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UN climate talks go big on ending fossil fuels

GreenWatch Desk Climate 2023-12-02, 7:34pm

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Countries and oil companies at the UN climate talks have promised to make major progress in tackling global warming in a large new energy pledge.

Saudi Arabia's Aramco is one of 50 oil and gas companies pledging to stop adding to planet-warming gases by 2050.

But that only covers emissions from production, not the actual burning of fossil fuels.

Around 100 countries also promise to treble the renewable energy the world uses by 2030.

However, there will be no penalties for missing targets and the promises are not binding.

The pledges have been strongly criticised by environmental groups who say it does not meaningfully tackle climate change because it allows fossil fuel production to continue.

And not all of them appear to be new. Many oil companies that have signed up to this commitment had previously announced they would reduce their emissions to zero.

They also allow companies to increase oil and gas production in the short-term, as long as it is reduced by 2050.

The pledge said that tripling renewable energy would help remove fossil fuels from the world's energy system by 2050 at the latest.

Addressing the summit on Saturday, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber said the new pledge "adds up to more countries and more companies from more sectors than ever before, all aligning with our North Star of 1.5C".

World leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to that amount.

Burning huge amounts of oil, gas and coal is driving climate change but leaders cannot yet agree on how fast the world should stop using them.

Mr Jaber called Saturday's pledge "a great first step".

"Whilst many national oil companies have adopted net zero 2050 targets for the first time, I know that they and others, can and need to do more," he said. "We need the entire industry to keep 1.5C within reach and set even stronger ambitions for decarbonisation."

But leading climate organisations criticised the announcement.

"The only way to 'decarbonize' carbon-based oil and gas is to stop producing it. Quickly, completely, and permanently. Anything short of this is just more industry greenwash," said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law.

The UAE says the Decarbonisation Charter will speed up climate action as oil and gas companies that account for 40% of the world's emissions promise to become net zero by 2050.

Reaching net zero means stopping adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The 50 companies, which also include the UAE's state oil company, also pledge to almost entirely stop releasing the potently planet-heating gas methane during oil and gas production by 2030.

On Saturday UN Secretary-General General António Guterres told the talks that the meeting "must commit countries to triple renewables capacity, double energy efficiency, and bring clean energy to all, by 2030."

He added the the world must "phase out fossil fuels" in time to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The International Energy Agency has previously said that if the world drills more new oil and gas then the world will not meet its climate pledges, including limiting temperature rise to no more than 1.5C.

"The rapid acceleration of clean energy is needed, and we've called for the tripling of renewables. But it is only half the solution," said Tina Stige, Climate Envoy for the Marshall Islands, which is one of the nation's most vulnerable to climate change.

"The pledge can't greenwash countries that are simultaneously expanding fossil fuel production," she adds.

The UAE's presidency of the COP28 talks has attracted criticism because the country is one the top 10 oil and gas producers in the world and the summit's president Sultan al-Jaber also heads the giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).

More world leaders are addressing COP28 which is in its third day.

Pope Francis said the ecological transition to save the world could be done by embracing renewable energy, "the elimination of fossil fuels, and education in lifestyles that are less dependant."

The pontiff was unable to attend the Dubai summit in person because of illness, so his speech was read by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, reports BBC.