Editorial note – given that this website was covering several issues at once with limited manpower of the last few days, I went ahead and condensed the last two and a half days’ worth of COP28 headlines in the major categories below. Content below highlighted in italics is reproduced directly from quoted sources. I will be posting a more detailed analysis of events tomorrow.
MOST PROMINENT STORY:
Excerpts from The Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting’s exclusive story about how COP28 President and UAE national oil company CEO Sultan Al Jaber claimed that there is “no science” backing the push for a phase-out of fossil fuels as a key component of the global effort to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius:
‘…Al Jaber also said a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development “unless you want to take the world back into caves”.
The comments were “incredibly concerning” and “verging on climate denial”, scientists said, and they were at odds with the position of the UN secretary general, António Guterres.
Al Jaber made the comments in ill-tempered responses to questions from Mary Robinson, the chair of the Elders group and a former UN special envoy for climate change, during a live online event on 21 November. As well as running Cop28 in Dubai, Al Jaber is also the chief executive of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company, Adnoc, which many observers see as a serious conflict of interest.
More than 100 countries already support a phase-out of fossil fuels and whether the final Cop28 agreement calls for this or uses weaker language such as “phase-down” is one of the most fiercely fought issues at the summit and may be the key determinant of its success. Deep and rapid cuts are needed to bring fossil fuel emissions to zero and limit fast-worsening climate impacts.’
The report adds more details about the exchange between Al Jaber and Robinson:
‘Al Jaber spoke with Robinson at a She Changes Climate event. Robinson said: “We’re in an absolute crisis that is hurting women and children more than anyone … and it’s because we have not yet committed to phasing out fossil fuel. That is the one decision that Cop28 can take and in many ways, because you’re head of Adnoc, you could actually take it with more credibility.”
Al Jaber said: “I accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and mature conversation. I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist. There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”
Robinson challenged him further, saying: “I read that your company is investing in a lot more fossil fuel in the future.” Al Jaber responded: “You’re reading your own media, which is biased and wrong. I am telling you I am the man in charge.”
Al Jaber then said: “Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves.”
“I don’t think [you] will be able to help solve the climate problem by pointing fingers or contributing to the polarisation and the divide that is already happening in the world. Show me the solutions. Stop the pointing of fingers. Stop it,” Al Jaber said.
Guterres told Cop28 delegates on Friday: “The science is clear: The 1.5C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce, not abate. Phase out, with a clear timeframe.”
Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics, said: “This is an extraordinary, revealing, worrying and belligerent exchange. ‘Sending us back to caves’ is the oldest of fossil fuel industry tropes: it’s verging on climate denial.”’
Al Jaber and his team have been on a public relations counter-offensive since The Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting published their story. They have repeatedly claimed that their efforts to lead the year’s most important climate change event are being undermined by the independent press and are evidently keen on talking up the UAE’s commitment to combating climate change while downplaying reports about the kingdom’s plans for operational expansion in the fossil fuel industry.
The COP28 presidency team have also engaged in a cherry-picking exercise involving climate change reports from leading authorities which, among many other things, refer to the continued use of fossil fuels during the global transitioning process which is required to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This stance has been heavily criticised by leading climate experts who, for decades, have been arguing that ending fossil fuel dependency is absolutely crucial if we are to avert catastrophic global heating scenarios.
The implications of this story are extremely significant. As was already reported by this website by day two of COP28, the main objective of this summit should be a binding, global agreement which clearly delineates how the world is going to cut down and eventually eliminate fossil fuels from its energy supply chain. Anything else can be considered failure.
The fact that the president of COP28 – who is clearly unfit for the role he occupies – openly chastised a former United Nations special envoy for climate change over her pointed, valid questions, effectively describing the need for an end to fossil fuel use as a surefire way to reverse human progress, confirms just how overbearing the influence that the oil and gas industry has over anything that is related to its interests.
The decision to allow the UAE to appoint an oil baron to preside over the most urgent climate change conference in the history of mankind was no different to letting the wolves guard the hen house. Thanks to the fantastic work of the journalists at The Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting, we now know there can be no doubt that this was the case.
Fossil fuel phaseout is ‘required’ to reach Paris targets – report
“Leading climate scientists at Cop28 have emphasised that a fossil fuel phaseout is required to keep global heating below the Paris agreement’s temperature targets.(…)The scientists’ report was launched in Dubai shortly after the Guardian revealed that the Cop28 president had said shortly before the summit that there was “no science” saying that the phase-out of fossil fuels was needed to keep below 1.5C…
…the new report states: “A rapid and managed fossil fuel phase-out is required to stay within the Paris agreement target range.” It said Cop28 should “take unambiguous steps towards clear commitments for a managed phase-out of all fossil fuels”.(…)
The report was produced by leading climate scientists for Future Earth, the Earth League and the World Climate Research Programme.”
22 countries called for the tripling of nuclear power use by 2050.
The signatories to the declaration were: Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ghana, Hungary, Japan, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. Climate campaigners quoted by The Guardian poured cold water over the declaration, describing the push for nuclear energy – a pet project that is especially dear to French president Emmanuel Macron – as a ‘distraction’ from the push to end fossil fuel dependency and shift to clean renewables like solar and wind power.
Major moves on the coal front.
The US joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance by committing to close all its coal-fired power plants.Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel – about 40% of fossil fuel emissions – and its phase-out is essential to fighting the climate crisis. The US has the world’s third biggest fleet of coal-burning power stations. The deadline set by the US for ending coal appears to be 2035, five years after the 2030 date seen as compatible with keeping global heating below 1.5C. The Czech Republic and Kosovo, both heavily reliant on coal, also joined the PPCA. The alliance now has more than 50 nations as members, including 35 out of the 43 countries in the OECD, a club of rich countries.
Turkmenistan joined the Global Methane Pledge today, an important move for the world’s fourth largest methane emitter. The pledge requires a leak reduction of 30% by 2030. The potent greenhouse gas is responsible for a third of the global heating driving the climate crisis today.
Colombia joins international alliance calling for treaty to end use of fossil fuels. The Latin American country, which has a significant oil, gas and coal industries, is the 10th country to join the coalition and the second fossil fuel producer to back the treaty after Timor-Leste did so earlier this year. The initiative was launched by a group of Pacific island nations and has gained support from the European parliament, the World Health Organization and 100 cities and subnational governments.