Big oil continues to spout its nonsense

COP28 is on right now. The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, to give it its full name, is currently grinding through its agenda in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I suppose it is better that this event happens than it doesn’t, but many are giving up hope of real change happening fast enough to avoid a worsening climate catastrophe.

You would be forgiven some cynicism in thinking the UAE is an odd place to hold a climate change conference. They are after all the world’s seventh largest oil producer and currently committed to a massive expansion of that industry. 

And yet the central discussion this weekend is whether to agree to phase out the production of fossil fuels in decades ahead. Not immediately. Just a target in years to come. 

Astonishingly, this isn’t already the case. Pretty much everyone accepts that burning fossil fuels is why we are in the mess we are, and yet there are plenty who say we don’t need an outright ban. Just cut down a bit, they say.

Big oil is sort of going through the phase big tobacco was in 20 years ago. They accept their product is bad for you but rather than simply stop, they are promoting ways to mitigate its effect. Pretty much the same thing happened when the cigarettemanufacturers said they weren’t advertising cigarettes but promoting smokers to switch to lower tar brands.

It was nonsense then. It’s nonsense now. There is of course a role for technologies like carbon capture, being pioneered in our own fair city. But the worst role for it would be create an excuse for the continued development of more oil and gas.

We need to get over it. The fossil fuel era needs to end.

You would hope that our government might take the lead in this switch. I was one of several MPs in the climate group who wrote to Rishi Sunak in the summer asking him to do just that. A week later, he announced that the Rosebank oil field – bigger than any we have had before – would get the green light. So, it’s not going well.

Too many people at this weekend’s conference will be bumping their gums. Going through he motions. Saying one thing. Doing another. Something gotta change.