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DUBAI: The UN released the latest draft of a global climate agreement on Tuesday presenting all options on fossil fuels – from phasing them out to not discussing them at all.

The fate of oil, gas and coal is the thorniest issue being thrashed out at the COP28 UN climate talks in Dubai and divisions around their future have dominated the conference.

The second version of the negotiating text puts three options on the table, setting the stage for a gruelling showdown as representatives from nearly 200 nations try to reach a final agreement.

The first proposes “an orderly and just phase out of fossil fuels” – the toughest stance and one seen as essential by low-lying island nations at threat from rising seas.

The second calls for faster efforts to phase out projects that lack the means to capture and store emissions, and to “rapidly” reduce fossil fuel use to achieve carbon neutrality in global energy production by 2050.

Saudi Arabia says ‘absolutely not’ to oil phase down at COP28

The third option contained in the 24-page draft is “no text” at all, a position supported by oil giant Saudi Arabia and China.

A previous version had only mentioned the options of a phase-out or a weaker phase-down. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister told Bloomberg on Monday that he “absolutely” rejected calls for a phase-down, hinting at the bitter fight ahead over the issue.

The broad language on fossil fuels in the text “prepares the ground for intense future deliberations”, said Harjeet Singh, a campaigner with the Climate Action Network.

The draft forms the basis of negotiations that will unfold in coming days, with a final text expected in theory by December 12.

It is a formal response to the “global stocktake”, a damning report card published in September that highlighted how little the world had done to confront the climate crisis.

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