- Written by Georgina Ranard and Esme Stallard
- Climate correspondents at COP28, Dubai
Countries and oil companies at UN climate talks have pledged to make significant progress in tackling global warming in a major new energy pledge.
About 100 countries have promised to triple the use of renewable energy in the world by 2030.
50 oil and gas companies, including giant Saudi Aramco, have pledged to stop adding greenhouse gases by 2050.
It only covers emissions from production, not the burning of fossil fuels, and critics said it would not meaningfully address climate change.
But countries that pledged to triple renewable energy at the COP28 summit in Dubai said it would help remove fossil fuels from the global energy system by 2050 at the latest.
Backers, including the European Union and COP28 host nation, the United Arab Emirates, want the pledge to be included in the final deal reached at the COP, meaning all of the nearly 200 countries represented here would sign up.
Climate groups cautiously welcomed the promise to boost renewable energy sources, but said promises made by oil and gas companies amounted to “greenwashing”.
“I’m very skeptical,” said Professor Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics and author of several UN reports on climate change.
“The real challenge for the oil and gas sector is to move away from oil and gas production,” he said. “Nothing else really matters in the end.”
More about the COP28 climate summit
Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency told BBC News that the fossil fuel industry must reduce its emissions from production by 2030, 20 years earlier than promised. They represent approx 15% of global emissions – This is before taking into account the gases emitted when using its products to operate vehicles and heat homes.
He said that it “is facing the moment of truth now in Dubai… Will it establish a partnership with the rest of the world… or will it stick to its business plans?”
Addressing the summit on Saturday, COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber said the new pledge “adds more countries and more companies from more sectors than ever before, all in line with the 1.5°C North Star.”
World leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to this extent.
Burning huge amounts of oil, gas and coal is causing climate change, but leaders cannot yet agree on how quickly the world should stop using them.
Jaber described Saturday’s pledge as a “great first step.”
“While many national oil companies have adopted 2050 net zero targets for the first time, I know they and others can and need to do more,” he said. “We need the whole industry to keep 1.5°C within reach and set stronger decarbonisation ambitions.”
The UAE says the decarbonisation pact will accelerate climate action, with oil and gas companies that account for 40% of global emissions promising to become net zero by 2050.
Reaching net zero means stopping adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
However, Carroll Moffitt, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, said the only way to “decarbonize” carbon-dependent oil and gas is to stop producing them “quickly, completely and permanently.”
“Anything less than this is just more greenwashing for the industry.”
The 50 companies, including the UAE’s state oil company, have also pledged to almost completely stop emitting methane gas that can heat the planet during oil and gas production by 2030.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the talks on Saturday that the world must “phase out fossil fuels” in time to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“There is a need to accelerate the pace of clean energy, and we have called for a tripling of renewables,” said Tina Steg, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, one of the country’s most vulnerable islands. “But that is only half the solution.” Climate change.
“This pledge cannot wash over countries that are simultaneously expanding fossil fuel production,” she adds.
The UAE’s presidency of the COP28 talks sparked criticism because the country is among the 10 largest oil and gas producers in the world and summit president Sultan Al Jaber also heads the giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
More world leaders are addressing COP28 which is in its third day.
In a speech read on behalf of Pope Francis – who cannot attend due to illness – he said renewable energy was essential to saving the world as well as “eliminating fossil fuels and educating less dependent lifestyles.”
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