[Dec 4-10'23] COP28 Part 2
"No science!", health, hydrogen and methane.
Welcome to this week’s edition of The Weekly Climate 🎉
The format for this newsletter will be different, since we have the COP28 theatre going on. First of all, this newsletter is the same for paid and free members. I will do a Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 in this style too (unless something radical changes). Secondly, the focus will be mainly on COP28 and there will be a section at the end with other newsworthy items. Thirdly, if you’re just looking to get a brief update, then check out the “3 most important articles” section at the top right below the next section.
3 most important articles
[#goodoverview] — If you can read only one article this week I recommend this one. It provides updates on the COP28 conference, including discussions on fossil fuels, the fight against climate change, and various countries' commitments and initiatives. It highlights the controversy surrounding COP28 president Al Jaber's remarks on phasing out fossil fuels and the ongoing negotiations on language related to fossil fuels in the global stocktake text. The document also mentions other key developments, such as renewable energy pledges, bids to host future COP conferences, and the latest climate research findings.
[#highlowlights] — This article provides highlights and lowlights from the first half of the Cop28 UN climate conference in Dubai. It includes the agreement on a loss and damage fund, concerns over the funding amount, controversy over the Cop28 president's remarks on fossil fuels, negotiations on fossil fuel reduction commitments, and the publication of a draft global stocktake text with a focus on fossil fuel language.
[#noscience] — Top climatologists refute Sultan Al Jaber's claim that there is no science supporting the phaseout of fossil fuels to achieve 1.5°C. They provide evidence from reports such as the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report and 1.5C report, stating the need for rapid decreases in emissions from fossil fuels. The climatologists emphasize the importance of phasing out fossil fuels to limit climate harms and ensure the health and safety of current and future generations.
Setting the stage
Recommend starting with this one: As the COP28 enters it final phase the central question is phase-out or not.
[#1.5pathways] — This article provides an interactive exploration of pathways to meet the 1.5C limit of the Paris Agreement. It discusses the key figures and criteria for the pathways, the role of integrated assessment models (IAMs), and the categories of climate scenarios. It emphasizes the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reaching net-zero, and the implications of breaching the 1.5C limit. The article also highlights the uncertainties and potential impacts of different emissions pathways on global temperatures and climate change. Overall, it underscores the need for strong mitigation efforts to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
[#phaseout] — The Guardian argues that a phase-out of fossil fuels is the only logical decision at Cop28, but the fossil fuel industry is resisting. The battle over language and the global stocktake report will determine whether references to a phase-out appear in the final text. Currently, no G20 country has policies consistent with the 1.5C target, and financing for decarbonization is insufficient. Climate scientists are calling for a stronger role in policy-making, as emissions continue to rise. The efforts of the fossil fuel industry to influence the process may indicate a recognition of the threat they face. Governments must prioritize a just transition to a safer energy system.
[#dangerzone] — Scientists at COP28 warn that urgent action is needed to prevent climate tipping points and the severe risks they pose to billions of people. As the planet approaches a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, irreversible ice sheet melting, disappearing coral reefs, and disrupted rainfall patterns are among the consequences. The impacts include mass displacement, political instability, and financial collapse. The report emphasizes the need for negotiators to address these risks and communicate them to the public. While there is growing awareness and support for phasing out fossil fuels, challenges remain in achieving high ambition outcomes due to differing perspectives among countries. The report also highlights the potential for positive transformative changes in areas such as renewable energy, sustainable transport systems, and the financial sector.
[#emissions] — Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have reached record levels in 2023, with projections showing no improvement in the rate of warming over the past two years. The burning of coal, oil, and gas is expected to increase, contributing to the rise in planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions. Despite the alarming findings, governments have been slow to take action, with emissions still on the rise. Urgent cuts in fossil fuel emissions are needed to meet climate targets and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Health was apparently a key theme this week at COP28
[#health] — At COP28, world leaders have finally given attention to human health in the context of climate change. Health Day was introduced for the first time at the conference, bringing together health and environment ministers to discuss the health effects of climate change and potential solutions. While the milestone was celebrated, there is a recognition that more needs to be done to protect communities from the health impacts of the climate crisis. The COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health was signed by delegates from 123 countries, and significant funding of $1 billion was pledged to address the climate health crisis. However, there are concerns about the lack of clear goals, targets, and plans for action in the declaration, as well as the absence of addressing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels as a leading cause of climate change and health threats.
[#airpollution] — At COP28, a peer-reviewed study revealed that air pollution and fine particulate matter cause over 8 million deaths each year, with 5 million directly linked to fossil fuel emissions. The conference also highlighted the disproportionate impact of air pollution on low-income communities and people of color. However, concerns were raised about the lack of attention to addressing systemic inequities and the influence of oil and gas entities at the conference. The urgency of taking action on climate change and its impact on health were emphasized, including rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and the spread of diseases. Environmental justice and equity were key issues discussed, along with the need for concrete political action to limit climate change and protect public health.
The “no science” debacle
A key moment during this week was when the COP28 president really showed his true colours and said that there were “no science” to support a fossil fuel phaseout. Several articles commented on that.
[#heated] — Top climatologists refute Sultan Al Jaber's claim that there is no science supporting the phaseout of fossil fuels to achieve 1.5°C. They provide evidence from reports such as the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report and 1.5C report, stating the need for rapid decreases in emissions from fossil fuels. The climatologists emphasize the importance of phasing out fossil fuels to limit climate harms and ensure the health and safety of current and future generations.
[#guardian] — The president of Cop28, Sultan Al Jaber, defends his views on climate science after stating that there is "no science out there" to support the phase-out of fossil fuels. Al Jaber clarifies that his comments were misinterpreted and emphasizes the importance of science in guiding Cop28's principles. The issue of a phase-out or phase-down of fossil fuels remains a contentious topic at the summit, with over 100 countries already supporting a phase-out of "unabated" fossil fuels. Climate scientists express concerns over Al Jaber's remarks, while youth climate activists call for a clear phase-out to align with the Paris agreement.
[#newyorktimes] — Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati oil executive leading the COP28 climate summit, faced criticism for his remarks on ending fossil fuel use. Al Jaber stated that there is "no science" supporting the need to phase out fossil fuels to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, climate experts and diplomats argue that cutting emissions from fossil fuels is essential to achieve this goal. The controversy arose during a panel discussion and has sparked debates at the climate talks. Al Jaber defended his position, claiming that he has called for a phaseout of fossil fuels multiple times and that his comments were taken out of context.
Enemies: Fossils and others
[#understandingphaseout] — This article discusses the importance of defining the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels at COP28. It provides information on the decline of coal, oil, and gas use in pathways assessed by the IPCC, as well as the agreements and positions of different countries and groups regarding fossil fuel reduction. The article highlights the divisions and negotiations surrounding the language used to address fossil fuels and the need for clear definitions and deeper decarbonization efforts.
[#lobbyists] — The number of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28 is nearly four times higher than ever before, indicating significant influence from major climate polluters. With 2,456 fossil fuel representatives present, this year's United Nations Climate Change conference in the United Arab Emirates sees an unprecedented level of fossil fuel presence. The situation has raised concerns about the suffocation of voices fighting for climate action and the disproportionate influence of big polluters. The record number of lobbyists coincides with stricter industry regulations and pledges to triple renewable energy, but not a phase-out of fossil fuels.
[#fossilfuelshowdown] — A report reveals that a record number of lobbyists for fossil fuel-related industries have registered for COP28, outnumbering individual country delegations and Indigenous representatives. Despite this, over half of the nations in attendance have called for a fossil fuel phaseout, realizing that meeting the goals of the Paris climate pact requires ending the use of coal, oil, and gas. However, the fossil fuel industry's pushback and potential political support from right-wing parties pose threats to climate progress.
[#resistance] — Resistance is growing against the phase-out of fossil fuels at Cop28, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey among the most vocal opponents. While China and India don't specifically oppose phase-out language, they are against targets grouped by sector. The final deal from Cop28 will have a significant impact on climate policy for the rest of the decade.
[#support] — More than 100 countries at COP28 have called for a fossil fuel phaseout, marking a turning point in climate negotiations after 27 years. The joint statement by 106 countries, including EU member states and members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, calls for an immediate end to new oil and gas production and clear end dates for fossil fuel production. This shift is seen as necessary to achieve a climate-neutral economy and keep global warming within the 1.5-degree Celsius goal.
[#climatefund] — This New York Times article discusses the challenges of turning promises made at COP28 into reality, particularly regarding the funding needed for climate initiatives. Vice President Kamala Harris pledged $3 billion for the Green Climate Fund, but persuading Congress to approve the money is expected to be difficult. The article highlights the need for substantial funds to address climate impacts, such as rising sea levels and extreme heat, and the growing frustration of developing countries over unkept promises of aid. The article also emphasizes the importance of finance in achieving renewable energy goals and the need for the United States to step up its public financing. However, the divided Congress and opposition from Republicans pose challenges to delivering on these promises.
[#fossilspay] — Spain's environment minister, Teresa Ribera, suggests that fossil fuel companies should contribute to funds for vulnerable countries affected by the climate crisis. She proposes that oil and gas companies voluntarily invest part of their profits in sustainable development. Ribera also mentions the possibility of mandatory green taxes on high-carbon companies and potential levies on shipping and frequent flyers. However, there is not yet broad agreement on these approaches. Ribera emphasizes the need for every financial and economic decision to consider its impact on the climate crisis and calls for a new climate-proof economy.
[#war] — Russia's blocking of candidates to host the next climate summit due to political tensions is causing a deadlock in the selection process. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has led Russia to block potential host countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, effectively holding the event hostage. This inability to find a host is concerning for global efforts to address climate change and reflects Russia's disruptive behavior in international settings.
[#methaneagreement] — The latest methane agreement at COP28, in which oil companies pledge to reduce methane emissions, is criticized as a "smokescreen" due to its lack of enforceability. The agreement is seen as a mere pledge without teeth, allowing companies to backtrack if cutting emissions becomes costly. Additionally, the focus on methane emissions from fossil fuels overlooks the significant contribution of animal agriculture, which accounts for 40% of methane emissions. Environmental groups argue that the agreement fails to address the need to phase out oil, gas, coal, and meat and dairy production to effectively combat climate change.
[#hydrogen] — Over 30 countries launched the COP28 Declaration of Intent on the Mutual Recognition of Certification Schemes for Renewable and Low-Carbon Hydrogen and Hydrogen Derivatives. The declaration aims to facilitate a global market for clean hydrogen by working towards mutual recognition of certification schemes. The United States emphasizes the importance of scientific assessments of hydrogen's lifecycle climate impacts (great idea!) and looks forward to ongoing engagement with international partners.
[#energyeffienciency] — At COP28, 118 countries pledged to triple renewable power capacity and double energy efficiency improvements by 2030. Energy efficiency, often overlooked, is gaining momentum as a climate solution. Doubling energy efficiency progress by 2030 could achieve 50% of the emissions reductions needed. Stronger building codes, retrofitting initiatives, and adoption of electric vehicles and appliances are essential. Stricter efficiency standards and access to clean cooking are also important. These measures would create jobs, cut energy bills, and reduce global emissions.
Other non-COP28 news
[#meatculturewars] — The meat culture wars are a politically polarizing issue, with debates surrounding the environmental impact of meat consumption. While scientists and environmental advocates argue for reducing meat consumption to combat climate change, there is resistance from both the political right and the meat and dairy industries. Building consensus and reframing the conversation around meat reduction may be key to finding a solution that addresses both environmental concerns and cultural preferences.
[#topfossilfuelenablers] — A report by DeSmog reveals that Reuters and The New York Times are among the top media enablers of the fossil fuel industry. The report highlights how these outlets, along with others, have partnered with fossil fuel companies to produce sponsored content that promotes the industry's agenda, often leaving readers confused and misinformed. The report also discusses the blurred lines between newsrooms and commercial ventures, with media outlets offering various avenues for fossil fuel advertisers to reach their audience, including events, podcasts, and custom content. The practice of buying friendly content by the fossil fuel industry dates back to the 1970s, and the rise of internal brand studios at major media outlets has only intensified these partnerships. Climate reporters within these outlets have expressed concerns about the undermining of climate journalism and the lack of integrity in these commercial deals. The report emphasizes the need for critical reporting that challenges the statements and actions of fossil fuel companies, rather than providing a platform for industry-sponsored content.
[#ccs] — This article argues that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not a viable solution to reduce oil and gas emissions and avert climate disaster. While CCS can be helpful at the margins, it cannot deliver the necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The article highlights that CCS is expected to contribute less than a tenth of the required emission reductions and is primarily used in sectors other than fossil fuel production and combustion. The focus should instead be on phasing out fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy solutions, and decarbonizing the power sector.
[#chineseemissions] — According to the Global Carbon Budget (also mentioned earlier), global CO2 emissions increased by approximately 0.8% in 2022, driven by steady land-use emissions and increasing fossil CO2 emissions. The remaining carbon budget to limit warming below 1.5C will be depleted in nine years if emissions remain at current levels. The increase in global emissions was driven by small increases in US emissions and larger increases in Indian and rest-of-the-world emissions, while Chinese emissions saw a small decline and EU emissions remained largely unchanged. Most of the emission increase came from oil, while coal emissions slightly increased and gas emissions remained flat. Global CO2 concentrations reached a new record of 417.2 ppm, 51% above pre-industrial levels. The effects of climate change have reduced the CO2 uptake of the ocean sink by around 4% and the land sink by around 17%.
[#oysters] — Scientists are studying how oyster reefs can help fight climate change by sequestering carbon. Oysters create habitat for other species and can store carbon in sediment and marshes. Yamaha is funding research projects on oyster reefs and carbon sequestration in Georgia and the Gulf of Mexico.
That’s it for this week folks!
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