EU rewrites climate diplomacy deal to resolve nuclear sticking point

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European Union countries intend to push for a global phasing out of fossil fuels among their climate diplomacy priorities this year, which the bloc hopes to approve this week after rewriting a contentious section on nuclear energy.

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The draft text aims to set out the EU’s diplomatic priorities ahead of this year’s UN climate summit, where nearly 200 countries will negotiate joint efforts to curb climate change.

A draft seen by Reuters on Monday said the EU would back a global shift away from fossil fuels.

“The shift towards a climate neutral economy will require the global phase-out of unabated fossil fuels,” the draft said.

“The EU will systematically promote and call for a global move towards energy systems free of unabated fossil fuels well ahead of 2050.”

Some countries are hoping this year’s COP28 summit could clinch a deal on phasing out the use of CO2-emitting fossil fuels - not only coal, as agreed at previous UN climate talks, but also oil and gas.

A proposal by India to do this gained some support at last year’s UN climate summit but was opposed by Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas-rich nations. Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands had pushed for the fossil fuel exit in the EU text, EU diplomats said.

Diplomats from EU countries will attempt to finalize the text on Wednesday, which ministers must then approve formally.

Delays

The approval has been delayed, however, by disputes over the role of nuclear energy in the green transition.

Specifically, countries could not agree on whether EU diplomacy should promote low-carbon hydrogen - meaning hydrogen produced from nuclear electricity - or focus on hydrogen produced from renewable energy.

The issue has split EU member nations. France and other countries want more EU policies to promote the low-carbon energy source while Germany and Spain warn that this could hamper efforts to drive massive expansion in renewable energy.

The latest draft did not specify which type of hydrogen the EU would promote.

“EU energy diplomacy will promote the development of rules-based, transparent and undistorted global hydrogen markets,” it said.

The draft said EU diplomacy would also promote sustainable “low-carbon technologies” - a phrase that often refers to nuclear energy.

The nuclear issues have already disrupted negotiations on EU renewable energy targets and some diplomats fear it could delay other laws needed to meet climate goals.

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