x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE seeks support on carbon burial

Ministers in the conference's high-level talks can accept or reject the UN funding proposal.

"This is the first time we have a very clear political choice," says Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico.

CANCUN, MEXICO // A key official representing the UAE at the world climate change summit met with a number of foreign counterparts ahead of yesterday's opening of the conference's high-level segment.

Dr Sultan al Jaber, the Special Envoy on Energy and Climate Change, met with diplomats from the US, UK, the Kingdom of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, and several African and Arab states on Monday.

At the heart of the UAE's agenda in Cancun is drumming up support for a draft text adopted by experts on Saturday last week. The proposal would allow the United Nations to fund carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that collects carbon dioxide emissions and buries them underground. Saudi Arabia is also working on several fronts to have the decision adopted, a source close to the negotiations has said.

Yesterday, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), reiterated the importance of Saturday's decision. Ministers in the high-level segment of the talks can now either reject the proposal or have it approved.

"This is the first time we have a very clear political choice," she said.

The issue has been on the negotiations agenda for several years, but has previously met with stiff opposition from some countries. It was put on hold at last year's climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Last week, for the first time, the expert deliberations were completed, and a simplified proposal was prepared for reviews by politicians. Decisions have to be agreed unanimously at the UNFCCC.

However, Sergio Serra, the special ambassador for climate change, Brazil, indicated it might be too early for the UAE and other oil-producing countries to celebrate. Brazil has not been traditionally supportive of carbon capture and storage in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the UN technology funding scheme, said Mr Serra.

"This does not mean we do not attach importance on research on carbon capture and storage," he said.

The technology is not yet proven, and it is not yet certain that the captured emissions will remain underground indefinitely.

"We think there is still a risk in CCS and that at this stage, having CCS as one of the technologies that might be contemplated in CDM involves a certain risk that should not be taken," he said.

He added, however, that Brazil does not intend "to hold hostage" the conference because of this position.

"We fully understand negotiations are about compromises to a certain extent," he said.

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, said that achieving compromise on carbon capture and storage will be one of the tasks in the coming few days before the summit closes on December 10.

She would not, however, say whether the EU, one of the key blocks in the negotiations, will support the move or not.

"There are some challenges in that," she said. "We have to see exactly how we are doing it."