The headline from the U.N. COP 28 Press Release says it all: COP28 Agreement Signals “Beginning of the End” of the Fossil Fuel Era. Before we start winding down the coal mines and shuttering the power plants, you may want to evaluate what the signatories agreed to and what they did not sign onto. They agreed to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050.” They did not sign onto a “phase-out” of fossil fuels.
The irony of the setting and the two weeks of rhetoric were entertaining. The meeting took place in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and the meeting was led by Sultan Al Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. Yet, climate extremists still thought they would accomplish something significant.
The quotes were right on cue. John Kerry, the U.S. Climate Envoy, said, “there shouldn’t be any more coal fired power plants permitted anywhere in the world.” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guiterres kicked off the meeting saying “1.5°C is only achievable if we stop burning fossil fuels.” The 1.5°C reference is climate speak for trying to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. For those that understand energy demand and production, the overwhelming majority of which comes from oil, natural gas and coal, 1.5°C is a stretch goal that cannot be achieved currently without wrecking the world economy.
The COP28 President delivered a dose of reality. “I’m not signing up for anything that is any way alarmist. There is no science that says the phase-out of fossil fuels will achieve 1.5°C,” Sultan Al Jaber said. “Show me a road map for the phase-out that will allow sustainable socio-economic development… unless you want to take the world back into caves.” That is not what the climate crowd wanted to hear.
Sultan Al Jaber eventually compromised and agreed to the text that called for a transition to “cleaner energy,” but he did not compromise on the phase-out of fossil fuels. The agreement that the 190 countries signed on December 13, 2023, is not well-defined, has no timelines and is not binding. The agreement, however, allows Kerry, Al Gore and other climate activists to pursue policies that they believe will lower CO2 emissions.
Two days later the International Energy Agency published Coal 2023. It documents that a record amount of coal will be mined in 2023, more than 8.5 billion metric tons (mt), a 1.4% increase over 2022. It also says that China, India, and Indonesia now account for more than 70% of the world’s coal production. In World News (see p. 9), Coal Age reports that China produced 390 million mt of coal in September alone. In two months, China will mine and burn more coal than the USA will produce in a year. The End of an Era is hardly at hand. Enjoy this edition of Coal Age.