The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 is poised to begin, with the world's gaze fixated on how nations will respond to the inaugural global assessment of the Paris Agreement goals, including the imperative to restrict global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. This mandate has been reinforced by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who has called for an unambiguous commitment to the phasing out of fossil fuels, in alignment with the more stringent 1.5-degree limit.
Fossil Fuels: A Bone of Contention
At COP26, the discourse on reducing unabated coal use had witnessed a shift from 'phasing out' to 'phasing down', owing to resistance from countries like India and China. However, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the president-designate of COP28, has reiterated the necessity of reducing both the demand and supply of all fossil fuels. The G7 countries have pledged to expedite the phasing out of unabated fossil fuels. Yet, the G20 summit bore witness to opposition from countries like Saudi Arabia and China.
The European Union's Stance for COP28
The European Union has underscored the importance of a global phase-out of unabated fossil fuels to achieve the climate-neutral economy requisite for the 1.5 C goal. The term 'unabated fossil fuels' refers to the usage of such fuels without capturing carbon emissions before they reach the atmosphere. However, the interpretation of 'unabated' varies across countries, introducing a layer of ambiguity that complicates these discussions.
Carbon Capture and Storage: A Double-Edged Sword
Technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) are pivotal to the debate, with their effectiveness in trapping emissions under scrutiny. Al Jaber, who also holds the position of CEO at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, has been a staunch advocate of carbon capture projects. However, critics argue that such projects fall short in counteracting emissions at the necessary scale. The International Energy Agency has cautioned oil and gas companies against the misconception that carbon capture can single-handedly resolve the climate crisis.
As COP28 unfolds, the world anticipates a nuanced and productive dialogue on the future of fossil fuels. The actions and commitments made at this summit could potentially shape the trajectory of global climate action and the world's fight against climate change.