The world’s governments must shift dramatically away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. However, a powerful group of oil-producing countries is deploying massive resources to keep the status quo intact and prevent a global climate deal. Those efforts will be critical at the climate summit later this year, COP28, in Dubai. A new push is underway to add an undertaking to phase out all fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and gas, to the meeting’s agenda.
Such a commitment would require significant reductions in carbon emissions. It would also require countries to prioritize those reductions according to their needs and capabilities. For example, developing countries with heavy coal use must reduce their emissions significantly more quickly than developed countries. And to be fair, they should receive substantial support for their transition, including access to public financing of renewables and mandatory electrification.
However, if such a commitment is to be credible, countries must not allow loopholes that could carve out exceptions or delay the transition. For instance, the letter signed today by companies asks for a “phase out in a just and equitable way.” This is a hollow concession because it will allow fossil fuel production to continue unabated while requiring governments to invest in new technology to capture and store CO2. In addition, such a concession could weaken the commitment to net zero carbon, which the world already knows it must pursue.
Other key issues in the two-week COP28 negotiations starting Nov. 30 in Dubai include how to finance the energy transition in developing countries. That will require massive investments to help poorer countries build the infrastructure needed for clean energy and to make that investment affordable in terms of prices, loans, and grants.
Finally, a comprehensive agreement must be reached on rules to ensure that carbon markets are transparent and fair. This includes reducing ambiguity in language, codifying reform pathways, and setting up regular schedules for price adjustments. It should also include explicit formulas for market-linked pricing and a transparent definition of subsidies to remove the incentive for backsliding.
A slew of other vital issues are expected to be on the table, including how to tackle climate loss and damage from natural disasters and how to strengthen the ability of developing countries to cope with climate change. However, the most critical issue for the world’s nations is how to get out of the fossil fuel business and move forward with a fast, just and equitable transition to renewables.
Amnesty International is concerned that oil and gas companies are trying to influence the outcome of COP28 by funding think tanks and lobbying lawmakers and regulators. They are also using their wealth to fund campaigns that aim to smear opponents, criminalize protesters, and limit freedom of speech and assembly. These tactics directly conflict with states’ human rights obligations to protect their populations and achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.