Ana Fontoura Gouveia, Portugal's secretary of State for energy and climate transition. Image: Lusa
Ana Fontoura Gouveia, Portugal's secretary of State for energy and climate transition. Image: Lusa

‘Fossil fuels must end’ – Portugal’s secretary of state at COP

This year’s lacklustre climate summit enters final strait

With this year’s COP reinforcing fears that these annual climate summits have become little more than rather surreal talking shops, Portugal’s secretary of State for energy and climate has nailed Portugal’s fossil fuel commitments to the mast.

Says Lusa, recognising the difficulty in reaching a consensus on this issue, Ana Fontoura Gouveia nonetheless “reaffirmed Portugal’s position on the elimination (of fossil fuels) by 2050.

On the eve of the first of at least two days exclusively dedicated to the final negotiations of this  28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), she told the State news agency: “The issue of fossil fuels is one of the most difficult, and that’s why we’re here, to find a common language. The central objective is to eliminate fossil fuels by 2050”.

In discussion of what has been dubbed the ‘Global Stocktake’ – the main mechanism for assessing progress under the Paris Agreement, which is being evaluated for the first time this year – different options for formulating the issue of fossil fuels are on the table.

Two of the options – strongly contested by oil producers, one of which is actually hosting this year’s conference – refer to the elimination of fossil fuels, while the other two only point to the end of fossil fuels in which carbon capture is not possible, known as ‘unabated’.

“The technologies that allow us to capture carbon emissions associated with fossil fuels are very expensive or still non-existent”, Portugal’s secretary of State points out, “so the path has to be the elimination of fossil fuels by 2050.

“We have many texts, many proposals, many bilateral discussions aimed at bringing positions closer together. We’re very convinced that, with a little more work, we’ll be able to reach a final text that lives up to what brought us all to Dubai,” she adds.

As to the incongruity of a climate summit taking place in an oil producing country – and the possibility of next year’s event being held in Azerbaijan (another oil rich territory) – Ana Fontoura Gouveia believes these “are the right places to have this discussion.

“We can’t have a serious discussion about a climate transition if we exclude these countries that are actually committed to dialogue. That’s what we’ve seen,” citing the example of the United Arab Emirates and the president of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber, who is also president of the national oil company.

Despite controversial statements before the start of the summit – when he considered that a very rapid energy transition would require people to return to ‘living in caves’ – Al Jaber has since retracted his statements and “set the bar very high”, says Portugal’s representative on the ground.

“He has been a driving force for more commitment from those countries that might have wanted to leave this COP with less ambition,” she concluded.

COP28 began in Dubai on November 30 and is running through until tomorrow (Tuesday).

After several days with a thematic programme, today and tomorrow will be dedicated solely to final negotiations, writes Lusa.

* Lusa travelled to COP28 at the invitation of the Oceano Azul Foundation.