The heat is rising

THE PORTER REPORT - A monthly update on the business world from leading writer David Porter

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It is hardly a surprise that the world’s regular international talkfest on addressing climate change tends to be held in major oil-producing countries. After all, who knows more about the problems – and profits – the fossil fuel industry engenders than the key oil producing countries.

2023 saw Dubai in the United Arab Emirates presiding over COP28. And chairing the top COP28 table was UAE’s oil baron in charge of the source of national riches, Sultan Al Jaber.

But global pushback on the accelerating pace of climate change is growing. There seems no doubt we will exceed the climate rise limits that were originally set down. As mooted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. Leaders must lead.”

But leaders – particularly the heads of the G20 countries responsible for 80 percent of global emissions – are resisting the pressure to implement realistic climate action.

Guterres has first-hand experience of climate change. Not only has the UN just produced scary updates on the latest state of the temperature rises, but Guterres recently paid his first visit to the Antarctic.

“Fossil fuel pollution is heating our planet, unleashing climate anarchy in Antarctica,” he said, noting that the Southern Ocean has taken the majority of the heat from global warming.

Ice is melting into the ocean at record rates, feeding unprecedented rates of sea level rise, which are endangering low-lying island states and coastal communities worldwide.

Some COP28 delegates reportedly said the OPEC oil cartel and Saudi Arabia were leading a push against any climate deal that would cut down fossil fuel production.

According to many news reports, key energy producers had been most concerned to eliminate any suggestion of “phasing out” fossil fuel energy. There has been an accelerated growth worldwide of options such as wind and solar, which have become more affordable. And a growing number of countries are drawing attention to the need to wean their economies off oil, gas and coal.

The final COP28 statement contained two main planks — a pledge by oil and gas companies to reduce emissions, and a commitment by 118 countries to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity and double energy savings efforts.

So yes, there was a torrent of feel-good statements on slashing pollution from companies and oil producers as COP28 wound up. But they sparked cries of “greenwashing” even before some global dignitaries had boarded their flights home.

Unfortunately, the final statement included weakening the coal reference from “rapidly phasing down unabated coal” to “efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power”. “Transition away” is called for, rather than a “phase out”, according to Forbes magazine. Notably, it only directly refers to fossil fuel use in energy systems.

Climate change activists suggested that this only meant the energy companies were belatedly trying to look as if they were responding to outside pressures. Let us be in no doubt – the climate crisis is real and must be faced.

Leaders – and particularly G20 countries responsible for 80 percent of global emissions – must step up their efforts on climate change. The impacts of climate change are becoming ever more visible and the pressure to work harder at exploring alternative options such as wind and solar are becoming ever more urgent.

David Porter
David Porter
THE PORTER REPORT - A monthly update on the business world from David Porter

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