Cookies help us run our site more efficiently.

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information or to customize your cookie preferences.

Climate Change Made Storm That Devastated Libya Far More Likely and Intense, Scientists Say

News Feed
Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Scientists say climate change made the devastating storm along the Libyan coast up to 50 times more likely and 50% more intense

Scientists say climate change made the devastating storm along the Libyan coast up to 50 times more likely and 50% more intense

Scientists say climate change made the devastating storm along the Libyan coast up to 50 times more likely and 50% more intense
Read the full story here.
Photos courtesy of

‘Phaseout’ or ‘phasedown’? Why UN climate negotiators obsess over language

Expect heated debates over single words — and even commas — at COP28.

In recent years, environmental activists have lambasted annual United Nations climate conferences for producing “empty words” and “hollow promises” instead of concrete actions to slow global warming. Many of those critics argue that follow-through — actually implementing commitments made so far — matters more than showing up for more “blah blah blah,” as Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg famously described world leaders’ climate pledges. But to negotiators at these U.N. summits, words matter quite a bit. In 2007, negotiators at COP13 in Bali famously debated a single comma late into the night. In 2015, the United States’ objection to the word “shall” nearly derailed the Paris Agreement, a landmark climate treaty in which countries agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s because minor language tweaks can add up to major policy implications by either strengthening or weakening countries’ obligations. Some words, like “shall,” even carry special legal status, compelling countries to follow through on their pledges. Former negotiators gave Grist an overview of how and when language matters — or sometimes doesn’t — during climate negotiations.  At climate conferences, countries often use certain words to soften language on tricky topics, such as financing for damages caused by climate change, to reach agreement. “The issue is that we have to reach a consensus,” said Ian Fry, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and climate change and a former negotiator for Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands. That means all 198 countries need to agree on the annual U.N. climate conference’s final decision — a document that describes the actions countries will take to address climate change. “Usually there are specific words that are used as some sort of compromise to gain the consensus required.” Fry calls these phrases “slippery words.” One example is “as appropriate” or “if appropriate,” he said. If, say, a decision called for wealthy countries to provide climate adaptation funding to developing countries, rich nations might push to tack on “as appropriate” at the end — a qualifier that Fry says gives donor countries much more discretion and agency. “It turns a general obligation into one that’s determined by the party who’s providing the funds,” he said.  Another example is the word “consider.” Rather than committing to an action, countries might choose to say they will “consider” a given measure, Fry said. He describes this “slippery word” as a kind of delay mechanism — deciding to “consider” something, rather than deciding something outright, means “there’s no conclusion on this issue and we’ll think about it further.” Viewed in a positive light, minute language tweaks are a creative way to reach a deal among countries with vastly different priorities. Susan Biniaz, who has served as a lead U.S. climate negotiator for more than three decades, wrote in 2016 that while countries sometimes need to compromise on major issues, “Lesser known are the smaller, largely language-based tools negotiators have used to resolve differences, sometimes finding a solution as subtle as a shift in the placement of a comma.” Biniaz cataloged nearly 30 pages of real-life examples of these “language-based tools,” including adding footnotes, using the passive voice (for example, writing “support shall be provided” rather specifying where that support will come from), and using certain verbs to avoid creating legal commitments.  Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with delegates at COP21 in Le Bourget, north of Paris, in December 2015. Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images Under international law, some verbs are “legally binding,” meaning parties are strictly obligated to follow through on those commitments. Most verbs used in U.N. climate talks, like “will” and “should,” are not legally binding — but a few, like “shall,” are. In 2015, one of the final drafts of the Paris Agreement stated that wealthy countries like the U.S. “shall” set economy-wide targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. That could have forced the U.S. to send the treaty back to a Republican-majority Senate for approval, causing negotiators to scramble to change it to a “should” at the last minute. “When I looked at that, I said, ‘We cannot do this and we will not do this,’” then-Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at the time. The U.S. delegation claimed that “shall” had been mistakenly swapped in at the last minute; Paris convention leaders eventually categorized it as a typo.  “These are the games that are played by countries to minimize their obligations,” Fry said of the incident in Paris, where he represented the delegation of Tuvalu.  At other times, word choice doesn’t mean much at all, said Kaveh Guilanpour, a former climate negotiator for the European Union, United Kingdom, and the Alliance of Small Island States. Among verbs that are not legally binding, there’s little difference in how politically meaningful they are. For example, an agreement might “urge” countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — or “encourage,” “request,” or “invite.” Unlike “shall,” none of these words strictly commit countries to take action. They might even be randomly chosen — during negotiations, “Words are plucked out at the last moment just to find the way forward,” Guilanpour said. What’s far more important is the substance of the decision itself, he said. In 2021 at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, for example, world leaders explicitly referenced fossil fuels — the primary cause of climate change — for the first time. Diplomats agreed to pursue a “phasedown of unabated coal power” and a “phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” in the final decision of that conference. Last year at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, diplomats largely repeated the same commitment. That’s a big deal, Guilanpour said. The 2015 Paris Agreement, for example, doesn’t mention “fossil fuels,” “coal,” “oil,” or “gas” at all. Guilanpour said it’s a sign that climate negotiations are gradually beginning to target specific sectors like the oil and gas industry. Those signals, he said, make it clear “to the world and to certain markets that this transition is happening” — and that businesses need to prepare.  Fry noted that a similar cascading effect happened after COP25 in Madrid, where leaders formally connected climate change to ocean conservation for the first time. “That has driven a whole lot of work by various U.N. agencies, NGOs, etc., to develop work around the connection between oceans and climate change,” he said. Delegates from Timor-Leste listen to speeches at the COP27 in November 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Peter Dejong / AP Photo COP28 in Dubai, which begins this week, will likely continue highlighting the need to move away from fossil fuels. But as in the last two years, diplomats could end up wrangling over which words they should use to describe that transition. At COP26 and COP27, small island nations called for a “phaseout” of coal, which refers to a complete displacement of coal with renewables. But oil-exporting countries like Saudi Arabia and coal-reliant economies like India successfully pushed for a “phasedown” instead, which would significantly reduce coal use but stop short of eliminating it entirely. Some countries also tried to limit the use of all fossil fuels, not just coal — a debate that will likely arise again at this year’s negotiations. Fry said the subtle change to “phasedown” rather than a “phaseout” ultimately weakened countries’ climate commitments. “There’s quite a significant difference between saying fossil fuels are going to end and saying fossil fuels will continue into the future,” he said. “It sends a weakened signal to businesses and other countries.” A group of 21 countries called the High Ambition Coalition have advocated for a “phaseout of fossil fuels” in a statement ahead of this week’s conference. Another point of contention is the word “unabated.” Wealthy nations including the U.S. and the European Union have called for a “phaseout of unabated fossil fuels.” The High Ambition Coalition, which includes Barbados, Finland, and the Marshall Islands, has said that wording would leave the door open for “abated” coal, oil, and gas projects — those that use carbon capture technology. Those countries have argued that “abatement technologies” cannot be used to “green-light fossil fuel expansion.” In September, the International Energy Agency characterized carbon capture as “expensive and unproven at scale.”  A U.S. State Department official told reporters in November that whether it’s “phasedown,” “phaseout,” or different wording altogether, this year’s decision will likely include some reference to the transition away from fossil fuels. Guilanpour added that regardless of what negotiators settle on in Dubai, it’s what happens after everyone goes home — and begins the work of actually implementing those commitments — that counts.  “It isn’t just about the nuances of the language, but also following through,” he said. This story was originally published by Grist with the headline ‘Phaseout’ or ‘phasedown’? Why UN climate negotiators obsess over language on Nov 30, 2023.

We have to balance outrage with optimism, says UN’s former climate chief

Speaking in the lead up to Cop28 in Dubai, Christiana Figueres said she has lost faith in oil companiesPeople must balance outrage and optimism after a “hellish summer” of extreme weather, the UN’s former climate chief has urged at the start of the Cop28 climate summit.“We have to keep the outrage really high because we are so darn late,” said Christiana Figueres, a veteran negotiator hailed as the architect of the Paris climate agreement. She pointed to the weak policies that governments have set in order to cut planet-heating pollution and the $7tn with which they directly and indirectly subsidise fossil fuels. Continue reading...

People must balance outrage and optimism after a “hellish summer” of extreme weather, the UN’s former climate chief has urged at the start of the Cop28 climate summit.“We have to keep the outrage really high because we are so darn late,” said Christiana Figueres, a veteran negotiator hailed as the architect of the Paris climate agreement. She pointed to the weak policies that governments have set in order to cut planet-heating pollution and the $7tn with which they directly and indirectly subsidise fossil fuels.But there were reasons for optimism that could stop people falling into “a dark rabbit hole”, she added. “I do make a conscious choice every morning to say ‘yes, I know what all the bad news is’ – that’s easy to get because that just screams at you from whatever news feed you have – but also, what is positive that is going out there? What are the disruptive pieces that are real, strong evidence of the fact that this is changing?”Speaking to a small group of reporters on Monday, Figueres highlighted the plummeting cost of renewable energy and the growth of electric cars as two areas where positive changes were happening faster and faster.But we are getting “horribly close” to tipping points, even if they have not become our destiny, she added.Figueres, a Costa Rican diplomat who started working on the climate in the mid-1990s, said she felt moments of hopelessness, helplessness and depression every day but “it is not my dominant feeling and certainly not my dominant energy”.“The moment that we give up and say ‘OK, we’re doomed, we’re going above 1.5C, I’m just going to crawl into my little cubbyhole and pull my blankets over my sheets’ – then we have a self-fulfilling prophecy, for sure,” she said. “Our responsibility here is to understand the threat and do everything within our power to avoid it.”She made the comments as world leaders head to Dubai for the 28th UN climate summit. At a summit in Paris in 2015, when Figueres was the head of the UN body that oversaw the conference, governments signed a legally binding treaty to stop the planet heating 2C above pre-industrial temperatures by the end of the century, and ideally 1.5C. But in the eight years since, world leaders have continued to push policies that will clog the atmosphere with more carbon than many people and ecosystems can handle.Sultan Al Jaber, who is the Cop28 president, is chief executive of the UAE’s state-owned Adnoc oil company. Photograph: Peter Dejong/APThis year’s summit is hosted by the United Arab Emirates, a major oil and gas producer. The Cop28 president, Sultan Al Jaber, is the boss of the UAE’s national oil company, Adnoc, which plans to expand production of fossil fuels. Al Jaber and his supporters have argued that the industry is an important partner that deserves a seat at the table.Figueres said that for many years she championed a similar attitude because fossil fuel companies have some of the deepest pockets and most skilled engineers. But her faith in them has waned since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the spike in energy prices that followed. Major oil and gas companies that marketed themselves as part of the solution to climate change have used windfall profits to further enrich shareholders while cutting their spending on renewable energy.“That is unforgivable,” Figueres said. “I did lose, sadly, my hope with oil and gas companies because of the evidence that came forward over the past 12 to 24 months. Would we be in a much better position if they decided to invest their unparalleled engineering skill and their deep wallets to the solution space? Absolutely. Are they doing that? No.”On Monday the BBC revealed that the UAE had planned to use its role as the host nation to strike oil and gas deals during the conference, a claim the country has denied. In a post on X, Figueres said the Cop28 presidency had been “caught red-handed” and called for more transparency and accountability.Climate activists have criticised previous conferences because the deals struck have been far removed from what scientists have shown is needed to stop the climate from changing. It took 25 summits before governments were willing to name a fossil fuel in their concluding statement.skip past newsletter promotionThe planet's most important stories. Get all the week's environment news - the good, the bad and the essentialPrivacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy. We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.after newsletter promotionFigueres said there was a danger of people expecting results from the process that it had not been designed to deliver.“The Cop was designed, and I say this because I was there and contributed to the design, the Cop was designed to deliver multilateral agreements of all national governments coming together. To put guardrails, if you will, or to write a global business plan or whatever equivalency you want to use for the decarbonisation of the economy.”From left: Christiana Figueres, Ban Ki-moon, Laurent Fabius and Francoise Hollande celebrate the Paris agreement in 2015. Photograph: François Mori/APThat task had been “substantially finished”, she said, though many important issues concerning money remain. But in terms of cutting emissions, “it is now time to move that on to national-scale efforts and corporate efforts. That is where action needs to take place.”Figueres also defended the Cop process and the Paris agreement for not punishing governments that do not comply with their promises to stop the planet heating. “Let’s just remember that we don’t have such a thing as an environmental police in the world,” she said.When Canada failed to comply with the Kyoto protocol – an earlier treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions that included fines for failure – Figueres received “a little note” from the then prime minister saying he was taking his country out of the treaty. “There’s no point in having punitive measures in an international legal system that respects the sovereignty of all governments,” she said. “That will never change.”She added: “What leads to further action, frankly, is the realisation that it is in enlightened self-interest to do the right thing. That is what led to the Paris agreement: when all countries realised, who’s going to win from a dead planet? No one wins from a dead planet.”

A Look at What to Expect as Latest UN Climate Talks Get Under Way in Oil-Rich UAE

The Middle East plays host to its second straight U.N. climate conference over the next two weeks, with countries hoping to agree on new ways to keep the planet from catastrophic heating by the end of the century

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Middle East plays host to its second straight U.N. climate conference over the next two weeks, with countries hoping to agree on new ways to keep the planet from heating too much by the end of the century. Distractions abound, most notably war between Israel and Hamas.Dubai in the United Arab Emirates will welcome thousands of attendees for the 28th “Conference of the Parties” of the U.N. climate conference from Thursday until Dec. 12, amid lingering doubt about how far the oil-rich country will go to help end a climate crisis driven largely by fossil fuel use.Here’s a look at the backdrop, stakes and challenges ahead at COP28.WHAT'S HAPPENED SINCE THE LAST ONE“Practically the whole world is experiencing heat waves,” said Petteri Taalas, the head of the U.N. weather agency, earlier this month.Signs are growing that the world – especially developing countries – is increasingly ill-prepared: This year’s monsoon season in India caused nearly $1.5 billion in property damage. Tropical storm Daniel in September caused deadly floods in Libya. Last month, Hurricane Otis pummeled Mexico, raising fears that the government would spend more money to rebuild than to help people cope.Even if bouts of extreme cold return – like one currently in northern Europe – the overall trend lines point to growing average global temperatures.WHAT ARE THE STAKES OF THIS COPFew experts and policymakers expect a big breakthrough this year.The Paris climate accord of 2015 set a target to cap the rise of global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial era – and the world is so far falling far short.Many experts say to meet that target, production of carbon in the atmosphere must peak next year and drop by nearly half by 2030.Western countries are among those promoting ambitions to triple capacity for renewable energies and double energy efficiency by that year. Advocacy groups say that’s trimming around the edges and avoiding the main issue: Reducing the burning of coal, oil and gas.One debate will be about “down” or “out”: Whether countries agree to phase down use of fossil fuels, as some wish, or phase them out entirely – a lofty goal of climate campaigners that’s unlikely to get serious consideration in the Gulf country.Global warming has vast implications: It can upend local economies, worsen weather patterns, drive people to migrate, and cause havoc for Indigenous peoples who want to retain their traditional cultures, among many other impacts.Another challenge in Dubai will be to drum up funds for poorer nations to prepare for, respond to, and cope with climate-related catastrophes. Last year, the creation of a “ loss and damage fund ” was a big achievement — but finding out how to fill it has been tricky.King Charles join Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. climate czar John Kerry, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at what organizers say is the largest COP ever. Pope Francis had planned to attend but canceled on doctor's orders as he recovers from respiratory issues. Sultan al-Jaber, the head of the Abu Dhabi national oil company who is presiding over COP28, will be scrutinized over his country’s clear interest in oil and its calls for renewable-energy transition. Many want to know if oil-rich Gulf states will pony up more money to help developing countries adapt to climate change and switch to greener technologies.Governments from developing nations want help to battle the fallout from warming that hits them especially hard and has arisen through no or little fault of their own.Rich-world countries will try to score political points in the global community in an increasingly polarized world, whether by providing handouts or sharing know-how from their economic engines to needy nations – without forgetting their constituencies back home.Climate campaigners want to hold those wealthy-nation decision-makers to account for any lofty but unfulfilled past pledges they made -- and press for greater ambitions to change the way we live from Tokyo to Tegucigalpa to Timbuktu.Hopes at every COP run head-on into reality. Like last year, when Russia's war in Ukraine weighed in the background of efforts to fight climate change, this year many eyes are elsewhere in the Middle East — on Israel's military campaign in Gaza after the devastating Hamas attack in Israel last month. One challenge will be reviving attention on climate matters, which often fade after heat waves subside.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in recent days traveled to Antarctica to highlight concerns about melting ice. Many companies lean into COP28: U.S. agribusiness company Cargill, for example, announced this week an “accelerated commitment” to end deforestation — critics said it hadn't done enough — in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.Developing countries want to benefit from the luxuries that the rich world has long enjoyed — often by churning out huge amounts of carbon. Purchases of gas-guzzling SUVs and bigger cars are growing across the globe, even as electric vehicles make greater inroads.Inflationary pressures that have driven up the cost of living in recent months have made purchases of cleaner — often costlier — technologies less attractive, and many consumers have demanded lower gasoline prices. Many countries continue to subsidize fuel costs to limit the pinch on pocketbooks. Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Supreme Court Conservatives Appear Hostile To Securities And Exchange Commission's Powers

During oral arguments in SEC v. Jarkesy, the conservative majority seemed open to an argument that the agency had overstepped its enforcement authority.

During oral arguments on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court’s six conservative justices questioned the constitutionality of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to take enforcement actions outside of the court system in a case that could have sweeping consequences for the power of federal agencies to enforce the law.In SEC v. Jarkesy, the financial regulatory agency had charged conservative radio host George Jarkesy Jr. with securities fraud for allegedly misrepresenting and inflating the assets in two investment funds he ran. After an internal judicial proceeding, the SEC found Jarkesy guilty and fined him $300,000 in 2013. In response, Jarkesy brought suit against the agency, challenging not only the fine but also the SEC’s right to even conduct an administrative judicial process in the first place.Jarkesy raised three arguments against the SEC’s case against him. First, he said that it was an unconstitutional delegation of power for Congress to allow federal agencies to conduct administrative proceedings. Second, he alleged that those proceedings violated his 7th Amendment right to a trial by jury. And, third, he argued that the administrative law judges, who oversee such proceedings, are unconstitutionally protected from removal by the president.Two conservative judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed with Jarkesy’s arguments in 2022, ruling that Congress “unconstitutionally” provided the SEC with the power to choose whether to bring proceedings inside the agency or in federal courts. But by deeming it unconstitutional for Congress to give the agencies broad discretion in how they act under the law, this ruling threatened to upend huge swaths of federal agency rule-making and enforcement. Agencies including the Federal Trade Commission, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Environmental Protection Agency make routine use of administrative adjudications to enforce laws passed by Congress. A decision finding this delegation of authority unconstitutional could upend the enforcement of countless laws on the books.During arguments before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the court’s six conservative justices appeared hostile to the SEC and favorable to Jarkesy’s arguments ― or at least some of them ― but not necessarily on board with the sweeping conclusions of the 5th Circuit.The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in SEC v. Jarkesy, a case that could limit the ability of financial regulatory agencies to impose fines.MANDEL NGAN via Getty ImagesDuring Wednesday’s arguments, the justices largely homed in on Jarkesy’s claim that the SEC’s ability to choose to prosecute him in an administrative proceeding violated his 7th Amendment right to a jury trial.In questioning Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher, arguing on behalf of the SEC, the conservative justices asked whether the government could take away a person’s 7th Amendment rights just by passing a law to create an administrative adjudication process.“It does seem to me to be curious… that you have that right until the government decides you don’t have it,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “That doesn’t seem to me to be the way it should work.”The justices also pressed Fletcher on the limits of what laws Congress could pass to move enforcement from the courts and toward federal agency administrative proceedings. Roberts asked about a hypothetical law giving the executive branch authority to oversee all federal highways and conduct enforcement actions for all traffic on them. Justice Neil Gorsuch proposed a hypothetical sedition law that gave a federal agency the power to prosecute citizens for anti-government speech within that agency.Fletcher, for his part, argued that the court had already provided agencies with broad discretion on enforcement through administrative proceedings in a series of precedents, the most prominent being 1977’s Atlas Roofing v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. In that decision, the court ruled that Congress had the authority to delegate power to agencies to pursue administrative adjudications without infringing on 7th Amendment rights.This argument focused heavily on the distinction between the court’s grant of an agency’s power to act on claims involving public rights (those claimed by the government as covering the public good, like the integrity of securities markets) as opposed to private rights involving private property and liberty.The liberal justices seemed to agree.“It could not have been clearer that what they were saying [in Atlas Roofing] was that the 7th Amendment was no bar to Congress making a decision that certain kinds of claims were best adjudicated in administrative agencies,” Justice Elena Kagan said.“I think we’re pretty close” to agreement, Jarkesy’s lawyer Michael McColloch replied.“If we’re pretty close ― because, I think, that just resolves the whole case!” Kagan replied to laughs in the courtroom. “I mean, that’s the issue. That’s the results.”But McColloch said “that’s where we part ways.” Instead, he argued that the “prophylactic” workplace safety claims central in the Atlas Roofing case could not be brought in a federal court but the fraud claims made by the SEC against his client were substantially similar to the type of charges Jarkesy could face in criminal court. He also added that no one has actually challenged Atlas Roofing in 50 years.Kagan did not seem terribly impressed. “Nobody has had the chutzpah ― to quote my people ― to bring it up since Atlas Roofing!” she said."Nobody has had the chutzpah" to bring the kind of challenge represented in SEC v. Jarkesy, Justice Elena Kagan said during arguments.Boston Globe via Getty ImagesThough the conservative justices appeared amenable to the argument that Jarkesy’s 7th Amendment rights were violated, it was unclear what result they, or even Jarkesy’s lawyer, would reach.In a back-and-forth with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, McColloch seemed to waffle on what outcome he and his client wanted. The 5th Circuit’s ruling had made broad claims that Congress delegated unconstitutional power to agencies of the executive branch, which in turn threatened a range of actions taken across the federal government. But McColloch argued that the result he wanted was limited ― even while asking the court to overturn Atlas Roofing.“We are not arguing for a big change in the law,” McColloch said.McColloch said that the change he sought shouldn’t implicate administrative judgments or rule-makings involving customs, immigration, Social Security and a further variety of agency powers. In response to Sotomayor, he further said that agencies should still be allowed to engage in adjudications so long as they resulted in the offending party giving up ill-gotten gains rather than being fined.This sounded like a request for a ruling far more narrow than the one the 5th Circuit provided. Whether the conservatives on the court, with a long antipathy to the federal administrative state, seek that narrower course remains to be seen.This is just the latest attack on federal administrative agencies launched in the courts by conservatives. Earlier this term, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could gut the enforcement powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and it will hear arguments in another case in January that could gut agency regulatory authority.Support HuffPostThe Stakes Have Never Been HigherAt HuffPost, we believe that everyone needs high-quality journalism, but we understand that not everyone can afford to pay for expensive news subscriptions. That is why we are committed to providing deeply reported, carefully fact-checked news that is freely accessible to everyone.Our News, Politics and Culture teams invest time and care working on hard-hitting investigations and researched analyses, along with quick but robust daily takes. Our Life, Health and Shopping desks provide you with well-researched, expert-vetted information you need to live your best life, while HuffPost Personal, Voices and Opinion center real stories from real people.Help keep news free for everyone by giving us as little as $1. Your contribution will go a long way.At HuffPost, we believe that everyone needs high-quality journalism, but we understand that not everyone can afford to pay for expensive news subscriptions. That is why we are committed to providing deeply reported, carefully fact-checked news that is freely accessible to everyone.Help keep news free for everyone by giving us as little as $1. Your contribution will go a long way.As the 2024 presidential race heats up, the very foundations of our democracy are at stake. A vibrant democracy is impossible without well-informed citizens. This is why HuffPost's journalism is free for everyone, not just those who can afford expensive paywalls.We cannot do this without your help. Support our newsroom by contributing as little as $1 a month.As the 2024 presidential race heats up, the very foundations of our democracy are at stake. At HuffPost, we believe that a vibrant democracy is impossible without well-informed citizens. This is why we keep our journalism free for everyone, even as most other newsrooms have retreated behind expensive paywalls.Our newsroom continues to bring you hard-hitting investigations, well-researched analysis and timely takes on one of the most consequential elections in recent history. Reporting on the current political climate is a responsibility we do not take lightly — and we need your help.Support our newsroom by contributing as little as $1 a month.

COP28: How will Australia navigate domestic climate wins and fossil fuel exports at the negotiating table?

New emissions projections bode well for Australia’s climate efforts – but our fossil fuel exports continue apace. 

As the COP28 climate summit gets underway in the oil production hub of the United Arab Emirates today, Australia’s climate minister Chris Bowen will detail our progress in meeting emissions cut targets and updated projections. The second Annual Climate Change Statement will be tabled in parliament at noon. But we already know some of the detail. Australia is now likely to cut its emissions 42% below 2005 levels by 2030 –very close to the legislated 43% target the government introduced last year. This is likely to give Bowen a spring in his step, when combined with last week’s funding announcement on renewables and storage. From this strengthened platform, he will argue Australia can be trusted to meet its climate goals. Next week Bowen heads to Dubai to lead Australia’s negotiating team. He can expect international pressure to be more ambitious in setting the nation’s 2035 target. This is essential if we are to keep 1.5°C within reach. Scientists consistently say wealthy countries such as Australia should be cutting their emissions by 50 to 75% by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement goals. But Bowen can also expect a different pressure, as efforts to phase down or phase out fossil fuels such as Australia’s gas and coal gather pace. Read more: As disasters and heat intensify, can the world meet the urgency of the moment at the COP28 climate talks? What role will Australia play in COP28 negotiations? At COP28, Australian negotiators are likely to have two broad objectives. The first is to achieve ambitious emissions reductions in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal. The agreement requires countries to make increasingly stringent five year plans – called “nationally determined contributions” – in line with keeping global warming within the range of 1.5–2°C. The second is to ensure positive outcomes for our Pacific neighbours. These objectives are linked, given the existential threat climate change poses to many Pacific island countries if 1.5°C of warming is exceeded. Australia will play a prominent role in negotiations around adapting to climate change, as assistant climate minister Jenny McAllister will co-chair this work. We will also be visible in efforts to lay out the ground rules for the new Loss and Damage fund, a key outcome from last year’s COP27 in Egypt. Negotiators are also hoping for an announcement on Australia’s bid to host a joint Australia-Pacific COP meeting in 2026. This bid has already increased global scrutiny of Australia’s international engagement on climate and its domestic actions. The elephant in the room will be fossil fuels For many nations – especially our Pacific neighbours – the elephant in the room is Australia’s plans to keep expanding fossil fuel production. This overshadows Australia’s credibility on domestic emissions reduction and its commitment to the Pacific. As resources minister Madeleine King spruiked in June, Australia is “one of the world’s largest exporters of liquefied natural gas, as well as the world’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal and second largest exporter of thermal coal”, based on 2021 figures. The federal government continues to approve new and expanded coal mines under the nation’s main environmental laws, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This is despite the contribution to climate change made by the emissions of the coal when burned. Shutterstock In October 2023, the Federal Court ruled environment minister Tanya Plibersek could legally decide on coal mine proposals under the act without considering their potential climate impacts. At COP28, observers expect to see a strong push for the phase-down or total phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, given mounting evidence that planned fossil fuel production would blow the world’s remaining carbon budget several times over. Even the COP28 President – UAE oil company CEO Sultan al-Jaber – has declared the phase-down of fossil fuels is “inevitable” and “essential”. This has been undercut by reports the UAE plans to make oil deals during the climate talks. Read more: COP28: inside the United Arab Emirates, the oil giant hosting 2023 climate change summit Australia’s position on phasing down fossil fuels remains uncertain but there’s an indication of the likely policy direction in Bowen’s recent speech to the Lowy Institute. In this speech, the minister described Australia’s position as a “traditional fossil fuel-based economy in the middle of a major transition” to a low-carbon energy system. On energy exports, he sees Australia transforming from a major fossil fuel producer to a renewable energy superpower. As Bowen noted, our domestic decarbonisation efforts are important, but in global terms they: […] pale in comparison to the emissions reductions achieved if we are able to harness and export our renewable energy to help countries without our abundant renewable resources to decarbonise. How Australia navigates this dilemma will be of great interest to our Pacific neighbours and other international onlookers at COP28. For many, it will be the real litmus test for Australia’s ambition to be a global climate leader. Read more: As disasters and heat intensify, can the world meet the urgency of the moment at the COP28 climate talks? Jacqueline Peel does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Suggested Viewing

Join us to forge
a sustainable future

Our team is always growing.
Become a partner, volunteer, sponsor, or intern today.
Let us know how you would like to get involved!


sign up for our mailing list to stay informed on the latest films and environmental headlines.

Subscribers receive a free day pass for streaming Cinema Verde.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.