COP 28 was expected to officially conclude in Dubai on 12th December 2023. However, a deadlock persists due to differences of opinion on addressing climate issues. Considerable discussions and wrangling have taken place over the final version of the agreement, with differences in the language of the resolution becoming a stumbling block in finalizing the text. Despite the conclusion of COP 28, finalizing the language of the resolution is no substitute for actual achievements on the ground.
A new draft of a COP28 agreement, published by the United Arab Emirates’ presidency of the summit, lists eight options for countries to implement in order to cut emissions. These options include reducing both the consumption and production of fossil fuels in a just, orderly, and equitable manner to achieve net zero by, before, or around the year 2050.
The imperative need to reduce and ultimately eliminate the production and consumption of fossil fuels, such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas, has been stressed in previous climate meetings in Paris, Glasgow, Egypt, and elsewhere. However, these targets to reduce fossil fuel consumption have largely remained on paper, with production and consumption increasing in recent years.
The use of coal, crude oil, and natural gas as energy sources results in the production of global warming gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. While all countries agree in principle on the need to reduce the production and consumption of such fossil fuels, achieving this is the primary requisite to attain net zero emissions by 2050. A coalition of over 100 countries, including oil and gas producers like the US, Canada, Norway, the EU, and climate-vulnerable island nations, desires an agreement during COP28 to eliminate the use of fossil fuels.
However, passing resolutions or signing agreements is not the issue. The crux of the matter lies in unresolved practical issues and difficulties in curbing and eliminating the use of fossil fuels, the dominant energy source globally.
During COP28, OPEC oil producers hesitated to support any move to curb crude oil production and consumption due to their economies’ dependence on fossil fuel production and sale. Other countries heavily reliant on fossil fuels for economic and industrial growth also lack viable alternative energy sources.
There is no successful strategy yet to find an entirely eco-friendly energy source to replace fossil fuels. Claims about renewable energy such as solar and wind power are promising, but there are limits due to seasonal factors and low capacity utilization.
While nuclear fuel is an eco-friendly option, it too has limitations. The hydrogen economy is discussed as an eco-friendly alternative, but issues remain, including power-intensive water electrolysis for hydrogen generation and unresolved technological issues in storage, transportation, and production costs.
The high-sounding targets to eliminate fossil fuels without a feasible and eco-friendly alternative source for energy are unrealistic. In the absence of such alternatives, target dates for eliminating fossil fuels should be considered nothing but empty talk.
In these conditions, the only way out is to gradually reduce the demand for energy over the coming years and set a time-bound target for this reduction. Reducing global population is one effective way to achieve this, which would subsequently reduce the need for goods, services, and energy.
Surprisingly, no one discussed the need for reducing energy demand during COP 28 or earlier meetings.
In such circumstances, COP 28, like previous climate meetings, deserves to be branded as a mere talk show based on wishful thinking.