Some countries including the United States are arguing for a tripling of renewable energy sources (principally wind and solar) by 2030, but renewable energy is having issues with supply chains, inflation and high interest rates.
They would also like to double the world’s annual rate of improving energy efficiency to 4 percent per year.
Countries are not agreed on phasing out coal, payments into a “reparations fund” to compensate poor countries, and methane emissions reductions.
Americans could be left picking up the tab for reparation payments or having to comply with obligations that could make their lives harder.
The European Union, United States and the United Arab Emirates’ COP28 climate summit hosts want a global deal to triple renewable energy this decade despite high interest rates, supply chain issues and an offshore wind market falling to pieces in the United States. These countries are trying to recruit other countries to sign a pledge ahead of this year’s annual U.N climate negotiations, which take place from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai. They believe that tripling the world’s renewable energy capacity compared to 2019 levels – to have 11,000 gigawatts installed by 2030 – is the most important thing they can do to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The pledge would also commit to double the world’s annual rate of improving energy efficiency to 4 percent per year until 2030. To become part of the formal outcome of the U.N. COP28 talks, the pledge must win unanimous approval from the nearly 200 nations represented in U.N. climate negotiations.
The draft pledge, however, goes beyond the deployment of renewables by calling for “the phase down of unabated coal power,” including ending the financing of new coal-fired power plants in this decade. It also would commit governments to adopt more ambitious policies to scale up renewable energy and develop financing plans to reduce the high cost of capital that has hindered renewable energy projects in developing nations. Africa received just 2 percent of global investments in renewable energy over the last two decades despite having plentiful solar energy resources.
Most major economies are on board with the renewables goal, as the Group of 20 – which includes China and India – backed it. But, there is less agreement in combining that target to a shift away from emitting fossil fuels. Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and India have opposed the idea of a fossil fuel phase-out. Gaining the support of the G20 member countries is crucial to the goal as they together account for over 80 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Little Agreement on Reparations
Climate finance remains one of the most contentious issues including a $100 billion per year climate finance goal that developed nations agreed to provide to developing countries but have yet to deliver. Underdeveloped countries have called for a “climate losses and damages fund,” which would have countries that have historically emitted greenhouse gases, like the United States, pay huge sums of money through international institutions to compensate developing and poor countries for the perceived effects of climate change. Delegates agreed in principle to establishing a “climate losses and damages fund” at the U.N. climate conference in 2022, but limited progress has been made toward that pledge and experts say a finalized agreement on the program is unlikely to be reached at COP28 because the contribution of vast sums of American taxpayer dollars to a de facto international “climate reparations” fund would have negligible impact on climate change.
Despite the agreement to eventually establish a fund, there is currently an impasse over what shape it should take. The United States suggested that the World Bank should assume responsibility for administering it, but representatives of some developing countries disagree, suspecting that American influence over the institution would allow for it to be gamed in a way that might allow the United States to sidestep or otherwise evade whatever commitments it may make. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, however, has indicated that finalizing the creation of a “climate losses and damages fund” is a priority issue for him going into COP28, despite little interest by American taxpayers to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to compensate for working hard and becoming the world’s largest economic power.
Another issue is that China, which is technically a “developing country” according to the United Nations despite its role as the world’s second largest economy and the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, may not be required to pay into the fund, and has in the past received money from U.N. climate programs. China emits more greenhouse gas emissions than the United and European Union combined.
Global Pact on Methane Emissions
Led by the United States, over 150 nations have signed a pact to cut their methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. China, the world’s largest emitter of methane, has not signed the pact but is expected to unveil its strategy for reducing methane emissions before COP 28, but, stopping short of providing specific reduction targets. China produces over 14 percent of global methane emissions. China’s reduction plan focuses on some of its most challenging methane sources, including emissions from coal mine seams and agriculture, including rice production, but does not contain binding numerical targets, following concerns expressed by the agriculture and energy ministries about their impact on the economy. Last year, the agriculture ministry recommended new farming practices, such as paddy irrigation management and low-protein diets for livestock, as ways to bring down methane. China’s massive coal sector could prove the biggest challenge since the country is the world’s largest source of methane from coal mines, having 28 percent of the world’s biggest methane emissions points.
The U.S. and China first agreed at the Glasgow climate summit in 2021 to work together on measuring and reducing methane. A study published in August by scientists at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggested that reforms to China’s industrial and agriculture sectors could lead to a 30 to 40 percent reduction in methane from 2015 levels by the end of the decade. John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, made a trip to China in July to obtain China’s cooperation on methane reductions.
China set a goal to bring carbon dioxide emissions to a peak by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2060, but its continuing construction of coal-fired power plants that operate for many decades seems counter to that goal. Further, China has repeatedly indicated that the needs of its people and its economy will take preference to other priorities, including climate.
COP 28 is just a few weeks away and the issues seem unsurmountable regarding reaching agreement on the phase out of fossil fuels, the 30 percent reduction of methane emissions by 2030, and reparations for developing countries. Calls from developed nations to stop burning carbon-emitting fuels will run into arguments from fossil fuel producers, consumers, as well as poorer nations that say they cannot cut carbon dioxide emissions without significantly more financial support from wealthy nations. Further, nations such as China and India prioritize increasing the standard of living of their people to meeting U.N. targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. China’s emissions are growing so fast that any emissions reduction by developed countries is more than made up by its growth in emissions.