COP28, the United Nation’s climate Summit is being held in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 30 November to 12 December 2023. Some 200 government representatives, the signatories of Climate agreement in 1992 and several hundred environmental organizations will take stock of the measures to limit global warming pledged in 2015 Paris agreement.
Some 2,800 representatives of Big Oil and Gas firms are also participating as revealed by Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO). As the corporate representation outnumber the participatents from civil society and climate activists its feared whether COP 28 will be free from the influence of the fossil fuel industries.
It is hoped that COP28 will help to limit long term global temperature rise to 1.5 C and attainment of NetZero for phasing out fossil fuel use by 2050. However, 2023 has been the warmest year in human history, with temperatures as high as 2.4 to 2.7 C, recorded in some major world cities. November, 18th, 2023 recorded 2.0 C above the Paris summit benchmark of 1.5 C. Hence the task before the summit participants is enormous in planning measures to reduce toxic gas emissions by phasing out (not Phase down as suggested by some developed nations) in the very near future.
According to Client Earth Communications, 2022, burning Fossil fuels i.e. coal, petrol, gas and diesel are chiefly responsible for 89 percent of CO2 emited in to our atmosphere. These gases blanket around the earth and block the heat exit in to outer sky. Thus heated earth and oceans change the wind flow and alter the regular monsoon pattern. Apart from loss of hundreds of plant, bird and animal species annually high temperatures are melting ice in continent Antarctica and Himalayan mountains, resulting flash floods and inundation of coastal islands and cities. Altered monsoon pattern is causing long drought spells followed by untimely heavy rains and floods thus causing enormous damage to standing crops and population.
Phasing out fossil fuel production and use should be the major theme of the Summit. Reaching net zero means stopping adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. However, present host UAE is one of the top oil producing nations and Mr. Sultan is the President of COP28 summit. As noted above, oil and gas are the main culprits for climate change. Ironically developed West and major global oil and coal producing corporations are currently changing the Summit agenda to suit to their corporate interests. Issues like Green credits for carbon requesting, industrial production of brown hydrogen, corporate farming are suggested instead of measures to gradual reduction in toxic gas emissions and decarbonisation, loss of damage climate fund assistance to affected poor nations, deforestation, conservation of biodiversity, rivers, oceans and other global commons in nature. Interestingly, leaked reports of BBC (December 2nd, 2023) reveal that several oil producing nations are planning to expand production capacity. UAE is planning to use its role to strike new oil and gas deals. Also, ADNOC, the Arab Emirates oil company, the third largest oil producing company announced in 2022, its plans for new drilling, making the second largest expansion of oil and gas production globally. The real challenge for COP28 to put pressure on the oil and gas sector to move away from producing oil and gas. Presently the fossil fuel industry reported a record high revenues of $5.0 trillion in 2022. British Petroleum (BP) and Exon Mobil have announced their plans to increase their production by 15 percent by 2030.
On the fourth day of COP28, Mr. Sultan al-Jaber, current the President of the Summit declared that there is no scientific evidence to support Fossil fuels are responsible for glbal warming. Despite uproar from delegates however, he did not change his statement. During the deliberations on EnergyPack, Tubago and Trinidad, proposed gradual but speedy phasing out the fossile fuels based on scientific evidence. On December 2, 118 countries pledged to triple the alternative energy production by 2030. But at the same time India and China did not include elimination of coal, while Russia and China wanted gradual replacement of fossil fuels gradually by natural gas by 2035. It should be noted, gas too is afossile member and emits toxic gases though less. Shockingly several industrialized nations and big energy corporations were silent on this issue. The world need tto produce 11,000 GW of alternative energy to replace fosil fuels by 2030.
Green Washing and Capitalism
Nations and oil companies at the climate summit have made certain energy pledges on Saturday. Nearly100 countries promised to treble world renewable energy use by 2030. And 50 oil and gas companies including Saudi giant Aramco pledged to stop adding to planet-warming gases by 2050. This only covers emissions from production, not the burning of fossil fuels and critics said it would not meaningfully tackle climate change. Despite loud announcements made by PM Modi, India alone during the last two years doubled the coal production and increased coal imports instead of cutting consumption of fossil fuels. In previous COP summits of Glasgow and Egypt governments took pledges to decarbonise the planet arriving NetZero by dually by 2050. However, in realty none of the promises have been implemented on ground. Instead of reduction the proportion of released toxic GH gases is estimated to increase by 15 percent by 2030. They keep changing the goal posts and time limits by postponing the pledged reduction limits from 2030 to further away.
Instead of Phasing out the fossil fuels they are now resorting to green washing.
Carbon capture stops most of the CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels in power stations from being released into the atmosphere, and either re-uses it or stores it underground. But it is expensive and in its infancy.
Clean Energy is Big Bossiness
Carbon capture is nothing but trapping most of the CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels in power stations from being released into the atmosphere, either re-uses it or store it underground. But this is very expensive. Some critics say fossil fuel producers hope to use the technology to allow them to continue relying on oil and gas for ever. Does much publicised Electric vehicles, Brown Hydrogen production come under Clean energy is questionable. For carbon seequesting or EV or solar battery production for electrical vehicles or electrolysis underlying production of brown hydrogen need enormous quantity of fossil fuels. These technologies are very capital intensive and only large MNCs can handle their production.
The world’s entire clean energy investments are estimated at about $1.8 trillins, according to the IEA. Despite cacophony of claims from oil and gas producers, the actual levels of investment in the transition to net zero are negligible and the industry isn’t really doing anywhere near enough. This is during a period when oil and gas companies have been recording record profits. Energy transition and production of clean energy are big business with major players General Electricals (GE), NextEraEnergy, Total and Goutam Adani investing nearly 1.3 Trillion dollars. Only in first half of 2023 as high as Breaking $358 Billions was invested in clean energy production. Mr. Adani on one hand actively involved in coal and gas, electricity production and distribution on the other hand is the major producer of solar power, green hydrogen in the world. He is an active player in both fossil fuels (like coal) and also in clean energy production. To encourage carbon sequesting Indian government has announced Green credits programme. To encourage production of green hydrogen government of India is planning 180-billion-rupee ($2.2 billion) incentive programme to private corporations. Not surprising that Mr. Adani would be a major beneficiary.
Price tagging Nature
Under neoliberal economy government is actively giving away forests, fertile land, water bodies to major corporations at subsisidized rates. Even amended laws like new mining policy and forest acts to help major corporations to mine inside he reserve forests. Indian banks are liberally dolling out cheap loans to major corporations against the pledged community commons. The corporations are actively involved in destruction of forests and other resources of nature.
The United States with a share of 14 percentage points is one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters and a major contributor to human caused climate change. While 46 least developing nations with a population of 1.1 billions emit only 4 percent, the developed west, China and India emit rest of the pollutants. UN climate summit COP16 held in Caracas, 2006 after nauseating negotiations agreed that developed nations will finance 100 Billion dollars annually to mitigate climate caused damages, energy transitions towards Netzero. Due to melting of Antarctic ice annually sea level is increasing by 0.9 metre, causing disappearance of several island nations like Navuta and Martiures including our coastal cities Mumbai, Cochin, Visakhapatnam in near future. Recent flash floods in Pakistan caused by melting of Himalayan glaciers or serious drought in Africa are testimony to climate change. Hence, developing South is seeking from major polluter, developed West 5.0 Trillion dollars by 2030. Inspite of made tall promises the developed world failed to walk the talk. Only 432 million dollars were disbursed to the calamity affected nations so far. Routinely the developed West renews fund promises but they hardly meet their fund promises or renewable technology transfer for clean energy transition. Many in African are extractive economies, where 30 percent of global mineral reserves are located. USA alone imports heavily from Africa large volume of metals and rare minerals thus destroying large tracks of natural forests and rivers in Africa. While in absence of promised funds the poor farmers affected by droughts are filling climate adaptation gaps from their own income, sometimes this loss runs upto 30 to 40 percent of their crop incomes.
We have arrived at a turning point in human history. Scientists feel that we have a small window until perhaps 2050 before the multiple and massive environmental problems become irreversible. After that, the planet will not support the existing global capitalist civilization. Let’s first start phasing out use of fossil fuels by 2035 and replace it with renewable sources of energy. Climate and energy Scientists participating in th summit say the technologies for mass production of Clean energy ie. Solar, Green hydrogen are for transition is already available but it should not become a hostage for huge profits of major western MNCs. With increase of resistance from civic society world governments and policy makers are bound to make this technology economical and accessible to both developing and developed nations. This is a logical transition to arrive at NetZero. We should strive to be confident to pass on the mother nature safely to our grand children.
Dr. Soma Marla, Principal Scientist, Crop Genomics, ICAR, New Delhi.