Haitham Al Ghais, Secretary General of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) .

Reject any text that targets fossil fuels at COP28: OPEC to member countries in leaked letter 

The letter urges OPEC members to “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy, i.e. fossil fuels, rather than emissions”

A leaked letter written by the secretary general of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) to its member countries has created quite a stir in the second week of COP28. 

The letter, dated December 6 and signed by Haitham al-Ghais, mentions the “undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences, as the draft decision still contains options on fossil fuels phase out”. It goes on to urge members to “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy, i.e. fossil fuels, rather than emissions”.

Ghais mentions he is writing the letter “with a sense of utmost urgency”. It was sent to 13 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Nigeria, who own a majority (80%) of the world’s gas reserves. The same letter was also sent to 10 OPEC allies, including Russia and Mexico. 

The OPEC secretary general goes on to justify his stance by saying “it would be unacceptable that politically motivated campaigns put our people’s prosperity and future at risk.”

The letter has received severe backlash on the ground at COP28. “The fossil fuel industry here [at COP28] is brazen. We have 2,500 fossil fuel lobbyists here, and 500 carbon capture storage lobbyists here. They are coming out in full force, and they are here because they feel threatened. The leaked OPEC letter shows that the oil industry is pushing countries right now to reject this fossil fuel phaseout,” said Jean Su, energy director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“It is incumbent upon all of us here, in particular Global North countries like the US, Canada and Australia, who are key fossil fuel producers, to take the moral stance right now to stand firm for the people and the planet, to stop their own fossil fuel production, which they are disproportionately responsible for, and to step up with finance,” she added.