You are here:

Cop28 and the US’s Climate Paradox: Surging Fossil Fuel Production Amid Climate Commitments

As the world prepares for what could be the hottest year on record, the United States, despite being a leading voice in climate advocacy, is set to extract unprecedented amounts of oil and gas in 2023. This situation presents a stark contradiction at the Cop28 climate talks, where the urgent need to transition from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources is a central theme.

U.S. Fossil Fuel Production: A Record High

2023 is poised to be a historic year for U.S. fossil fuel production, with federal forecasts predicting a record extraction of 12.9 million barrels of crude oil daily – more than double the amount produced a decade ago. The rise of liquified natural gas (LNG) exports, facilitated by new terminals along the Gulf of Mexico, is also expected to set records, underscoring the U.S.’s expanding role in the global energy market.

Long-Term Projections and Climate Concerns

Despite these developments, there’s growing unease about the long-term environmental impacts. The U.S. government’s projections suggest that this heightened oil and gas activity could continue until 2050, conflicting with scientific warnings about the urgent need to reduce planet-heating emissions. A significant portion of the global oil and gas expansion in the coming decades is expected to occur in the U.S., raising critical questions about the country’s commitment to mitigating climate change.

The Role of Cop28: A Call for Fossil Fuel Phase-Out

At the heart of the Cop28 summit is a concerted effort, led by the European Union and other nations, to phase out fossil fuels. This initiative is backed by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who has repeatedly called for an end to fossil fuel production, labeling it the primary contributor to the climate crisis. The summit presents an opportunity for world leaders to align their energy policies with the global need for sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.

The Biden Administration’s Climate Initiatives and Contradictions

Under President Joe Biden, the U.S. has taken notable steps to combat climate change. The Inflation Reduction Act has catalyzed substantial investments in renewable energy sectors, such as solar and wind power, and has significantly boosted electric vehicle sales. Moreover, the Biden administration has implemented stringent pollution controls aimed at curbing emissions from cars, trucks, and power plants. However, the expansion of domestic oil and gas drilling raises questions about the consistency of these climate efforts with the escalating threat of global temperature increases.

Challenges in Leading Fossil Fuel Phaseout at Cop28

The U.S.’s growing role as a major oil and gas producer complicates its position in leading the global effort to phase out fossil fuels. Critics point to a discrepancy between the U.S.’s domestic energy policies and its international climate commitments, suggesting a lack of moral authority to advocate for global fossil fuel reduction. This tension highlights the challenges faced by nations in balancing national interests with global environmental responsibilities.

Domestic and International Implications

The surge in U.S. fossil fuel production has far-reaching implications, both domestically and internationally. On the home front, there are concerns about the impact on local communities, particularly those already disadvantaged or disproportionately affected by environmental pollution. Globally, the U.S.’s stance complicates negotiations at Cop28, particularly when advocating for agreements that include carbon capture technologies as part of the fossil fuel phase-out.

Balancing Fossil Fuel Dependence and Climate Goals

At Cop28, the U.S. delegation faces the daunting task of reconciling the current reliance on fossil fuels with aspirations for a cleaner, emission-free future. This challenge underscores the inherent difficulties in transitioning from established, fossil fuel-dependent energy systems to greener alternatives, particularly within a limited timeframe.

Global Perspective and Industry Response

From a global perspective, moving away from fossil fuels remains an elusive goal in international climate discussions. Major oil and gas producers continue to plan significant expansions, and the industry, as represented by statements from its leaders, does not view Cop28 as a direct threat to their operations. Instead, there’s a growing focus on reducing emissions rather than outright ceasing fossil fuel extraction.

Conclusion:

As the U.S. approaches Cop28, it grapples with the complexities of aligning its increasing fossil fuel production with its climate change commitments. While significant progress has been made in developing renewable energy sources, the deeply entrenched fossil fuel industry and the political landscape pose formidable obstacles to a swift transition. The discussions at Cop28 will be crucial in defining the pathway towards reconciling these conflicting dynamics, setting the stage for future action against the backdrop of global energy and environmental challenges.

Feel free to contact the Energy Transition Centre today with questions. 

·  Julius Moerder, Head of Energy Transition Centre julius.moerder@centurionlg.com

·  Oneyka Ojogbo, Head of Energy Transition Centre, Nigeria & West Africa oneyka.ojogbo@centurionlg.com

·  Leon van Der Merwe, Head of Energy Transition Centre, South Africa leon.vdmerwe@centurionlg.com

Author: Memoona Tawfiq