The Fallacy of Phasing Out Fossil Fuels?

“End fossil fuel: Fast, Fair and Forever”! Young generations –their future is at stake—were protesting in the COP 28. One major issue was whether there should be a “phase-out [abated] fossil fuels” language in the final agreement. There emerged several groups of interests against phasing out fossil fuel:

First, the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), holding the Presidency of COP28 is an oil-dependent economy; it would be naïve to rely on the UAE to push the agenda to phase out fossil fuel to against its own interests. Second, not only OPEC economies, small countries such as South Sudan and Bahrain derive more than 70% of their revenue from petroleum. All of them are against ending fossil fuel. Third, the most vulnerable states and the least developed states, indeed, want more financial support rather than phasing out fossil fuels. The clear language of financial contribution from developed states means more than phasing out fossil fuels.

Here, I also would like to share the viewpoints of a government official from an oil-dependent state. It does not mean that I agree with what he shared with me. On my last way, when I was waiting for the scheduled closing ceremony, I was told that the closing ceremony would not happen accordingly since the negotiations had not come into fruit. As I sadly sat in the room, I saw another person was also waiting there. I told him that the closing ceremony would not happen that day and he could leave. Then we talked more, we talked for more than two hours. He was a government official from an oil-depend country and shared with me his thoughts about phasing-out fossil fuels:

First, fossil fuels are closely related to economic growth and human progress. As long as there is human demand, we need fossil fuels, not to mention that there is an increase in human demand. One solution would be that: we people go back to 100 years earlier. However, people are not willing to go back. Second, regarding to renewable energy, not every country has that capacity or resources to produce renewable energy. For instance, his country does not have capacity to produce EVs. Third, even if the oil-dependent states have the capacity to renewable energy, what’s the future of their economic growth if they don’t sell oil? What can they sell? Will developed states consistently provide financial support to these oil-depend country? Here, oil industry is an important economic tool.

Ending fossil fuels needs to be linked with green tech transfer as well as financial support. Indeed, anticipating the backlash from oil-dependent economies, in advance of the COP 28, the United States and China in the Sunnylands Statement emphasized the role of tripling renewable energy capacity rather than phasing out fossil fuels, as a practical way to accelerate the substitution for coal, oil and gas generation.

Undoubtedly, the COP 28 achieved significant progress: it is the first time to call states to “transition away” from fossil-fuels. Similar debates in phasing out fossil fuels can still happen in the COP 29 in Azerbaijan, another oil-dependent economy. Young generations—and their future—cannot wait for the hesitation.

1 Comment

  1. Energy

    I appreciate the in-depth analysis of the current state of nuclear energy in this blog. It’s crucial to understand its role in the energy landscape.

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