As COP28 enters its second and final week, the hard work of determining what the participating nations are going to do about fossil fuels begins. The comments of COP President Sultan Al Jaber questioning the science correlating fossil fuels to global warming along with the presence of more than 2400 fossil fuel lobbyists at the meeting continue to create a fractious environment.
“The whole COP has been a conflict of interest,” said Isabel Rutkowski from Germany, part of the European Youth Forum. “It’s frustrating because the science is pretty clear, and you have a president for COP who is not following science. It’s crazy.”
There are several options on how to handle the fossil fuel issue in the latest draft of the negotiating document, including a phase-out of fossil fuels, a phase-down, or leaving fossil fuels out of the final language altogether.
According to CNN, the US, China, and Saudi Arabia want significant changes made to the draft before publication.
Those countries’ negotiators were told to “take a scalpel” and be surgical with the text.
A delegate from the Philippines, which represents the G77 nations — a coalition of developing countries — described the US as taking a “broadsword” to the agreement, with nearly 200 edits or comments, the sources said.
The Guardian summarizes the first seven days of COP28 with discussion of the Loss and Damage fund, the brouhaha over the COP President’s seeming to ignore the science behind climate change, and discussion of the global stocktake.
Guardian’s Fiona Harvey reported:
“On the crucial issue of the phase-out of fossil fuels, language that would commit countries to a phase-out had been retained in the text but the option of that being deleted was not ruled out. Attitudes are reportedly constructive, though observers noted that Saudi Arabia is attempting to introduce references to carbon capture and storage at every opportunity – and even where there should not be an opportunity. The kingdom is also trying to add the word ‘emissions’ after fossil fuels in any reference to their phase-out or phase-down.”
The United States announced plans to accelerate work with other nations on using nuclear fusion for carbon-free energy at COP28 earlier this week at COP28 in Dubai.
“We are edging ever-closer to a fusion-powered reality. And at the same time, yes, significant scientific and engineering challenges exist,” said US Climate Envoy John Kerry. “Careful thought and thoughtful policy is going to be critical to navigate this.”
Although still a ways off, nuclear fusion works by melding together two atoms of hydrogen to create an atom of helium and a significant amount of energy. This energy could be used to power the world without increasing temperatures due to GHG emissions associated with fossil fuels.
But just how feasible is a “fusion-powered reality?” The Nation reports that Nuclear Fusion Isn’t the Silver Bullet We Want It to Be.
“The reality is that fusion energy will not be viable at scale anytime within the next decade, a time frame over which carbon emissions must be reduced by 50% to avoid catastrophic warming of more than 1.5°C,” says climate expert Michael Mann, a professor of earth and environmental science at the University of Pennsylvania. “That task will only be achievable through the scaling up of existing clean energy—renewable sources such as wind and solar—along with energy storage capability and efficiency and conservation measures.”
And what about its radioactive waste? The Nation reports that while plutonium is not a byproduct, tritium is:
… tritium is the radioactive form of hydrogen. Its little isotopes are great at permeating metals and finding ways to escape tight enclosures. Obviously, this will pose a significant problem for those who want to continuously breed tritium in a fusion reactor. It also presents a concern for people worried about radioactivity making its way out of such facilities and into the environment.