat, will be heading a delegation of 15 MEPs who will fly to Dubai on 8-12 December to attend the COP28 summit.

And he is on a mission to expose China’s real contribution to the global climate crisis. According to the German lawmaker, Beijing must stop portraying itself as a developing country and start contributing to global climate finance like “a superpower” or else assume responsibility for the talks’ failure. Frédéric Simon has the story.

Still about China, Fred got an exclusive interview with Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), in which he lauds Beijing for bringing down the cost of clean technologies but also urges China to take its responsibilities when it comes to international climate finance. Read the story here.

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PARIS. Bill Gates: No fairness in climate change fight without innovation. A socially equitable green transition ought to rely heavily on technological innovation, American tech mogul and philanthropist Bill Gates told a high-level ‘Growth and Climate’ conference in Paris on Tuesday. Read more.

SOFIA. Lukoil considers sale of Bulgarian refinery. Russian oil company Lukoil is considering all possible options for the future of its Bulgarian business, including the sale of the Balkans’ largest refinery, Neftochim Burgas, and its vast network of petrol stations and oil depots in the country, the Russian company announced on Tuesday. Read more.

PRAGUE. Czech far-right parties to push for Green Deal reversal after EU elections. Two Czech far-right parties confirmed a joint candidate list for the 2024 EU elections, with the reversal of the European Green Deal being among the top priorities, the parties announced on Saturday. Read more.

BUCHAREST. Romania announces bid to boost photovoltaics by 2030. Romania aims to have over eight gigawatts (GW) in photovoltaic renewable energy production units installed by 2030, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai over the weekend following his country’s accession to the International Solar Alliance. Read more.

BERLIN. German climate policy insufficient, court rules. The German government must present emergency programmes to improve its climate policy in the transport and buildings sector, a Berlin court ruled on Thursday after the country repeatedly failed to meet emission reduction targets. Read more.

BUCHAREST. Romania aims to recycle 7 billion PETs per year. Romania’s guarantee return system for plastic, glass and metal packaging went live on Thursday, with an ambitious target to recycle around 7 billion pieces of reusable PET plastic each year to massively increase the country’s current separate collection rate of about 12-13%. Read more.

LJUBLJANA. Slovenia received advanced payment from the EU Solidarity Fund following the August floods. An advance payment of €100 million from the EU Solidarity Fund for Slovenia’s reconstruction efforts after the August floods was approved by the EU Commission on Wednesday. Read more.

6 DECEMBER. Commission proposal on Protection of animals during transport
7 DECEMBER. Final (tbc) trilogue on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)
7-8 DECEMBER 2023. EU-China summit
11 DECEMBER. Parliament plenary vote on small modular reactors
14-15 DECEMBER. European Council
18 DECEMBER. Environment Council
19 DECEMBER. Energy Council
1 January. Belgium takes over EU Council presidency
2024 – Q1. Commission proposals:
Communication on carbon storage technologies
2040 Climate target communication
Communication on water resilience
Communication on advanced materials for industrial leadership

15 JANUARY. Parliament plenary votes:
European Hydrogen Bank
Geothermal energy

MARCH 2024. Parliament plenary votes:
Directive on waste
‘Green claims’ directive, protecting consumers from greenwashing

4 MARCH. Energy Council
25 MARCH. Environment Council
22-25 APRIL. Last European Parliament plenary session before the European elections
Circularity requirements for vehicle design and on management of end-of-life vehicles

SPRING 2024. First European Climate Risk Assessment
6-9 JUNE: European elections

Edited by Nathalie Weatherald and Frédéric Simon. Interested in more energy and environment news delivered to your inbox? You can subscribe to our daily newsletter and to our comprehensive weekly update here.

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