GLASGOW: Daniel Yergin, one of the foremost experts of the energy sector, believes the COP26 has made a mistake in not allowing the big independent oil companies to attend its formal sessions that carry on in Glasgow, Scotland, until the end of this week.
Yergin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the oil industry, told Arab News: “There will be continuing pressure on hydrocarbon producers to commit to net zero either by 2050 or by 2060. But, if that’s the goal, it’s also a little odd to exclude as formal participants the companies that produce 80 percent of the world’s energy, which appears to be the case.”
He was responding to a survey organized by Arab News among leading energy experts ahead of the Glasgow meeting and the G20 talks on climate in Italy in late October.
It recently emerged that big oil companies, like Saudi Aramco and the other major producers like Exxon and BP, would not be allowed to participate in the formal session of the meeting, although they would be allowed to organize events on the sidelines of the UN-sponsored gathering.
That ruling was hailed by climate activists as a victory over fossil-fuel producers they blame for greenhouse gas emissions, and who have put forward plans to reduce fossil fuel that campaigners regard as impractical and self-serving.
This week Aramco pledged to reduce emissions from its own operations by 2050, and Saudi Arabia set out a deadline of 2060 to achieve carbon neutrality.
Yergin said that the conference — billed as the last chance for the world’s leaders to solve climate change challenges — could be divisive in other ways too.
“A lot of pledges will be made by many countries around net zero and stepping up to strong nationally determined contributions commitments. Implementing them will be a challenge, and there is a possibility of a new North/South divide between developed and developing countries — the latter have other urgent issues such as reducing poverty and improving health by using conventional energy,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and other developing countries have insisted that any global framework for tackling climate change must be flexible, allowing them to choose a route to carbon neutrality that takes into account their own national economic and energy circumstances.
Yergin highlighted the irony that the COP26 talks were taking place amid one of the most stressed times in recent global energy markets, with prices of fossil fuels at high levels and in some parts of the world threatening a winter of shortages and blackouts.
“The organizers aim to ‘consign coal to history.’ It’s a little strange to do so in the midst of a global energy shortage when China is trying to step up coal production,” he said.
There were also other significant hurdles the organizers of COP26 had to overcome, Yergin added, like “extracting stronger carbon reduction commitments, figuring out how carbon markets will work, renewing promises to provide funding to developing countries, and getting financial institutions to pledge tens and tens of trillions of dollars to fund sustainability.”
COP26 warned world is heading for temperatures above 2.4 C .
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