Vietnam among taking the lead as countries promise clean energy boost at COP28 to push out fossil fuels


Brazilian activists wear traditional outfit at COP28, World Climate Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, December 3, 2023. - Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters): Governments lined up a slew of energy announcements on Saturday at the UN climate summit in Dubai, where countries are under pressure to come up with plans to halt the non-stop rise in planet-warming emissions.

A pledge to triple the world's renewable energy capacity by 2030 is poised to win support from more than 110 countries on Saturday, with some pushing for the final agreement from the COP28 summit to include it as a global goal.

The European Union, United States and COP28 host the United Arab Emirates have been rallying support for the pledge, with the idea that boosting renewable capacity will help countries move away from polluting fossil fuels.

"More than 110 countries have joined" the pledge already, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the COP28 summit on Thursday. "I call now on all of us to include these targets in the final COP decision."

Whether governments and companies will rally the huge investments needed to hit the goal is an open question.

Clean energy deployments including solar and wind power projects have surged in recent years. But rising prices for materials, labour constraints and supply chain disruptions have forced project delays and cancellations in recent months, costing developers like Orsted and BP billions of dollars in writedowns.

Getting the deal into the final UN climate summit decision would require consensus among the nearly 200 countries present. While China and India have signalled support for tripling renewable energy by 2030, neither has confirmed it would back the overall pledge - which pairs the ramp-up in clean power with a reduction in fossil fuel use.

South Africa, Vietnam, Australia, Japan, Canada, Chile and Barbados are among the countries already on board, officials told Reuters.

NUCLEAR NUDGE

More than 20 nations signed a declaration on Saturday aiming to triple nuclear power capacity by 2050, with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry saying the world cannot get to "net zero" without building new reactors.

"We are not making the argument that this is absolutely going to be the sweeping alternative to every other energy source," Kerry said during a launch ceremony at COP28.

"But ... you can't get to net-zero 2050 without some nuclear, just as you can't get there without some use of carbon capture, utilisation and storage," Kerry said.

Global nuclear capacity now stands at 370 gigawatts, with 31 countries running reactors. Tripling that capacity by 2050 would require a significant scaling up in new approvals - and finance.

Saturday's declaration, signed by France, Belgium, Britain and South Korea, also commits the countries to taking action to mobilise investment for the sector.

PHASE OUT?

A central decision facing nations at COP28 is whether to agree, for the first time, to gradually "phase out" global consumption of fossil fuels.

Burning coal, oil and gas to produce energy is the main cause of climate change.

A draft of the renewable energy pledge, first reported by Reuters last month, called for "the phase down of unabated coal power" and an end to the financing of new coal-fired power plants.

France said it would rally a group of nations to ask the OECD to measure the climate and financial risks attached to investing in new coal assets, to deter private financiers from backing projects.

Coal users Kosovo and the Dominican Republic also agreed to develop plans to phase out their coal-fuelled power.

Tripling clean sources like wind and solar, along with doubling energy efficiency savings, would be enough to cover 85% of the fossil fuel reductions needed this decade to meet global climate goals, according to an analysis by think tank Ember.

The goals will add to pressure on wealthy nations and international financial institutions to unleash the massive investments needed to hit 11,000 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030 - in particular, by reducing the high cost of capital that has stymied renewable energy projects in Africa and other developing nations.

"The mismatch still exists between our potentiality and our limitations to attract investment," said Najib Ahmed, a consultant at Somalia's climate ministry.

Africa has received just 2% of global investments in renewable energy over the last two decades, the International Renewable Energy Agency said.

METHANE EMISSIONS

While many of Saturday's expected announcements centred around sourcing power into the future, nearly a dozen deep-pocketed philanthropic institutions set their sights on one of the key climate pollutants - methane emissions.

.The philanthropic groups, which include the Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sequoia Climate Foundation, said they would invest $450 million over the next three years to help countries launch national plans for tackling methane, the second-biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide.

The United States, UAE and China are also expected to make announcements tied to raising more finance toward the effort.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, Valerie Volcovici and David Stanway; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Katy Daigle and William Mallard) - Reuters

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