‘Small minority’ blocking COP28 progress, says at-risk Vanuatu

A small minority of countries at UN climate talks are blocking a growing consensus to phase out fossil fuels, at-risk Vanuatu’s climate change minister told AFP on Sunday.

The COP28 meeting in Dubai is at a “critical stage”, said Ralph Regenvanu, whose low-lying Pacific nation faces a severe threat from rising sea levels and tropical cyclones.

“The majority here wants fossil-fuel language, language that takes us away from fossil fuels, that indicates a desire for us to move according to the science, according to the 1.5 degree target,” Regenvanu said in an interview.

“So that is the will of the majority. We need the small minority of countries that is blocking progress to shift the position, and that’s what we’re working on for the next couple of days.”

Negotiators from around the world are trying to strike an agreement aimed at keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The OPEC oil cartel has called on members to block an emerging declaration that would seek to wind down extraction of the oil, coal and gas that are fuelling the climate emergency.

“The majority of countries now agree to have language on fossil fuels. There’s only a few countries that are holding out,” said Regenvanu.

“And we hope that there will be consideration of the fact that the majority of countries want to see fossil fuel language, phasing out of fossil fuels, and that that can be put into the text,” he added.

“Because if it isn’t in the text, we will not consider this COP a success.”

The United Arab Emirates’ COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber warned on Saturday that progress was too slow at the talks, which are scheduled to finish on Tuesday.

“Today and tomorrow will be critical days to get to the agreement,” Regenvanu said.

“If it’s true that all countries are negotiating in good faith for a good outcome, we will get a good outcome.”

Vanuatu has been battered by three tropical cyclones this year, including a category five storm in October that smashed infrastructure such as schools and left some families surviving on relief aid.

“We are suffering extreme effects of climate change,” Regenvanu said.

“The cost of relief and recovery from all these events is more than our national budget already for one year.

“So financially we can’t cope,” he said. “We need to urgently course-correct here because otherwise we have very little future we can offer our kids and our grandkids.”