Deep divisions emerged this week over how to combat global warming at the next climate summit, as efforts to green the world’s energy system were questioned by oil and gas executives and petrostates.
As world leaders and senior officials gathered in New York ahead of the UN climate summit COP28 in 10 weeks, a deep divide emerged between countries that support fossil fuel expansion and those that insist it should Cessation of all new developments is crucial for stabilizing Earth’s temperatures.
“Countries understand that we need to make progress,” said Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s minister for development cooperation and global climate policy, who is leading discussions on what new climate targets could be agreed at COP28 in December.
“The bad news is that while we agree on this, we are pretty far from a consensus on what that actually means. We have to deal with the problem – burning fossil fuels,” he said.
On the sidelines of the event in New York this week, international climate negotiators tested the diplomatic language that could be agreed in Dubai, where COP28 will seek a global deal.
The biggest source of friction is the precise nature of a fossil fuel “phase-out” and whether it would enable the expansion of carbon capture technologies, also known as abatement. At the climate summits of recent years, it was not possible to agree on this formulation.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Kenyan President William Ruto were among 17 leaders who signed a letter last week insisting that “avoidance technology cannot be used to green light fossil fuel expansion.” give”.
Unless the world stops adding carbon to the atmosphere, “the need to continually adapt will never end,” they said. The costs will continue to rise. We will count them in human life.”
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said major polluters should join the EU’s goal “to phase out fossil fuels unabated well before 2050.”
Under pressure from developing countries seeking funds to transition to green energy systems, U.S. climate chief John Kerry criticized new unchecked coal developments in Asia, where China and India are increasing production.
Meanwhile, more than 3,000 kilometers away, oil bosses gathered in the friendlier environs of Calgary, Alberta – the heart of Canada’s oil industry – for a very different conversation.
At the World Petroleum Congress, a biennial oil and gas conference, about 500 industry executives, including ExxonMobil’s Darren Woods, warned about the risks of moving away from fossil fuels too quickly.
Amin Nasser, chairman of Saudi Aramco, left, Hou Qijun, president of China National Petroleum, center, and Darren Woods, chairman of ExxonMobil, right. Oil and gas executives rejected a short-term shift away from fossil fuels. © Bloomberg
“I see many flaws in the current transition approach that can no longer be ignored,” Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, told his audience that included large delegations from Canada and Saudi Arabia.
“An early exit from conventional energy could jeopardize energy security and affordability priorities,” Nasser said. “As the recent energy crisis – exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine – has shown, when these realities are ignored or wished away, the world unravels.”
At the same event, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi energy minister, sought to undermine the International Energy Agency’s recent forecast that global demand for fossil fuels would peak this decade as cheaper and cleaner renewable energy rapidly expands.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, criticized the IEA’s forecasts for the end of fossil fuels. © Bloomberg
Back in New York, the leaders of small island nations, including Tuvalu and Palau, sought to voice the need for broader concern about the existential threat of rising sea levels.
“If the world allows an entire country to disappear because of climate change, there is no hope for everyone else,” said Kausea Natano, the prime minister of Tuvalu.
Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados – who has led efforts by small, climate change-ravaged nations to get more money from the rich world – declared: “Enough is enough.”
“[Climate change] is a challenge not just for small states, but for most countries around the world, including the developed world,” Mottley said. “And maybe that’s a good thing, because . . . The sense of urgency has been expressed in a way that has not been the case in decades.”
But as world leaders head to COP28 in December hoping to negotiate an agreement to maintain the goal of limiting warming, the fossil fuel industry executives expected to attend with them will push against production cuts Push 2050.
The industry’s prominence at the summit and countries’ negotiating teams dependent on its prosperity remain a source of bitterness and mistrust.
Activists and a group of more than 130 liberal EU and US lawmakers have attacked the presidency of the summit in the United Arab Emirates, led by Sultan al-Jaber, who is also head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
US climate envoy John Kerry attends the Climate Ambition Summit at the UN headquarters in New York City on September 20 © Getty Images
US climate chief John Kerry has defended industry involvement as essential to planning emissions cuts. Executives in Calgary also argued that the world should not turn its back on the oil and gas sector, but rather make the most of its carbon expertise.
But as the debate over the role of carbon capture technologies in fossil fuel development heats up – and economies such as the UK, South Korea and Japan hesitate on green targets – the industry is seizing the opportunity to make its case.
Al Gore, the former US vice president and climate activist, reflected concerns about the fossil fuel industry’s “hijacking” of global UN negotiations on climate change “to a disturbing degree”.
Most in the industry wanted to “block, delay and prevent anything that would reduce the sale and burning of fossil fuels,” Gore told the FT. “It’s simply not realistic to think that they will take the lead in resolving this crisis.”
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