UK should commit to phasing out fossil fuels, says Danish climate minister

The UK should join a growing group of countries that have committed to phasing out production of fossil fuels, ahead of the UN climate conference Cop28 in Dubai, a Danish climate minister has told a group of UK MPs.

Denmark is co-chair of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (Boga), formed at the time of Cop26 in Glasgow two years ago, which the UK Government has declined to join.

There are 26 members of the alliance, which includes Wales, France, Portugal, Costa Rica, Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands and Greenland, which are pushing for a total phase-out of fossil fuel production.

Denmark has pledged to end fossil fuel production by 2050 and is encouraging the UK to join the group.

Minister for climate policy in the Danish government Dan Jorgensen addressed a meeting of the Climate Change All Party Parliamentary Group.

He said: “These past months we’ve had extreme weather phenomena all over the world and it’s clear that we need to address the main contributors to climate change – fossil fuels.

“Cop26 paved the way for a discussion on the need to phase out fossil fuels. In Glasgow, we agreed on the need to phase down unabated coal and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

“Cop27 only provided a bit of progress on mitigation and therefore the need for more ambitious results is immense at Cop28.”

UK regulators have recently given the go-ahead for the development of the Rosebank oil field in the North Atlantic which would see about 300 million barrels of oil taken from the ground over the next few decades.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also announced last month that the Government would be scaling down some of its net zero policies, with critics, including Green MP Caroline Lucas who hosted Tuesday’s meeting, warning that this change would give the “green light” to other nations looking to abandon climate action.

The International Energy Agency said in a new report that while renewable power continues to grow, there is still double the amount of investment in fossil fuels as there should be for the world to successfully meet net zero targets.

Climate minister Graham Stuart did not comment on whether the UK would join Boga but said the UK has almost halved its emissions since 1990 and that the problem is getting other countries to do the same.

He said: “The UK is not the issue. The UK is the one country which probably isn’t an issue.

“The problem is persuading the rest of the world to follow our example and have policies that are compatible with net zero.”

For the upcoming Cop28 climate talks, which will begin at the end of November, Mr Stuart said among the Government’s priorities is to push for the phase out of unabated fossil fuels, meaning those that have no plan to reduce emissions, though stopped short of committing to advocate for an absolute phase-out.

He also said he wants to keep the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, try to deliver a 100 billion dollar (£82 billion) global promise of funding climate adaptation and mitigation for developing countries and fulfil the international commitment of protecting 30% of the world for nature by 2030.

John Kerry, the US climate envoy, urged the UK to “do what it takes to maintain climate leadership no matter the headwinds”.

He said countries need to reduce fossil fuel demand and decarbonise oil and gas production as much as possible while scaling up renewables and electric vehicles.

Speaking via video he added: “The problem may not be in Britain today, but the problem is in a lot of other parts of the world where coal use is still growing.

“Now is the time for all of us to join together and take a more critical step. There should be no more permitting of any new unabated coal-fired power anywhere in the world. Period.”