COP28 : good ideas but a lack of commitment

The agreement reached at COP28 in Dubai may give an indication to achieve net zero by 2050, although the text leaves room for interpretation. But as all such climate deals, there is no enforcement mechanism to press the governments to implement such actions or to convince businesses that oil, gas and coal are no longer the solid investments they once were.

On November 30th the annual climate summit, the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), started in Dubai (United Arab Emirates, UAE), sponsored by UN. The planet is already around 1,2 °C warmer than in pre-industrial time and countries remain well off-track to limit global warming at 1,5 °C.

Nevertheless, three main issues were under discussion during the 12-day gathering: the reduction of methane emissions, climate finance and accelerating the path to reduce the fossil fuels. Dr Sultan Al Jaber was the first CEO to ever serve as COP President of the summit. He is also MD and group CEO of ADNOC, the state-owned energy giant of the UAE, producing over 4 million barrels of oil and 11 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

The main driver of global warming is the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which however is not the only greenhouse gas. Methane, although in the air, has a lifetime of decade or so, has much higher capacity to retain heat, its global warming potential is between 84-87 when considering its impact over a 20-year timeframe (GWP20) and between 28-36 when considering its impact over a 100-year timeframe (GWP100). This means that one ton of methane can be equivalent to 28 to 36 tons of CO2, if looking at its impact over 100 years.

Almost 45% of the difference between the world’s temperature in the 2010s and its temperature in the second half of 19th century was due to methane emissions. Until quite recently cutting such emissions was not considered so important, but the situation is changing. At COP28 the focus to cut methane emissions will be on oil and gas companies. Banning the routine flaring of natural gas from oil rigs will be the first step to implement.

COP28 Finance Day made progress on international financial architecture to implement projects in low-income and vulnerable countries to fight climate change. Major international financial institutions together with some countries made new commitments to offer climate-resilient debt clauses (CRDCs) in their lending. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced for instance, it had already offered $1.2 billion of loans covered through CRDCs.

These clauses allow servicing the debt, paying much lower interest rates. The question which rises, is when and how these projects will fly.

A core issue of COP28 is to reach an agreement to phase out fossil fuel use. Burning fossil fuels for producing energy is by far the biggest cause of CO2 emissions, but for the first time in more than three decades, delegates agreed to move away from fossil fuels in energy systems (which may exclude fossil feedstock to produce plastics or fertilizers). Fossil fuels still producing around 80% of the world’s energy remain the engine of modern life.

Global coal consumption reached a new record in 2022, 0,6% more than 2021, 8,3 billion of tons.

The renewable installed capacity increased from 1975 gigawatt in 2015 to 3372GW in 2022. Last year the increased capacity was 295 GW. At Dubai 118 countries made a further commitment to increase their combined renewable-energy capacity to 11,000 GW by 2030. That will require adding some 1000 GW a year, three times what was implemented last year. Recently the second world wind-turbine manufacturer -Siemens Energy was rescued from bankruptcy by the German government. The combined renewable-energy capacity of 11000 GW in 2030 would be difficult to achieve.

Nuclear plants in 2022 provide 9,2 % of the world’s electricity, all of it carbon-free – it is a little less than the combined contribution of solar and wind (11,7%). To meet the key energy goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Paris Agreement was set a specific ambition for nuclear, targeting the doubling of present installed capacity by 2050.  Due to the global push to cut CO2 emissions, a first-of-its-kind nuclear energy summit will be held next year, was announced on December 2nd at COP28. Leaders from around the world have committed to tripling global nuclear capacity by 2050 as part of the transition to net zero and will gather in Brussels in March 2024 to highlight the role of nuclear energy in addressing the global challenges to reduce the use of fossil fuels, enhance energy security and boost economic development. For the nuclear industry, the challenge is double; it is about progressively replacing plants reaching the end of their lives and adding new plants to the existing fleet. An opinion gap pro-and against nuclear energy among different states persists. However, the initially unfavourable opinion about nuclear power is changing in many countries. At the European level, this results in a strengthening of the countries club «nuclear acceptable” conducted by France to the detriment of the countries club “renewable only” conducted by Germany

FECER supports the objectives of the COP28 and is worried about the lack of commitment of the countries. Europa via le Green Deal gives, despite its insignificant climate impact compared to the rest of the world, an example to follow. Each country can select its technologies to meet the target to reduce the greenhouse gases with the financial support of Europe.

FECER stresses the importance of education, training, and research in making the best energy policy choices, developing new energy sources and learning how to use them more effectively. Training and research, although costly, are the best investment and can be widely pooled, especially in Europe.

FECER recalls, however, that the technologies developed to reduce the Greenhouse gases release cannot be enough. It’s about reconsidering our way of life (consumption, habitat, modes of travel) :it will not be sustainable to align the 8-10 million humans with the current way of life in the Western world