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David Fickling

The World Will Never Agree to Phase Out Petroleum. And That’s OK

There’s a new divide in climate talks. It’s no longer the gap between rich and poor that matters, but the one between fossil fuel importers and exporters.

Shrouded in smog.

Shrouded in smog.

Photographer: Ruhani Kaur/Bloomberg

The world has failed to come to an agreement to stop burning fossil fuels. After two weeks of negotiations, a draft decision at the United Nations COP27 climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, promised a compensation fund for climate change damages but fell short of a push from the US and Europe for a “phase-down” of oil, gas and coal.

In fact, it’s worse than that. Although a phase-down of coal was agreed at last year’s Glasgow conference, other fossil fuels are going to remain immune. Twenty years from now, we are still likely to see global climate meetings failing to agree to a phase-down (let alone phase-out) of fossil fuels. And that’s OK — because what matters is not the words in an international agreement, but whether our carbon emissions are falling fast enough. On that front, the prospects are far better.