The COP28 climate confab in Dubai didn’t end with white smoke on Wednesday, but Biden climate envoy John Kerry is nonetheless singing hallelujah after nearly 200 countries agreed to “transition” from fossil fuels. The point of the deal is to preserve the West’s illusion that its climate policies are accomplishing something.
The deal they agreed to has all the force and idealism of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact that outlawed war. The deal calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade.”
This “just transition” isn’t defined and isn’t binding on governments. It won’t stop China from building more coal plants or the United Arab Emirates from drilling more oil. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries projects that oil demand will grow 10.6% between 2022 and 2028, and nothing in the agreement is likely to change that forecast.
The deal calls for a tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030, but countries will still need fossil fuels to back up solar and wind. Renewables generate only about 20% to 40% of their stated capacity compared to 80% to 90% for fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants. That means a tripling of renewable energy capacity will result in a much smaller increase in actual power generation.
This explains why, as we noted last week, China is building massive coal plants even as it boasts about its growth in solar and wind. China is expected to add 95 to 120 gigawatts of solar power capacity this year—about as much coal power as it approved last year. But coal plants will produce power (and CO2 emissions) around the clock while solar farms won’t.
Nonetheless, the U.N. press release says the agreement signals the “beginning of the end” of the fossil-fuel era. That’s what Biden officials and European leaders will tell voters to justify their policies that raise the cost of energy and reduce consumer choice. They want their citizens to believe that they aren’t alone in banishing fossil fuels, even though they are.
The climate lobby’s plan was to use global agreements to browbeat democracies into committing to a net-zero transition before voters caught onto the costs and lifestyle impacts. The plan failed. Europeans are revolting against climate policies as fuel and electricity prices soar, causing Europe and the United Kingdom to backtrack on their gas-powered car bans.
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Appeared in the December 14, 2023, print edition as ‘The Phony Climate Promises of COP28’.