The 2023 U.N. Climate Change Conference can only succeed if there is a seismic shift and we steer the ship from crossing global temperatures above 1.5 degree Celsius. The oil and gas industry must get on board to prevail.
In April, the incoming president of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, noted that excluding oil, gas and high-emitting industries from the climate discussion table is imprudent. He advocated an “integrated approach” to address the escalating climate crisis.
That entails a new partnership between governments and bold fossil fuel industry players willing to confront the growing climate crisis and consider announcing urgently needed measures.
Humanity is experiencing the repercussions of delayed action on emissions reduction, leading to a cascade of effects such as acceleration in global warming, rapidly rising sea levels, and a diminishing natural capacity to absorb carbon.
The scale and intensity of these extreme events are now outstripping the ability of governments to predict and manage them. Weak and outdated early warning systems no longer help in anticipating these events. Floods in Pakistan last year resulted from a monsoon on steroids. Libyan floods this year left vast swaths of land inundated and 15,000 dead.
Meteorologists in Mexico’s beach resort of Acapulco were overwhelmed when Hurricane Otis converted into a Category 5 storm in less than 24 hours.
Indeed, the climate data paint a grim picture: A study led by Monash University reveals that more than 5 million deaths occur annually due to extreme temperatures. In 2022, Europe lost at least 15,000 lives due to heat-related causes. The World Health Organization predicts that between 2030 and 2050, 250,000 people will die annually of climate-change-related malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.
Climate-related disasters cost $143 billion annually, igniting a climate battle.
We must cut fossil fuel demand by a quarter by 2030 and up to 80 percent by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.
However, we are upping the ante: The International Energy Agency reports that energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions rebounded to 36.6 gigatons in 2021 — the largest-ever annual rise in emissions. Production Gap confirms that, noting that energy-producing nations could double fossil fuel extraction by 2030.
Amid this chaos, COP 28 could be a glimmer of hope. How?
First, we must double down on carbon storage and capture. But promising technologies like direct air capture must be combined with a deadline for phasing out fossil fuels and removing domestic subsidies for their use.
Second, countries must meet their commitments and fulfill their nationally determined contributions. Many of those falling short are high emitters and part of the Group of 20.
Third, we must price carbon. Even though the politicians are not ready for a global carbon pricing framework, economists say it works. Moreover, the U.N. secretary-general has repeatedly called for putting a price on carbon.
Bold leadership and aggressive leadership will get us there. Last year in Sharam-el-Shiekh, Egypt, the parties agreed on a Loss and Damage fund, which no one thought was possible.
Overall, this diplomatic innovation demands a new partnership between governments and bold fossil fuel industry players willing to confront the growing climate crisis and consider announcing urgently needed measures. Humanity is breaking all records on climate change.
Incoming data and scientific evidence suggest that we will likely surpass the 1.5 degree Celsius limit set by the Paris Agreement much sooner than anticipated.
At this challenging juncture, al-Jaber’s mission is similar to that of Otto von Bismarck a century and a half ago — modern Germany’s most significant leader: He united the warring parties to form one cohesive vision of shared interests. Bismarck succeeded, but only by constructing multiple alliances.
Will al-Jaber be remembered for turning the tide of climate change or getting swept away by it? Only with courage can we win this battle.