Progressive Views: COP 28 Climate Conference Yields Progress

By Kevin Henning
For the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star,
March 17, 2

Grayscale photograph of factory with towers spouting emissions.
Image by Karl Gerber is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Conference of the Parties (COP) is the decision-making body of the worldwide Climate Convention. The purpose of COP is to agree on and implement worldwide actions to subdue Climate Change, the long-term increase in the Earth’s temperature and weather conditions. Most of this shift is caused by increasing carbon dioxide. Failure to control carbon dioxide will be a disaster for our country and planet. All countries that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP. Perhaps the best know COP resulted in the 2015 Paris Agreement taken at COP 21 by 196 countries. The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in March 1995. COP 28 was held with the backdrop of the planet experiencing the hottest year on record.

COP 28 was held in Dubai and was chaired by the head of a national oil company. This created some concern that the conference would be highjacked by fossil fuel interests. Over 2,500 lobbyists were there but–good news for the Earth–reason seemed to prevail. Former Senator and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has been at the forefront of climate policy for three years. He recently retired but his work has been significant. His remarks following the COP meeting sum up the results. “For the first time at a COP, fossil fuels have been on the table as a major part of our negotiations. The decision embraces transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems so as to achieve net-zero by 2050. And the first and easiest thing that countries need to do to make this commitment a reality is to stop building new unabated coal. I am grateful for the efforts of people around the world who helped us reach this outcome.”

The language to “transition away from fossil fuels” was the first time the term appeared in a COP’s final outcome. Significant pressure from fossil fuel interests was countered by key country negotiators who stood their ground. The deal marks the beginning of the end of fossil fuel dominance. In addition to transition language, progress was made in a number of areas, including reduction of methane emissions (which account for about 30% of the Earth’s warming), increasing renewable energy, accelerating a switch to electric vehicles, and promoting carbon capture.  Among island nations, concerned about sea level rise, and other strong environmental groups, the support for carbon capture was controversial but it was a factor in getting broad agreement amongst the parties and lessening the impact of the oil and gas lobby. It is my view that without carbon capture technology we just can’t get to net zero. We will continue to need fossil fuel well into the next century and carbon capture is an essential part of the solution.

The Earth is about 1.1°C warmer than it was 150 years ago, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C, emissions must be net zero by 2050. There are some new and upgraded technologies that might just let us achieve this goal. As a former oil industry worker, I certainly wish that the Earth wasn’t warming largely due to the burning of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, wishing won’t help. Carbon capture technology will allow us to make the transition with less energy turmoil. In addition to wind, geothermal, and solar, I see scope for the new design nuclear power plants to make a difference over the next ten years. Nuclear fusion is in the news and may be a silver bullet longer term. Of course conservation could help a bunch. The United States consumes 16% of world energy, with just 4% of the world’s population, so there is tremendous need for reducing our fossil fuel consumption.

There is lots to do and less than 30 years to do it. COP has set out a path forward but it will be up to each nation to make it happen or the future of the earth could be bleak.

For more information on the activities of the Kendall County Democratic Party, call our office at 830-331-1243 or visit

Kevin Henning is a petroleum engineer and a local Democrat.

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