COP28 Update: Transitioning from Fossil Fuels to Renewables

Delegates at COP28 in Dubai are discussing concrete strategies to mitigate impacts of rapid climate change.

by Faruk Imamovic
COP28 Update: Transitioning from Fossil Fuels to Renewables
© Getty Images News/Sean Gallup

Delegates at COP28 in Dubai are discussing concrete strategies to mitigate the impacts of rapid climate change. The primary focus is on reducing the consumption of fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – which account for over three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions.

This reduction is crucial in limiting the global temperature increase, aligning with the goals set during the Paris Agreement in 2015: to keep warming "well below" 2°C and to "pursue efforts" to limit it to 1.5°C.

Encouragingly, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global demand for coal, oil, and gas is expected to peak before 2030. However, this alone is insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement targets. Alongside reducing fossil fuel usage, there's a growing shift towards renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

These alternatives are becoming more viable and widespread, with solar generation quintupling and wind generation more than doubling since 2015. By 2030, renewables like wind and solar are projected to supply over a third of all electricity, a significant increase from the current 12%.

Electrifying Transport and Addressing Methane Emissions

Another key area of focus is transforming the transportation sector. Road transport contributes about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through the burning of petrol and diesel.

Electric vehicles (EVs) present a promising solution, with the potential to significantly reduce emissions. In regions like Europe and the United States, battery EVs can cut emissions by around two-thirds over their lifetime compared to petrol equivalents.

While EVs are not entirely emission-free, as they still rely on electricity that may be generated from fossil fuels, their overall impact is considerably less harmful to the planet. Methane emissions, responsible for around 30% of current global warming, are also under scrutiny.

Although less abundant than carbon dioxide, methane is about 80 times more potent as a warming gas over a 20-year period. However, it remains in the atmosphere for a relatively short time - around 10 years, compared to centuries for CO2.

Thus, effectively tackling methane emissions could have a rapid and significant impact on global warming. To limit warming to 1.5°C, capturing carbon dioxide emissions from the source or directly from the atmosphere is increasingly seen as necessary.

This is particularly true given the limited time remaining to achieve the 1.5°C goal and the challenges in decarbonizing sectors like agriculture and aviation. Carbon capture can occur through natural processes, with land and oceans already absorbing over half of CO2 emissions.

However, enhancing these processes or developing artificial methods of carbon capture will be crucial in reducing the overall concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.