COP28: Yet Another Talk Show – OpEd


COP28 should have officially concluded at Dubai on December 12, 2023. However, the deadlock due to difference of views on overcoming climate issues have persisted. There have been considerable discussions and wrangling over what the final version of the agreement should look like and there have been differences with regard to the language of the resolution and therefore it became a stumbling block in finalisation of the text of the resolution. Of course, now that COP28 has ended, finalisation of 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 listed eight options that countries could implement to cut emissions, including reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, so as to achieve net zero by, before, or around the year 2050.

The fact is that such need to reduce and ultimately eliminate the production and consumption of fossil fuel such as coal, crude oil, natural gas has been repeatedly stressed during several climate meets earlier that took place in various locations such as Paris, Glasgow, Egypt and others. However, all such targets to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel have virtually remained on paper. On the other hand, the production and consumption of fossil fuel have been increasing instead of decreasing in the past years.

The use of coal, crude oil and natural gas as energy source result in the production of global warming gas such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. All the countries have agreed in principle about the imperative need to reduce the production and consumption of such fossil fuel, which is the primary requisite to achieve net zero emission by the year 2050. A coalition of more than 100 countries including oil and gas producers the US, Canada and Norway, as well as the EU and climate vulnerable island nations and other countries desired an agreement during the COP28 on eliminating the use of fossil fuel.

Of course, there is no unsolvable constraint in passing resolutions or signing agreement! The crux of the matter is that there are unresolved practical issues and difficulties in curbing and eliminating use of fossil fuel , which is the dominant energy source in the world today.

During the COP28, OPEC oil producers have hesitated to support any move to curb the crude oil production and consumption The reason is that the economy of the OPEC countries are almost entirely dependent upon the production and sale of fossil fuel , as they have no other alternate source of earnings to the level that the fossil fuel provide them. 

The other countries who consume fossil fuel in a big way to sustain their economic and industrial growth also are not in a position to replace fossil fuel as energy source, due to non availability of alternate options adequately

There is no successful strategy as yet to find alternate eco friendly source of energy for the world to completely replace fossil fuel.

The ground reality is that if consumption of fossil fuel were to be reduced to any significant level as energy source now or in the near future, there would be energy crisis in the world and the world economy would virtually collapse. Nobody can allow this kind of situation.

While there are huge claims about the prospects of renewable energy such as solar power and wind power to replace fossil fuel, there is a limit beyond which this cannot be done, since renewable energy generation is dependent on seasonal factors and capacity utilisation is low.

Nuclear fuel is an eco friendly option but this too has limitations.

The hydrogen economy is being talked about as eco friendly alternate source but there are formidable issues, since water electrolysis process for hydrogen generation is power intensive and green power generation from renewable energy source would be very inadequate to produce green hydrogen to the level of global requirement to replace fossil fuel. There are still unresolved technological issues with regard to storage and transportation of green hydrogen to several locations, apart from cost of production of green hydrogen.

The high sounding target are being fixed to eliminate fossil fuel without having a feasible and eco friendly alternate source for energy.

Under the circumstances, the target dates for eliminating fossil fuel considerably or completely should be considered as nothing but talk in vacuum at this stage.

In such conditions, the only way out is to reduce the demand for energy gradually over the coming years and fix a time bound target to reduce the demand for energy. 

The demand for energy can be reduced only by reducing the global population and such reduction in the population would effectively would reduce the need for several goods and services and consequently energy.

No one has talked about the need for reducing the energy demand during the COP28 or earlier meetings.

In such circumstances, COP28 just as the earlier climate meet deserves to be branded as mere talk show, based on wishful thinking.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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