The focus was on cutting emissions. Yet five years after the Paris Agreement, according to the World Meteorological Organization, atmospheric CO2 increased by 3.25 percent. Today, according to the International Energy Agency, the world is burning more coal, which produces almost double the amount of CO2 per unit of energy as natural gas, than at any time before in human history. One of the main components of the Paris Agreement was the promise by developed nations to support developing countries to achieve climate goals, but the annual $100 billion allocated was never fully funded and is woefully insufficient.
In the UNFCC’s recent analysis, developing countries require financing of up to $6 trillion by 2030 to meet not even half of their required climate mitigation actions. Even if that annual $100 billion were to be fully funded and fairly distributed, it would create only a small dent in the funding requirements for these countries. To be fair, we have seen some progress toward reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 allocated over $400 billion to incubate clean energy programs such as carbon capture and sequestration, a process by which CO2 is captured from factories and stored permanently underground.
But the cost for the world to transition to clean energy by 2050 is estimated between $130 trillion to $200 trillion. With the world’s largest economy able to allocate only $400 billion, it is unclear how the rest of the costs will be funded. And just last month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walked away from the UK’s ambitious climate goals due to “unacceptable costs” on ordinary people. With COP 28 meeting in our region for the first time since the Paris Agreement, we in Kuwait, as a principal producer of hydrocarbons, have an important chance to help direct the debate. We should frame our argument to satisfy the demands of what is called the Energy Trilemma: Energy must be sustainable, secure and affordable.
So how can COP 28 fulfill those expectations? First, for the energy transition to be smooth, inputs from all producers and environmental groups should be included in COP 28’s outcomes. The COP 28 presidency promised to “mobilize for the most inclusive COP” ever. But the Paris Agreement’s emphasis on immediate phase-out of fossil fuel production ignored that renewables are not yet prevalent enough to power the world’s needs. As Pulitzer-Prize- winning energy historian Dr Daniel Yergin stated: “Today’s $100 trillion world economy depends on hydrocarbons for over 80 percent of its energy, and nothing as massive and complex as the global energy system can be transformed easily.”
Second, this COP must provide justice and equity to the Global South. The energy transition will have a heavy economic impact on the Global South, the world’s developing and usually impoverished countries. The Global South have not contributed vastly to climate change, but they are bearing the disproportionate brunt of the climate destruction caused by the industrialized world’s centuries of fossil fuel consumption. Asking them to commit economic suicide by paying for the North’s pollutive past is asking for a failed energy transition.
Third, the most inclusive COP must also incorporate my generation’s aspirations for a world environment and a world economy that are in harmony. The current generation will leave my generation a world dirtier and more scarred by climate change than ever before. Therefore, we demand action to contain climate change, reduce carbon emissions and ensure continued economic development. Last year, during COP 27 in Egypt, His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah affirmed Kuwait’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality in its oil sector by 2050. Next month, my generation looks to Dubai for news of an agreement on an inclusive and workable climate deal that balances environmental as well as economic sustainability.