Africa and India push rich nations to phase out fossil fuels faster

At Cop28, developed nations will face calls to quit fossil fuels faster than developing countries, who did less to cause the climate crisis

Africa and India urge faster fossil fuel phase-out in Cop28 positions. Which countries should end the pumping of oil and gas?

The Inglewood Oil Field in Los Angeles (Photo: Peter Bennet/Greenpeace)


Six weeks ahead of the Cop28 climate talks, negotiators from Africa and India have set out separate plans to push developed countries to do more to move away from fossil fuels.

The African Group of negotiators want rich countries to stop greenlighting new fossil fuel production projects by 2030 while India is calling on them to go beyond net zero and start sucking carbon out of the atmosphere by 2050.

The proposals play on a key principle of United Nations climate talks, “common but differentiated responsibilities”, where the wealthy countries who are most responsible for causing climate change take a lead in tackling it.

But rich nations like the European Union are focused on promoting global goals, like a tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and a global phase out of fossil fuels “well ahead of 2050”.

Fossil fuel production

While many developed countries have restricted support for fossil fuel production projects abroad, major nations like the US, UK, Australia and Norway have continued to approve oil and gas pumping at home and have not set end dates for fossil fuel production.

To challenge this, the African Group of Negotiators has called for “differentiated pathways for countries in the pursuit of net zero and fossil fuel phasedown”.

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In a submission to the UN global stocktake, the African Group said that these pathways should include “where no further exploration of fossil fuels in developed countries is targeted well ahead of 2030, whilst affording developing countries the opportunity to close the global supply gap in the short term”.

The submission was included in the United Nations’ 65-page list of “elements” which government negotiators will debate ahead of and at Cop28. While Cop decisions are not binding, agreement would heap moral pressure on rich countries to stop producing fossil fuels.

No supply gap

Despite the African Group’s claims of a fossil fuel supply gap, a 2021 UN report found that the world’s governments plan to produce more than twice as much fossil fuels in 2030 than would be compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5C.

Most of this production growth comes from developing – but not African – nations like Saudi Arabia, Russia and India. The US, Canada and Australia also plan to produce more oil and gas.

While production is set to fall in the UK and Norway, the Unep report says this is more because they are running out of oil and gas than because of intentionally aligning production with a decarbonised future.

A small group of nations led by Denmark and Costa Rica have formed the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, promising to stop producing those two two fossil fuels.

Thuli Makama, an African climate campaigner from Oil Change International, told Climate Home that "no new fossil fuel extraction projects should be approved in Africa or anywhere".

She said that fossil fuels do not bring development and that African fossil fuels will block development of the continent's renewable energy and green economy sectors while mainly benefitting companies from wealthy countries.

The African Group has also called for rich nations to agree to give more money to developing countries to help them tackle and adapt to climate change and address the loss and damage it causes.

The group told the UN it wanted Cop28 to agree that rich nations would provide by 2030 $200-400 billion a year for loss and damage and $400 billion a year for adapting to climate change on top of funding to reduce emissions.

Net negative by 2050

India's submission to the UN stocktake says that "developed countries should have already peaked their emissions and must be on their way to becoming net negative, with peaking to come later for developing countries".

Two anonymous Indian government officials fleshed this proposal out, telling Reuters that developed countries should be net negative by 2050. One said this would "enable the world to achieve the target of global net-zero by that year while allowing developing nations to use the available natural resources for growth".

Avantika Goswami, climate change manager at the Centre for Science and Environment think tank, told Climate Home that India's demand "seems reasonable".

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"There is no doubt that developed countries have overstayed their welcome in using the remaining carbon budget," she said.

She added: "We are likely to blow past 1.5C soon, and that will not be the fault of the developing world, many parts of which are still struggling to overcome historical inequalities and meet basic citizen needs."

India's call is similar to that made in March by the head of the UN, Antonio Guterres, who said that developed nations should reach net zero by 2040. Most developed nations plan to reach that target by 2050.

But Guterres said too that developing nations should reach net zero by 2050. Countries like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia aim to reach that target by 2060 while India targets 2070. His proposal was largely ignored by both developed and developing nations.

One developed nation that does plan to be net negative by 2050 is Denmark, which has asked companies to suck carbon from the air and store it under the North Sea in old oil and gas fields.

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