Oil and gas industry facing 'moment of truth' on clean energy

Oil and gas industry facing 'moment of truth' on clean energy

The Paris Agreement on climate has led to a number of deals being struck between governments to reduce emissions, but it has been a struggle to turn this into meaningful action.

The oil and gas industry is facing a "moment of truth" in whether it wants to get on board with clean energy as the climate crisis intensifies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

A report from the IEA ahead of the UN-backed Cop28 climate change summit in Dubai said that the fossil fuel industry must once and for all decide if it wants to be part of the solutions or double down on its part in worsening climate change.

The Cop28 event has been the focus of intense criticism before it even begins because of the United Arab Emirates' ties to fossil fuel. 

The UAE's climate envoy and host of Cop28 is Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), the 12th largest oil-producing firm in the world.

Environmental groups have castigated the choice of climate envoy, with Mr al-Jaber's position described as "ridiculous" considering Adnoc’s massive expansion of oil and gas production in the future.

Carbon capture

Mr al-Jaber has touted carbon capture - where carbon dioxide is trapped and stored so that is does not affect the atmosphere - as a major solution to emissions. 

However, an analysis by international non-governmental organisation Global Witness said it would take Adnoc some 343 years to capture all the emissions that the firm will generate in just the next six years alone.

The IEA said in its Oil and Gas Industry in Net Zero Transitions report that fossil fuel companies currently account for just 1% of clean energy investment globally – and 60% of that comes from just four firms.

The oil and gas sector – which provides more than half of global energy supply and employs nearly 12 million workers worldwide – has been a marginal force at best in transitioning to a clean energy system, the report found.

IEA executive director Fatih Birol said: "The oil and gas industry is facing a moment of truth at Cop28 in Dubai. With the world suffering the impacts of a worsening climate crisis, continuing with business as usual is neither socially nor environmentally responsible.

Oil and gas producers around the world need to make profound decisions about their future place in the global energy sector. 

"The industry needs to commit to genuinely helping the world meet its energy needs and climate goals – which means letting go of the illusion that implausibly large amounts of carbon capture are the solution."

The industry’s own emissions need to decline by 60% by 2030 in order to meet the 1.5C warming limit as agreed in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, the IEA said.

According to the Paris Agreement, a 1.5C rise in temperatures was set as the limit for the rise globally compared to 1850-1900, in order to stave off the very worst fallout from climate change.

Meaningful action

The Paris Agreement has led to a number of deals struck between governments across the world at Cop events in the years since to reduce emissions, but a struggle to turn such agreements into meaningful action in the aftermath.

Data show that this year is now "virtually certain" to be the hottest ever after the latest "obliteration" of records, according to the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service earlier this month.

Deputy director of C3S, Samantha Burgess, said the upcoming UN-backed climate change summit in Dubai, Cop28, is now crucial if 1.5C is to be kept alive.


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