Transitioning away from fossil fuels is a tough goal and will test the commitment of the nations to walk the talk
Published Date – 11:59 PM, Fri – 15 December 23
The just-concluded United Nations Climate summit — Conference of the Parties 28 (COP 28) — in Dubai has finally addressed the elephant in the room: fossil fuels. Despite aggressive lobbying by oil and natural gas-producing countries and multinational companies, the gathering of world leaders, policymakers and climate scientists finalised a deal to transition away from greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal by 2050 to keep the temperature rise within the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark above the pre-industrial level. This hard-fought agreement is truly historic. It is for the first time in its 28 years of climate negotiations that the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pledged to transition away from fossil fuels, which included oil and gas. No doubt, it is a tough goal and will test the commitment of the nations to walk the talk. The changeover necessitates a redesigning of policies, subsidies and regulations by countries worldwide. COP 26 at Glasgow had issued a call to ‘phase down’ coal but the issue remained contentious because of divisions among nations over eliminating all fossil fuels. In the run-up to COP 28, it became increasingly clear that the issue of oil and gas cannot be put on the back burner. Another issue that warranted urgent attention was the unfulfilled promises made by the rich and developed nations to support poor countries in dealing with climate disasters. The commitment of $100 billion per year made over a decade ago by developed nations is minuscule, given the scale of the needs.
Even that commitment has not been fulfilled so far. Though the ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ was established at the climate summit in Egypt last year, there has been no agreement as yet on the obligations of the historic emitters and no substantial flow of cash. While fighting climate change is everyone’s job, the rich and developed countries must bear the bulk of that responsibility, not just because they have caused most of the emissions but also because they have greater resources and capacity to act. Along with technological support for carbon capture and renewable energy adaptation, investment worth billions of dollars is necessary for ‘transitioning away’ in a just and equitable manner for the developing world. But even as COP 28 saw the Green Climate Fund pledged by rich nations rise to a record $12.8 billion, it remains to be seen if they would deliver on their promises or the Global South would be again left high and dry by unkept promises of aid. Achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century entails a drastic overhaul of the way businesses are powered and electricity produced and consumed. For, despite all efforts towards switching to renewable and other green energy sources in recent decades, over three-fourths of the global energy is still produced from coal, oil and gas.