The upward trend of fossil fuel production is alarming in the lead up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates. These UN climate negotiations will spotlight the world’s ambition to phase out fossil fuels and feature the first “Global Stocktake,” a review of where the world stands on climate action.
The European Union, a bloc of twenty seven countries, has approved its negotiations strategy for COP28 centering on a call to phase out “unabated fossil fuels.” Ten of these countries reportedly wanted a strategy that called for a complete phase out of fossil fuels. Nonetheless, the success of this call will depend on the willingness of major fossil fuel producing countries, like the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates (the host of this year’s negotiations).
As the biggest producer of oil and gas in the world, the United States, in particular, has a key role to play in advancing plans to phase out fossil fuels. That’s a major challenge as U.S. oil and gas companies continue to earn sky high profits while being propped up by billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies. Meanwhile, oil and gas executives don’t believe the claims of our best available science and modeling stating that demand for oil and gas consumption will peak in 2030. The CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources said to the New York Times, “I personally disagree, the majors disagree, OPEC disagrees, everybody that produces oil and gas disagrees.”
The energy transition is not about personal opinion, it’s about what is scientifically necessary and where the renewable energy transition should be at the turn of the decade. A lot of work is needed. In the U.S., we have the power to do a great deal today to start limiting production of fossil fuels.
At this critical juncture, countries most responsible for continuing to feed global fossil fuel dependence must commit to ambitious plans to phase them out. At the same time, we need to responsibly expand renewable energy and electrify our economy. Failure to do so will come with environmental and economic consequences that we are not prepared to meet and that we must, to the greatest extent possible, avoid.
Humanity’s survival depends on action.