Why COP28 will likely end in compromise on phasing down some fossil fuels


Al-Monitor Pro Members


Karim Elgendy

Urban sustainability and climate expert based in London


Dec. 3, 2023

Bottom Line:

The last two years have witnessed increasingly loud calls for phasing out fossil fuels and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. These calls are led by activists and civil society organizations who argue that increasing investments in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency is not enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that supply-side action is needed to restrict extraction and production of oil, gas and coal. These calls were echoed on Nov. 13 by almost a hundred climate groups that warned COP28 organizers that the success of the event hinged on the ability to reach a formal agreement to phase out fossil fuels and replace them with clean energy. 

The first technical review of the Paris Agreement, released last September, supports this. It notes that the Paris Agreement’s goals are unlikely to be achievable without phasing out all unabated fossil fuels — fossil fuels whose use is not combined with a technology that captures and stores the emitted carbon. It calls for phasing out fossil fuel production before 2050 and for a cessation of all new oil, gas and coal exploration. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) updated Net Zero Roadmap also forecasted a peak in coal, oil and gas demand by 2030 and warns against investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Many oil and gas producers argue that now is not the time to embark on such phasing out of fossil fuels in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the tight energy market and heightened concerns about the economic impact of high energy prices. Instead of reducing fossil fuel production, they propose using carbon capture and storage technologies to manage their emissions. The direction negotiations take in the next two to three years would have a significant impact on energy policies around the world and on all businesses in the energy sector.

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