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COP28: Carbon Removal And Fossil Fuel Realities In Global Energy Dynamics – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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COP28: Carbon Removal and Fossil Fuel Realities in Global Energy Dynamics

TK Arun

A more sensible solution is carbon dioxide removal but it isn’t a priority yet. The biggest fossil fuel producers, which include the US, wouldn’t have had a market but for takers of their products in the very same rich countries whose climate campaigners shout the loudest against fossil fuels. Everyone needs fossil fuels at this time.

COP28 at Dubai has, after much wrangling, finally settled on “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner … to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.” This is seen as a victory for climate warriors and a defeat for the fossil fuel lobby, represented, chiefly, by none other than COP28 president Sultan al Jabar, who heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company but still got to head the conference as the nominee of the host nation, the United Arab Emirates. The focus on fossil fuels is not just hypocritical but also deceptive.

Fossil Fuel Lobby

Who precisely is the fossil fuel lobby? Most would point to major fossil fuel producers, the likes of Saudi Arabia, Russia and other members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. That the list excludes the world’s biggest oil producer, the United States, is just one of the problems with this understanding. Would these fossil fuel producers have any use for their produce if there were no takers for their produce? And who are the people who buy up their fossil fuels?

The very same rich countries, whose climate campaigners shout the loudest against fossil fuels. It is only thanks to the monetary-policy-engineered slowdown in these economies that oil demand is currently depressed, pushing the price to around $70 a barrel.

On a consumption basis, per capita emission of CO2 is around 17 tonnes in North America, 8 tonnes in Europe, 1.5 tonnes in South Asia, and less than 1 tonne in Africa. The share of renewable energy is the highest for Europe, and that measures up to an optimistic 22.5 percent. Nuclear energy accounts for a quarter. That means more than half the total energy consumed by high-minded fossil-fuel opponents in Europe comes from fossil fuels. During the energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and boycott of Russian oil and gas, Germany burnt lignite, the dirtiest fossil fuel of all.

“Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet!”, prayed young Augustine. However, Europe’s embrace of fossil fuel, while seeking to forswear it, reveals not so much promiscuity as the indispensability of energy.

Carbon Dioxide Removal

That indispensability works in developing countries, too. They need lots more energy, to raise dismal living standards. They would be happy to use fossil fuel alternatives if these exist in viable abundance. Till then, fossil fuels would continue to be used, and the sensible solution is to find ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as much as possible from the existing stock of 2,400 Gigatonnes of the stuff to more than offset what is freshly emitted.

Carbon dioxide removal, nuclear power and the development of better and cheaper climate technologies – all these are integral parts of the energy transition. Just shouting about fossil fuels makes no sense.

TK Arun is a senior journalist.

The article was first published in Moneycontrol as COP28 Agreement: Climate campaigners must focus on carbon removal, not fossil fuels on December 13, 2023.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

Read more at IMPRI: 

The Impact of COP-28 In Cities

COP28 and the Fossil Fuel Reality

Acknowledgement: This article was posted by Aasthaba Jadeja, a research intern at IMPRI.

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  • IMPRI

    IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

  • TK Arun

    TK Arun is a Senior Journalist and Columnist based in Delhi.

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