While 70,000 delegates depart Dubai in their private jets congratulating themselves for a job well done, the rest of us are flabbergasted by the failure.
Yet again, the planet has been let down. Anyone paying attention didn't have high hopes in the first place. COP has been co-opted by the oil industry and is now basically a fossil fuels conference. COP29 is being held in oil-rich Azerbaijan.
This morning, the COP28 final announcement (including recommendations) was released. It is weak and full of loopholes. It's rhetorical fluff.
COP is dead. Governments and their corporate overlords have abandoned us.
After 28 years of chances, the announcement coming out of COP28 proves we're on our own.
To demonstrate how weak the recommendations are, I picked apart the announcement. Below I've copied the relevant COP suggestions and added my comments underneath.
Further recognizes the need for deep, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 °C pathways and calls on Parties to contribute to the following global efforts, in a nationally determined manner, taking into account the Paris Agreement and their different national circumstances, pathways and approaches:
OK. Sounds interesting. Let's look at those suggested approaches are...
(a) Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030;
A good start. Tripling renewables capacity and doubling growth within 6 years could significantly shift the energy mix, all things equal. Of course, the language doesn't speak to the mix directly so this is implied.
However, it is possible that non-renewables capacity grows at the same rate resulting in no change to the mix. Moreover, even if the mix shifts to overweight renewables, non-renewable capacity if left unchanged would still spew the same amount of GHG emissions as today.
(b) Accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power;
So many loopholes. "Accelerated efforts" simply means I try harder. Doesn't mean I achieve anything.
"Phase-down" implies a reduction, but by how much? If I reduce by 1% have I technically phased-down unabated coal power?
And what exactly does "abated" mean in this context? Unabated coal power refers to the burning of coal where GHG emissions are released into the environment. Abated means that some portion of those emissions are captured and sequestered. Unfortunately, there isn't a clear definition of what "abated" means. If I capture and store 10% of a coal plant's GHG emissions one could argue it's no longer "unabated coal power".
(c) Accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emission energy systems, utilizing zero- and low-carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century;
Another shot at "accelerating efforts"...i.e. trying harder with no specific targets or goals. Also, these efforts are global - so some countries might and others might not.
I'd love for someone to tell me what an "energy system" is. Powerplants? All machines that use energy? Seems like the definition is up to the reader.
"Well before or by around mid-century"...well, that's clear as mud. Why not just say whenever you feel like it or after the planet is fucked?
(d) Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science;
This is the first mention of fossil fuels in a COP statement. Only took 28 years to come out with this weak sauce.
Again with the "energy systems". Anyone know what that is?
The big caveat is that the transition away from fossil fuels is done in a "just, orderly and equitable manner". The reality is there will always be losers and disorder during the transition - especially given we've left it to the last minute. This loophole gives nations an easy out under the guise of "equity".
(e) Accelerating zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production;
I guess it's the right sentiment, but it's basically a motherhood statement. It doesn't get to the root of the problem - we need to cut fossil fuel emissions. It also doesn't align with any tangible goals or timelines.
Also, carbon capture is unproven energy-intensive technology and may never be feasible at the scale required. So that part is hopium.
(f) Accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030;
First of all, this is poorly written. It reads like they first want to increase and then reduce non-CO2 emissions.
Again, this statement is not connected to any goals or metrics. What isn't measured doesn't get done.
(g) Accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on a range of pathways, including through development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low-emission vehicles;
No goals. No metrics. No targets.
(h) Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible;
This one pisses me off. Fossil fuel subsidies provide an unfair pricing advantage over renewables. Capitalists tout free market solutions, yet the fossil fuel industry can't stand on its own without government handouts?
Reality is this sentence has so many loopholes it changes nothing. It only phases out "inefficient" subsidies. So, "efficient" (however defined) subsidies are permitted.
Also, subsidies that address energy poverty are OK. The removal of subsidies are bound to affect the poor because prices go up. It's pretty easy for a government to maintain a subsidy using this argument.
And again, no targets or timelines.