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Countries in Dubai have so far pledged contributions of $700 million to the World Bank-hosted loss and damage fund.

Contributions from developed nations to the Loss and Damage Fund have reached US$700 million as the first week of the UN climate summit in Dubai comes to an end, less than 0.2% of the economic and non-economic losses developing countries face every year from global warming.

On the opening day of COP28 in Dubai, wealthy nations pledged to contribute at least $260 million to the fund, surpassing the minimum threshold of $200 million required to initiate operations.

The United Arab Emirates, COP28’s host, and Germany pledged $100 million, respectively. The UK said it would contribute $50 million, Japan – the world’s third largest economy – pledged $10 million. US climate envoy John Kerry said the Biden administration will provide $17.5 million. Historically, the US is the worst greenhouse gas emitting country. 

Other contributions announced during the first week of the summit include $50 million from Denmark, $27 million each from Ireland and the EU, $25 million from Norway, $12 million from Canada, and $1.5 million from Slovenia.

Despite already marking a significant milestone in supporting vulnerable communities, contributions so far have fallen far short of what developing nations need to tackle climate-related challenges, which is estimated at at least $400 billion per year and expected to grow as the crisis intensifies. Despite contributing the least to global warming, poor nations are the ones bearing the most brunt.

“The fund must operate in an unconventional manner compared to existing funds, tailor itself to the needs of developing countries impacted by loss and damage, and ensure direct support reaching vulnerable countries and communities,” said Manjeet Dhakal, Advisor to the Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group.

“Loss and fund” refers to the economic, social, and cultural losses and damages caused by anthropogenic climate change to natural and human systems, including human-induced extreme weather events and slow onset events such as sea level rise, rising temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial melting, ecosystem degradation, and desertification.

The idea for a Loss and Damage Fund emerged from a years-long fight for climate justice as a response to the recognition that climate change disproportionately impacts marginalised communities and exacerbates existing social and economic inequalities. It was formally approved at COP27 in Egypt last year, though progress has been slow ever since. 

A framework for the operationalisation of the fund agreed last week assures the World Bank as the fund’s host on a four-year interim basis – despite the US pushing to make this permanent. Developing nations initially expressed opposition to the idea of the Bank hosting the Fund due to their lack of confidence in the institution’s significant shift towards promoting climate action.

“With the loss and damage fund established here it may seem like that story is over and countries can pat themselves on the back with a job well done,” said Mohamed Adow, director of the climate and energy think tank Powershift Africa. “However, the bill for loss and damage will only increase if adaptation is not sufficiently funded and emissions are not urgently cut – they are part of the same puzzle being negotiated within the global stocktake discussions.”

As COP28 negotiations enter their second week, all eyes are on wealthy leaders to step up and make bolder pledges.

You might also like: COP28 Week 1: Recap

The analysis conducted by the KBPO coalition highlights that the number of fossil fuel lobbyists attending COP28 is nearly four times higher than the previous year. 

Unprecedented presence of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28 is adding to the controversies surrounding this year’s UN climate talks in Dubai, which are entering their second week.

A new analysis conducted by the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition has revealed a staggering influx of fossil fuel lobbyists at the event. With at least 2,456 representatives from the world’s largest polluters granted access to the talks, concerns are mounting about the undue influence of the fossil fuel industry on crucial climate negotiations.

According to the KBPO coalition, the number of fossil fuel lobbyists attending COP28 is nearly four times higher than the previous year, when approximately 700 industry representatives attended the talks in Egypt.

The analysis revealed that the number of fossil fuel lobbyists granted access to COP28 surpasses the delegation sizes of nearly every country participating in the summit. Only Brazil and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), this year’s host, have brought larger contingents. The number of lobbyists granted entry to the Dubai talks is also over seven times higher than the official representation of indigenous groups, who play a crucial role in addressing climate change impacts and advocating for their communities.

Country delegations themselves have also included representatives from fossil fuel giants, with France, Italy, and the European Union bringing employees from companies like TotalEnergies, EDF, ENI, BP, and ExxonMobil. This suggests that some nations may prioritize their domestic energy interests over ambitious climate goals.

“To share seats with the Big Polluters in climate change conversations is to dine with the devil,” said Ogunlade Olamide Martins, Program Manager at the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA). “This unholy matrimony will only endorse “conflict of interest” and further facilitate the silence of honest agitation. COP’s conclusions must be independent of industries’ parasitic influences and must only address the concerns of the vulnerable masses.” 

You might also like: COP28 Sponsors Failed to Commit to UN-Backed Net-Zero Targets, Analysis Finds

This surge in industry representation coincides with a COP summit where the phase-out of fossil fuels is a central focus. Speaking ahead of the summit, Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 president and head of state oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), claimed that phasing out fossil fuels would not help reach climate change goals. “There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C,” he said.

The KBPO analysis follows another controversy around the COP28 presidency, as leaked documents published last week showed that the UAE, an oil-rich country and among the world’s ten largest oil producers, was planning to use the summit to pitch oil and gas deals.

Featured image: UNclimatechange/Flickr

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Global carbon dioxide emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas are projected to reach 36.8 billion tonnes this year, a historic high despite a substantial decrease in the growth rate over the past decade, a new report has revealed.

Global fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions this year are set to hit a record high of 36.8 billion tonnes, an increase of 1.1% relative to 2022 levels and 1.4% above pre-pandemic levels, preliminary data shows. Paired with emissions deriving from land-use change – such as deforestation – global CO2 emissions will likely reach 40.9 billion tonnes.

According to the Global Carbon Budget 2023, compiled by researchers from more than 90 institutions around the world and published Tuesday by the Global Carbon Project, emissions in 2023 are expected to rise in all fuel types despite declines across 26 countries, which together account for 28% of global emissions. In particular, coal emissions, which account for 41% of global emissions, are projected to rise 1.1%, owing partly to significant rises in countries like India and China and despite the US and the European Union slowly decreasing consumption. The same applies to oil, which represents 32% of global emissions and is projected to rise 1.5% this year. Finally, increases in natural gas emissions in the US, China and India are behind the estimated 0.5% rise in natural gas emissions globally.

Despite the world witnessing progress in recent years, from significant reductions in fossil CO2 emissions in many countries – including the US and Europe – to an overall reduction in their growth rate globally, Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, who led the study, argued that progress remains “painfully slow” and is currently not widespread enough to put the world on the right path to reach net zero emissions.

The paper also reinforces recent findings suggesting that, at current CO2 emissions levels, the remaining carbon budget for a 50% chance to limit global warming to 1.5C could be exceeded in seven years. Carbon budget refers to the net amount of CO2 we have left to emit before we exceed our desired global temperature increases.

“The latest CO2 data shows that current efforts are not profound or widespread enough to put global emissions on a downward trajectory towards Net Zero, but some trends in emissions are beginning to budge, showing climate policies can be effective,” said Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Royal Society Research Professor at UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences.

“All countries need to decarbonise their economies faster than they are at present to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

The paper comes as climate talks intensify at the COP28 summit in Dubai. “It now looks inevitable we will overshoot the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement, and leaders meeting at COP28 will have to agree rapid cuts in fossil fuel emissions even to keep the 2°C target alive,” said Friedlingstein.

You might also like: COP28 Al Jaber Says There Is No Scientific Evidence That Fossil Fuel Phase-Out Is Needed for 1.5C Goal: Reports

It comes just days after leaked documents showed the COP28 presidency’s intentions to use the UN summit to pitch oil and gas deals.

COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber said in an interview last month that claims that a fossil fuel phase-out is needed to limit global warming to 1.5C are not backed by science, deepening controversy around this year’s presidency.

The comments came during an exchange with former Irish president Mary Robinson at a live online event on November 21 and were first reported by The Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR). 

Speaking at the event, Robinson – who is the chair of the Elders group, an international non-governmental organisation of public figures noted as senior statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocate – told Al Jaber that his involvement in the oil industry should give him the “credibility” necessary to push for a fossil fuel phase-out deal at COP28.

“I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist. There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C,” Al Jaber, who is the head of state oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), fired back.  

“Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves,” he added after Robinson suggested Adnoc is set to increase investments in fossil fuels in the coming years.

On Sunday, a COP28 spokesperson questioned about the matter said the story was “just another attempt to undermine the presidency’s agenda, which has been clear and transparent and backed by tangible achievements.”

“[Al Jaber] has repeatedly communicated our position on fossil fuels and invited all parties to work together and come up with solutions that can achieve alignment, common ground and consensus,” the spokesperson said.

Speaking at a climate summit in Germany earlier this year, Al Jaber emphasised the need to phase out fossil fuel emissions, rather than production, by focussing on the development of new emission reduction technologies. 

​​“In a pragmatic, just and well-managed energy transition, we must be laser-focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions, while phasing up viable, affordable zero-carbon alternatives,” he said, adding that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), this year’s COP host, “will encourage smart government regulation to jump-start the hydrogen value chain and make carbon capture commercially viable.”

Al Jaber’s appointment and the decision to host COP28 in the oil-rich UAE have drawn criticism from the beginning. 

In the run-up to COP28, which kicked off in Dubai last week, the UAE issued a third update of its National Determined Contributions (NDCs), setting a target of reducing emissions by 40% by the end of the decade, up 9% from the previous target. The efforts outlined in the new climate plan, however, were hailed “insufficient” by many. In a report issued in July, non-profit Climate Action Tracker (CAT) said CO2 emissions are expected to increase through to 2030 as the country plans to further increase fossil fuel production and consumption, at odds with the urgent decrease needed to curb global warming.

The UAE-backed Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter announced by Al Jaber at COP28 on Saturday has also sparked backlash. 50 top fossil fuel companies – including ExxonMobil and state energy companies Saudi Aramco and Adnoc – pledging to set targets to cut emissions from their own operations, though none pledged to cut production. While the targets are not legally binding, signatories – which together account for about one-third of global oil and gas production – have to submit a plan to meet them by 2025. 

UN-Secretary General António Guterres criticised Al Jaber’s plans, saying they “clearly fall short of what is required.” Former US Vice President and climate advocate Al Gore also voiced criticism, saying the UAE’s position as supervisor of climate talks was an abuse of public trust. “They are abusing the public’s trust by naming the CEO of one of the largest and least responsible oil companies in the world as head of the COP,” he said.

The report comes just days after an investigation by the CCR and the BBC revealed that the COP28 presidency was planning to use meetings with foreign countries to push for oil and gas deals. Despite al Jaber repeatedly denying his involvement, leaked documents show that fossil fuels were among the talking points in meetings between UAE energy company and 15 nations ahead of the summit.

Featured image: COP28. Photo: UNclimatechange/Flickr

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Follow Earth.Org’s COP28 coverage.

Delegates gathering in Dubai on Thursday sealed the agreement on loss and damage, marking a huge step forward on the long-awaited fund set up at last year’s COP27.

Delegates gathering in Dubai for the opening day of COP28 on Thursday approved a framework for a fund to help developing countries deal with the harm caused by global warming, with wealthy nations pledging to contribute at least $260 million, surpassing the minimum threshold of $200 million required to initiate operations.

The United Arab Emirates, COP28’s host, and Germany pledged $100 million, respectively. The UK said it would contribute $50 million, Japan $10 million. Later in the day, the European Union came in with $250 million, including Germany’s share, while US climate envoy John Kerry said the Biden administration will provide $17.5 million. Developed countries have also called on high-emitting nations which are not fully developed, such as China and Saudi Arabia, to make contributions to the fund as well. 

“After 30 years of effort from developing countries and civil society, it is nothing short of momentous to see the Loss and Damage Fund agreed upon today. It is now essential that developed countries take immediate action to fill the fund with money that is new and additional – not redirected from existing climate finance or development aid,” said Heather McGray, Director of the Climate Justice Resilience Fund (CJRF).

The idea for a Loss and Damage Fund (LDF) emerged from a years-long fight for climate justice as a response to the recognition that climate change disproportionately impacts marginalised communities and exacerbates existing social and economic inequalities. It was formally approved at COP27 in Egypt last year, though progress has been slow ever since.

You might also like: Climate Justice and COP28: Analysing the Progress on the Loss and Damage Fund

The framework agreed upon on Thursday by delegates from nearly 200 countries was approved in early November by the 24-member Transitional Committee (TC), a board set up after COP27 and tasked with the operationalisation of the fund. It contains recommendations on how the fund would operate, including who would get the money, and who would pay.

The final text invites “financial contributions with developed country parties continuing to take this lead to provide financial resources for commencing the operationalisation of the Fund.” It also assures the World Bank as the fund’s host on a four-year interim basis – despite the US pushing to make this permanent. Developing nations initially expressed opposition to the idea of the Bank hosting the Fund due to their lack of confidence in the institution’s significant shift towards promoting climate action.

“We […] expect to see the World Bank deliver on its promise to make funding accessible for sub-national and local organizations,” McGray added. “CJRF’s work with community organizations leading loss and damage responses has clearly shown that putting funding in the hands of communities results in responses that address needs most directly and effectively.”

More on the topic: Explainer: What Is ‘Loss and Damage’ Compensation?

What Can We Expect From COP28?

Delegates gathered at Expo City Dubai on Thursday also approved the agenda for the next two weeks, marking a smooth start to the summit. With an expected attendance of over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth, and non-state actors, the conference holds immense importance. As set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, COP28 will also mark a historic milestone by conducting the first Global Stocktake, a comprehensive assessment that will evaluate the progress made by nations towards their climate goals.

Despite an optimistic first day for climate finance, key issues such as nature and biodiversity loss did not receive much attention in the opening plenaries, attendees noted.

“Reflecting on the opening remarks delivered by the UNFCCC today, there was a surprising absence of nature,” said Lucy Almond, Chair of Nature4Climate and Nature Positive Pavilion lead.

“Our natural ecosystems, which underpin our economies, are not just in trouble – they are in a state of crisis. Nature can provide one-third of the solution to climate change and this must be recognised in the Global Stocktake. Yes, it’s a priority for Parties to reduce global carbon emissions, but it is equally as important to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030.”

Featured image: UNclimatechange/Flickr

Follow Earth.Org’s COP28 coverage.

While some COP28 sponsors have committed to setting net-zero targets, only one company’s goals align with an internationally-recognised target system.

Most sponsors of the UN climate talks in Dubai have made no commitments to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions in line with net-zero targets set by the United Nations, according to a new report.

Carried out by Spendwell and published this week, the analysis ranked the climate commitments of 24 public, private, and state-owned companies sponsoring COP28, based on the independent, UN-backed Science Based Targets initiative as well as Climate Group’s RE100 and EP100 programmes, all of which require “significant commitments to action by corporations” and involve “rigorous, scientifically guided and independently approved goal- and target-setting.” 

Of the 24 companies sponsoring COP28, only one – Spanish renewable energy company Iberdrola – has signed up to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), a partnered venture between nonprofit CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) set up in 2015 to help companies set emission reduction targets in line with climate science and the 1.5C global warming threshold outlined in the Paris Agreement. Despite setting near-term SBT targets covering Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, Iberdrola did not commit to RE100 nor EP100 programmes, which focus on renewable energy consumption and efficiency, respectively.

Most corporate sponsors – Bank of America, IMB, and Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oil field services companies – have made no commitments to reach net zero in any time period under the UN-backed target system. According to Spendwell, global accountancy firm EY, which was hired to independently verify the climate records of all COP28 sponsors, has yet to set a decarbonisation target, though it has committed to doing so. The company has also set a 100% renewable energy target, though it has yet to commit to the EP100 energy efficiency programme.

Lincoln Bauer, founder of Spendwell, called COP28 sponsorship “a giant greenwashing exercise.”

“Science-based targets are the gold standard validation system for companies. The fact that so few of the sponsors are signed up to their net zero targets, and that EY itself, chosen to verify the climate commitments of the sponsors, doesn’t have set targets yet, suggests this is just greenwashing,” he said.

This is not the first time COP sponsors are in the spotlight. Last year, COP27 sponsor Coca-Cola, the world’s largest non-alcoholic beverage company, was found to have substantially increased its plastic use ahead of the summit.

The analysis follows another allegation of corruption against the COP28 presidency, which was found to have set out plans to use the summit to pitch fossil fuels deals to foreign governments.

Featured image: Michael Coghlan/Flickr

You might also like: COP28 Presidency Planned to Use Climate Summit For Fossil Fuels Deals, Documents Show

Follow Earth.Org’s COP28 coverage.

New data published this week, suggesting that Amazon deforestation dropped 55% in one year, puts Brasília in a strong negotiating position to push for a conservation fund at the upcoming UN climate summit.

Brazil is set to launch a global conservation fund to protect tropical forests such as the Amazon and offer compensation to residents and landowners affected by deforestation at COP28, the country’s top climate diplomat has announced.

At the COP28 summit, which kicks off in Dubai on Thursday, President Inácio Lula da Silva is expected to propose a fund dedicated to tropical forest conservation efforts across 80 countries, according to Brazil’s Secretary for Climate, Energy and Environment André Corrêa do Lago, who presented the initiative last week at a meeting with seven other Amazon rainforest countries.

“At COP28, we’re going to have the beginning of a very important new stage. What has to be done will be debated first by the countries that have tropical forests,” he said.

The eight Amazon nations came together in the Brazilian city of Belem earlier this year to strengthen regional cooperation on key issues, including the climate crisis, deforestation, and the protection of Indigenous communities. Despite agreeing to several unified environmental policies, the countries failed to reach an agreement on a much-needed goal for ending deforestation in the Amazon.

Spanning 6.9 million square kilometres (2.72 million square miles) and covering around 40% of the South American continent, the Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and also one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems, home to about 3 million species of plants and animals and more than one million indigenous people.

Amazon deforestation
About one-third of global tropical deforestation occurs in Brazil’s Amazon forest.

Under Lula’s predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest rose sharply. The former president, described on several occasions as a climate denier, incentivised farmers to slash and burn the forest, reversed environmental legislation, and discarded land reserved for environmental tribes. These moves contributed to a surge in deforestation rates by 75% between 2019 to 2022 compared to the average of the previous decade. Since Lula’s election, however, the situation has improved. 

The new government, which pledged to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2030, has taken important steps to slow down deforestation rates, including a crackdown on illegal miners and the recognition of more indigenous territories. Additionally, Lula committed to allocate 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of protected land by 2027 and strengthen the country’s environmental monitoring network.

These efforts are paying off.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that forest loss across the Amazon is down 55.8% so far this year, compared to the same period in 2022. The encouraging data represents a major turnaround for the country and gives Brasília and the other Amazon countries more leverage to push for a conservation fund at the upcoming climate negotiations in Dubai.

“We need to have resources in volume, quantity and frequency to finance those who own forests,” Marina Silva, Brazil’s environment minister, told the Financial Times. “Because today the initiatives we have only encourage those who are deforesting to stop deforesting. They don’t encourage or pay those who are already preserving and keeping the forests standing.”  

Featured image: Alexander Bonilla/Flickr

You might also like: Age of Union and Jane Goodall’s Legacy Foundation Form Partnership to Protect the Amazon Rainforest 

A spokesperson for the COP28 presidency has denied claims that the UAE was planning to pitch oil and gas deals to foreign countries attending the summit. 

The United Arab Emirates planned to use COP28 meetings to pitch fossil fuels deals to foreign governments, leaked documents obtained by the non-profit Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) and the BBC showed.

The cache of internal records leaked by a whistleblower and published Monday shows that COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber had plans to quietly raise oil and gas commercial interests during climate meetings with China, Germany, Egypt, and 12 other nations ahead of the summit, which starts on 30 November. 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), COP28’s hosting nation, announced in January the appointment of Al Jaber, the head of oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Aside from leading the state-owned company – which pumps almost all the crude oil in the UAE and produces about 3.2 million barrels a day – Al Jaber is also the country’s special envoy on climate change and minister of industry and technology. As COP28 chief, he will play a pivotal role in shaping climate negotiations during the two-week conference, which will take place in Dubai. 

The appointment has been controversial from the start, prompting dozens of EU and US lawmakers to call for his removal from the prestigious role at the climate summit.

The more than 150 pages of briefing notes include plans to push for a petrochemical deal in Brazil and liquified natural gas (LNG) exports to Germany. One document drawn up by Adnoc and state-owned renewable energy company Masdar shows how the UAE intended to tell fellow oil-producing nations Saudi Arabia and Venezuela that “there is no conflict between the sustainable development of any country’s natural resources and its commitment to climate change.” 

COP28 staff members were also told that talking points of the two energy companies “always need to be included” in briefing notes, according to an email exchange obtained by BBC.

The outlet said that at least one nation had followed up on commercial discussions with the UAE’s COP28 team, while 12 countries denied discussing commercial activities or taking part in meetings altogether.

Sheffield University’s Professor Michael Jacobs called the move “breathtakingly hypocritical,” given the UAE’s current role as the “custodian of a United Nations process aimed at reducing global emissions.” 

“And yet, in the very same meetings where it’s apparently trying to pursue that goal, it’s actually trying to do side deals which will increase global emissions,” he told the BBC.

The COP28 presidency denied the accusations, saying the documents are “inaccurate” and rejecting claims that they were used in meetings with foreign nations. “It is extremely disappointing to see the BBC use unverified documents in their reporting,” a spokesperson said.

Featured image: United Nations Photo/Flickr

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Half a million deaths in the European Union in 2021 were linked to exposure to toxic air pollutants such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone.

More than half a million people living in the European Union died from health issues directly linked to toxic pollutants exposure in 2021, as concentrations remained well above internationally-recognised safe levels, a new study has found.

New data on 41 European countries published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) last week suggests that stricter air quality regulations could have prevented about half of these deaths, most of which – about 293,000 – were linked to exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) above World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline level of 5 µg/m3. PM2.5, an atmospheric particulate matter that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers – or about 3% the diameter of a human hair – is said to pose the greatest risk to human health. Emissions from combustion of gasoline, oil, diesel fuel, or wood produce much of the PM2.5 pollution found in outdoor air.

Concentrations above WHO’s guideline level of 10 µg/m3 of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), mainly deriving from cars and trucks as a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, were responsible for approximately 69,000 deaths, while concentrations above 70 µg/m3 of ozone (O3), a gas that forms above the Earth’s surface considered extremely threatening to human health, killed another 27,000 people.

Following research showing fine particulate matter to be more harmful than previously thought and associated with 8.7 million deaths every year – nearly 20% of global deaths – the WHO issued new stringent guidelines in September 2021, slashing the new acceptable limit for PM2.5 by half and lowering that of nitrogen dioxide by 75%. According to the UN body, if the world collectively reduced its air pollution levels to within the new limits, nearly 80% of global air pollution-related deaths could be prevented. 

Nevertheless, a survey of pollution data in 6,375 cities across the world conducted shortly after WHO introduced the new guidelines showed that only 3.4% of the surveyed cities met the standard in 2021, while as many as 93 cities saw PM2.5 levels at 10 times the recommended level. Earlier this year, a new study revealed that air pollution levels exceed safe values set by the WHO almost everywhere in the world, with only 0.18% of the global land area and only 0.001% of the world’s population experiencing an annual exposure to PM2.5 below the safe threshold of 5 μg/m3.

You might also like: 4 Causes and Effects of Air Pollution

Pollutant2021 AQGs
Fine particulate matter, µg/m3Annual: 5
24-hour: 15
Ozone, µg/m38-hour: 100
Nitrogen dioxide, µg/m3Annual: 25
24-hour: 40
Recommended 2021 World Health Organization’s Air quality guidelines (AQG) levels. Table: Earth.Org

In Europe, most urban areas still experience levels of air pollutants much higher than European and international standards. This is despite overall improvements in air quality, with the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5 falling by 41% between 2005 and 2021.

Mortality due to different causes for PM₂.₅ and NO₂, 2021. Image: European Environment Agency.
Mortality due to different causes for PM₂.₅ and NO₂ in 2021. Image: European Environment Agency.

According to the EEA, in 2021, 97% of the bloc’s urban population was exposed to high levels of PM2.5, with central-eastern Europe and Italy reporting the highest concentrations, primarily due to the burning of soil fuels for domestic heating and industrial purposes. Ozone and nitrogen dioxide levels were also above the WHO health-based guideline level.

You might also like: Air Pollution: Have We Reached the Point of No Return?

If world governments deliver on their national energy and climate pledges, oil and gas demand would plummet 45% below current levels by mid-century.

Next week’s UN climate summit will be a “moment of truth” for the oil and gas industry, which currently supplies more than half of the global energy supply, according to a new report.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest report on the implications and opportunities arising from the momentum building up ahead of COP28 says the time has come for fossil fuel companies to set out a clear pathway to net zero amid a rapidly intensifying climate crisis, largely fuelled by their activities and products.

According to the west’s energy watchdog, global oil and gas demand is expected to peak this decade and be about 45% lower than today’s levels by 2050, a significant change driven by significant structural changes in the energy sector in recent years, including the rapid expansion of electric vehicles and renewable energy sources. Nevertheless, the IEA argues that the decline will not be fast enough to align with the Paris Agreement and, in order to keep global warming below 1.5C, oil and gas demand would need to fall by 75% by mid-century. 

Fossil fuel demand in the Stated Policies Scenario, 1900-2050. International Energy Agency (IEA)
Fossil fuel demand in the Stated Policies Scenario, 1900-2050. Image: IEA.

As world leaders and key players prepare to gather in Dubai next week for the long-awaited UN climate summit, the report explores ways in which oil and gas companies can play their part in the energy transition.

First and foremost, companies should set ambitious targets aimed at reducing emissions at the source –meaning emissions generated from their own operations, the report argues. Still, more than half of all oil and gas output currently comes from companies without clear emissions reduction targets in place. 

The oil and gas industry is a critical component of the global energy mix, accounting for approximately 60% of the world’s energy consumption. Together, they employ nearly 12 million people worldwide and generate trillions of dollars in revenue each year. Nevertheless, despite being the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, they account for just 1% of total clean energy investments globally. 

In order to align with global climate goals, companies should invest at least half of their annual investment in clean energy projects this decade, the IEA said, arguing that carbon capture projects should be no substitute for cutting emissions and “cannot be used to maintain the status quo.” Despite scepticism around carbon capture and storage, most industry players still over rely on this technology. 

US giants Chevron and ExxonMobil, which together account for more than 10% of global carbon emissions since 1965, are dialling back clean energy commitments and instead doubling down on fossil fuels, even as the rest of the world is moving off them. Both companies took home record profits in 2022 following last year’s surge in prices and instability sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and recently announced expansion strategies. 

Earlier this year, Exxon Mobil, the largest non-government-owned company in the energy industry, announced it would acquire Pioneer Resources for $60 billion, and just last month, oil giant Chevron said it is buying independent oil and natural gas company Hess Corporation for US$53 billion.

IEA executive Fatih Birol said that companies needed to be “letting go of the illusion that implausibly large amounts of carbon capture are the solution”, adding that “the industry needs to commit to genuinely helping the world meet its energy needs and climate goals.”

“The oil and gas industry is facing a moment of truth at COP28 in Dubai. With the world suffering the impacts of a worsening climate crisis, continuing with business as usual is neither socially nor environmentally responsible,” he said. 

You might also like: What Can We Expect From COP28, And What Must Happen?

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