On December 12th the United Nations’ 28th annual climate conference, COP28, concluded in Dubai. We reached out to the Chair of OSPE’s Climate Crisis Task Force (CCTF), Geoff Sheffrin, P.Eng. with the COP stocktake report.
The global stocktake is a process that all participating countries complete to evaluate how well they are achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.
This was Geoff Sheffrin’s assessment upon reading the report.
Geoff Sheffrin, P.Eng.’s Overview
My feelings about the conference outcome settle in a space somewhere between total hope, and total pessimism.
My hope comes from the fact that officials covered a lot of ground and spoke about many of the right things, listed in the bullet points below. My pessimism comes from the fact that no one is being held accountable for their actions. A prime example of this is companies that promise to pay loss and damages but are never held to the consequence of actually paying up.
While the stocktake Report is not powerful in its commitments there was at least coverage on the following relevant topics:
- Loss and damage
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Moving away from coal
- Clean grids
- Tripling renewables
- Doubling energy efficiency
There has been progress since the COP27, but the change we’re seeing is not enough to reach the climate goals outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The global warming target outlined in 2015 was not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030. We almost exceeded that level this past year with 2023 being the warmest year on record. 2024 may well exceed that target and see it disappear in the rearview mirror.
We’re not seeing effective change because we get in our own way. Over 80,000 delegates (more than ever before), almost 200 countries and well over 2,000 fossil fuel delegates and lobbyists attended the COP28. Not a recipe for success. If you think it’s hard to make a decision with ten people, imagine deciding between over 80,000.
Sheffrin’s Breakdown by Topic
Transition: For the first time, fossil fuel’s future got into the stocktake report, which is a start. We must get off coal.
Oil and gas will never totally disappear because oil has several necessary chemical contributions to make materials like plastic. Though we can’t eliminate their use completely, we can take steps to transition away from oil, gas, and coal. With metrics, commitment, and consequences for non-compliance we can reduce the use of fossil fuels on a global scale.
Loss and Damage: The United States of America (USA) among several other countries indicated that they would put some money on the table. While some commitments are noted they are not binding and there are still many gaps in terms of measurement, commitment, and consequences for inaction.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The stocktake report says that emissions are expected to peak by 2025. Sorry – this is a pipe dream. We continue to pump 37 billion metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.
Methane: The topic of methane took higher precedence in the agenda this year and was acknowledged as being a problem to contain. The approach to reducing methane, again, needs metrics, commitment and consequences for it to work.
Ending Coal Use: Nowhere near enough is being done to eliminate burning coal. The three biggest polluters in terms of coal are India, China, and the USA. Though the USA and India are reducing their emissions, China is building many more new coal plants than any other country. This is the single biggest carbon pollutant we have globally. It must stop urgently.
Water Scarcity: Water scarcity and the need for sustainability were addressed in the COP28. Having consistent water flow supports clean energy like hydroelectric power, which has become a staple in Ontario.
Consistent water flow is also vital to food production around the world.
Clean Energy Grids: Clean and expanded energy grids are essential. I would add cyber-proofing as a requirement for grid systems.
Tripling Renewables: Increasing renewable electricity production is, again, essential. I’m happy that the discussion was on the table, but just like in the other categories for a plan to succeed, it needs metrics, commitment, and teeth. Although tripling renewables got into the report, no one stepped up to contribute which makes all the talking about it useless.
Doubling Energy Efficiency: Increasing energy efficiency is another essential that was discussed in the report, but it needs a plan with metrics, commitment, and teeth to work.
In my “Mother Nature doesn’t give a crap” podcasts, I have on many occasions speculated a global budget of USD 80 trillion. What is interesting is that the report notes that an investment of 3 – 5 trillion dollars a year will be required up to 2050, which altogether adds up to almost exactly my predicted investment of 80 trillion over the next 26 years.
For context, we spent about USD 20 trillion on the pandemic in less than three years, so USD 80 trillion by 2050 is very doable.
OSPE and CCTF Implications
Members of OSPE and its Climate Change Task Force (CCTF) need to:
- Encourage the creation of plans with metrics, commitment, and enforcement.
- Pay attention to any emissions areas that we should try to influence.
- Pay attention to water scarcity. Hydroelectric only works if there’s flowing water.
- Expand a clean, robust, interprovincial, and northbound power grid.
- Continue to support all green power initiatives where it makes sense.
- Engage with Indigenous voices.
- Press for nonpartisan actions on all sustainable fronts.