With over 100 nations supporting the inclusion of the phase-out of fossil fuels in the final COP28 global stocktake (GST), major polluters and producers Saudi Arabia, China, and India remain opposed going into the final three days of the negotiations. Canada has been chosen to write the final wording in the most significant sentence in the text, which needs near-unanimous agreement for finalization.
Tension at the Dubai conference remains high as OPEC flexs its muscle with letters sent to its member states, urging them not to support a phase-out. The Guardian reports that Alok Sharma, who presided over the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, warned “we are running out of time” and urged negotiators to ensure the phase-out is the clear COP28 outcome.
“If you’re going to keep 1.5C alive, you’re going to have to have language on a phase-out of fossil fuels,” he told the Observer in an interview. “And you’re going to need to accompany that with a credible implementation plan.”
The language, he said, “needs to be unequivocal so that anyone who reads the agreed language completely understands that what we’re talking about here is a phase-out of all fossil fuels.”
There is concern that the final language will call for a “phase-down of unabated fossil fuels“ which would support the use of technologies such as carbon capture and storage to handle capturing harmful emissions.
The United States largely supports the phase-out but according to US Climate Envoy John Kerry “to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, nations would need to deploy technology to capture and store carbon emissions from industries for which there are no low-carbon or zero-carbon alternatives, like steel and cement manufacturing.”
The Guardian reports:
Sharma rejected the idea that CCS could offer a compromise. “We have to be really strict with ourselves,” he said. “If we are going to cut emissions by over 40% by 2030 [as scientists say is needed to limit heating to 1.5C], no abatement technology currently exists to allow us to do that. Yes, we have CCS, but the price has not been falling fast enough and it is not widely deployed enough for it to make a difference in terms of cutting emissions at the level we need. Therefore phasing out the use and production of fossil fuels is clearly something that this Cop has to address.”
Oil Change International Global Policy Manager Romain Ioualalen sums up what this means for the state of play at COP28:
“The latest GST text shows we have never been closer to an agreement on a fossil fuel phaseout. But, what that transition will look like will be a fierce battle over the next few days. We are deeply concerned about some of the options in this text that seem to carve out large loopholes for the fossil fuel industry. These will need to be opposed. The draft is also missing a clear recognition that developed countries will need to phase out faster and provide their fair share of finance, as well as a recognition that the decline of fossil fuel production must start immediately, not in the distant future.”
Bill McKibben, writing about COP28 in The Crucial Years, says:
... it’s taken twenty eight annual sessions to maybe include some language about the thing that is, you know, the source of the problem is a reminder of the fundamental flaw in the whole process. It is designed less to solve a crisis than to guard the interests of the world’s powers (both political and economic) as they relate to that crisis.
This doesn’t mean the COPs are absurd—given the realities of power, you have to have some forum that lets the world talk things out and pressure each other, and most of the people in attendance are doing useful work. But the COP gives the appearance that it is somehow legislating, which it is not. Let’s say, for instance, that Guilbeault manages to convince everyone to include some phrase about phasing out fossil fuels into the text. It will be vague, ambiguous, unconnected to any particular time—and it will have no authority.
McKibben cites a recent CNN poll showing ¾ of Americans support slashing emissions by 50% this decade.
Nearly two-thirds of US adults say they are worried about the threat of climate change in their communities, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. More than half are worried about the impact of extreme weather, as the climate crisis touches every region in the form of extreme heat, devastating storms and drought.
Even more want the federal government to do something about it. A broad majority of US adults – 73% – say the federal government should develop its climate policies with the goal of cutting the country’s planet-warming pollution in half by the end of the decade.
The NYT Opinion this morning Carbon Capture Won’t Save Us From Climate Change
But direct air capture of carbon, as the nascent technology is called, is not as reliable as Dr. Seuss’s three-wheeled deus ex machina. And it’s coming in for heavy criticism at COP28, the United Nations climate summit that’s happening in the desert city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “It’s incredibly dangerous for the fossil fuel industry and its enablers in government to promote the idea that they can keep burning fossil fuels while pulling carbon out of the air or out of the smokestacks with technologies that consistently fail to deliver,” Collin Rees, the U.S. program manager at Oil Change International, wrote in an email.
The problem comes when direct air capture is seen as partly an alternative to vigorous efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The president of this year’s climate summit, Sultan Al Jaber, seems to lean in that direction. Al Jaber, who is the head of the United Arab Emirates national oil company, Adnoc, said last month that there was “no science” behind the idea that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures would require ending fossil fuel production.