IEA Claims COP28 Pledges Fail to Meet Emissions Targets, Debate Over Fossil Fuels Rages

Fossil fuel development along the coast

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Dec 11, 2023

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As COP28 enters its final stages, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that pledges made to this point of the UN climate conference will only amount to about 30% of emissions reductions needed to meet Paris Agreement targets, while the conflict over the future of fossil fuels remains strong amidst a controversial statement from OPEC.

According to the IEA, COP28 has delivered on three out of five of the crucial areas for action identified by the organization–renewables, energy efficiency, and methane. A decision regarding the largest contributor to global emissions, the burning of fossil fuels, has not yet been made.

Leaked OPEC Letter Confirms Oil Giants’ Continued Resistance to Phase-Out Fossil Fuels

With talks concerning the future of fossil fuels continuing at COP28, the secretary general of oil cartel OPEC, Haitham Al Ghais, wrote to member countries to block language including a phase-out or phase-down of fossil fuels when reaching a final deal, according to several news reports.

Several countries, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, assert that the conference should focus on reducing pollution rather than targeting fossil fuels that have caused the climate crisis.

“It seems that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences, as the draft decision still contains options on fossil fuels phase-out,” said Al Ghais in the letter.

Countries in favor of phasing out fossil fuels as well as environmental advocates reportedly thought the letter revealed an element of panic from the oil giant, especially as climate efforts have targeted fossil fuels for over 30 years without avail. According to a Reuters report, European Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra called the letter “out of whack” based on the dramatic situation of the global climate.

An agreement to phase-out or phase-down fossil fuels at COP28 would reportedly be the first of its kind since climate talks first began amidst the discovery of fossil fuels’ link to global warming.

A Failure to Reach Fossil Fuel Decision Would ‘Threaten the Whole World’

Well before COP28 began, the future of fossil fuels was expected to be one of the most contested topics at the conference. While some countries’ economies are reliant on fossil fuel exports, other countries have felt disproportionate effects of climate change as a result of fossil fuel-related emissions from wealthier countries.

According to Reuters, climate-vulnerable countries claimed that failing to decide on language surrounding fossil fuels at COP28 would “threaten the whole world, including OPEC citizens.”

More than 80 countries, including the United States and the EU, have demanded an eventual end to fossil fuel use. Countries in favor of continued fossil fuel development have relied on the support of carbon capture, an expensive, new technology that has not yet been proven as able to significantly reduce emissions at levels needed to meet global targets.

Drafts on a final decision for fossil fuels have shifted from supporting a phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, to a phase-out of fossil fuels according to best available science, to no mention of fossil fuels at all.

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