‘Fossil fuel’ clash pits UAE against public health experts | ET REALITY


Can we talk about the health impacts of climate change without mentioning the burning of fossil fuels, its main cause?

A draft intergovernmental statement on the health impacts of climate change written by the United Arab Emirates, which is hosting this year’s global climate talks, does just that.

Various public health experts sent an open letter On Tuesday to Sultan al-Jaber, the UAE oil company executive chairing the talks, urging him to “commit to an accelerated, fair and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels and invest in a transition to renewable energy.” .

It’s a prelude to a big fight likely to take place at this year’s United Nations National Climate Change Conference, pitting the Persian Gulf petrostate hosting talks with leading public health experts.

“A complete and rapid phase-out of fossil fuels is the most important way to provide the clean air, water, and environment that are critical to good health,” the letter continues. Among its signatories are the heads of the International Council of Nurses, the international chapter of Doctors Without Borders and a consortium of health ministers from six Latin American countries.

The World Health Organization also recently called for “an acceleration in the phasing out of fossil fuels.”

Al-Jaber, speaking to diplomats gathered in Abu Dhabi this week for preparatory meetings, acknowledged the “strong opinions on the idea of ​​including language on fossil fuels” in the conference statements. “We must be responsible,” he said. “We must be real. We must be faithful to the facts. We must be pragmatic.”

Public health is on the agenda for the first time at climate talks held annually under the auspices of the United Nations since 1995. draft declarationprepared by the United Arab Emirates, commits countries to “prevent worsening health impacts of climate change,” help health systems adapt to climate-sensitive diseases, and encourage them to reduce emissions from the health sector. health.

“We recognize the urgency of taking action on climate change and note the health benefits of deep, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, including through reduced air pollution, active mobility and changes towards healthy and sustainable diets,” the draft says. “he says, without mentioning coal, oil or gas, whose combustion pollutes the air and increases global temperature.

Expect bitter negotiations over the language of the final health declaration in the coming weeks, before climate talks begin in Dubai on November 30.

The fight over fossil fuel language is likely to animate almost every aspect of this round of climate talks.

Climate activists have increasingly narrowed their message to calling for an end to new oil and gas projects. A handful of countries, calling themselves the High Ambition Coalition, are calling for “a gradual elimination of the production and use of fossil fuels.

In fact, investments in oil and gas are increasing, including by the state oil company that al-Jaber runs, known as ADNOC.

Al-Jaber, who also chairs the Emirates’ largest renewable energy company, has said he hopes all countries will agree to the global goal of tripling renewable energy by 2030 and transitioning to “a fossil fuel-free energy system.” fuels.”

That “incessant” language, supported by the United States and the European Union, implies that fossil fuel production can continue as long as its emissions are captured. The problem is that large-scale adoption of that type of carbon capture technology remains a distant possibility for now.

In their letter to Mr. al-Jaber, the public health experts also took aim at the fossil fuel industry, accusing it of a “decades-long campaign of obstruction of climate action.”

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