By West Virginia State Senator Rupie Phillips, R-Logan
The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai ended with a historic commitment among almost 200 countries to move away from fossil fuels – the very first international commitment to do so.
In the middle of COP28, the attendees were surprised by an extreme pronouncement from the UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Opening the second day of the conference, Guterres demanded that the world completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels: “Not reduce,” he said. “Not abate. Phase out.”
This extreme rhetoric is patently improbable, unrealistic, and short-sighted. We’ve seen this before. Back in 2015 at COP21, for example, world leaders negotiated the Paris Climate Agreement and celebrated it as a historic agreement that would save our planet. As it turns out, the agreement was filled with unrealistic benchmarks and only effective if every signatory followed the rules, which unsurprisingly did not happen.
The biggest blindspot to this flawed thinking concerns the U.S.’s geopolitical competition with China. The Chinese Communist Party, instead of working to reduce its emissions, is ramping up its carbon footprint. China emits 30% of all total greenhouse gas emissions, more than the U.S., the EU, and India combined. CCP leader Xi Jinping has explicitly stated that he will not follow through with the emissions reductions China promised in 2015.
China knows what many world leaders would like to deny: fossil fuels remain the most reliable form of energy globally. And the Western world’s transition to unreliable forms of energy such as wind and solar leaves us vulnerable to our coal-burning adversaries, such as China, Russia, and Iran during a time of international upheaval.
Indeed, while the United States moves quickly to phase out coal without a reliable replacement, China, Russia, and Iran will continue to use their vast coal reserves to bolster their economic and military power. Our unreliable energy portfolio will not only lead to energy crises at home but weaken the United States on the world stage and embolden our adversaries.
Perhaps climate ideology’s greatest sin, though, lies in its damage to developing countries. At COP28, leaders discussed how rich countries can fund developing countries’ transition to green energy. Instead of promoting economic growth through reliable energy sources, developed nations at the UN plan to funnel cash to green energy pet projects, a strategy destined for misuse and failure.
Even worse, the U.S. and EU will soon refuse to fund new fossil fuel projects in developing nations even as they themselves continue to use fossil fuels. The EU, for example, relies heavily on natural gas infrastructure but will deny developing countries that same infrastructure in the name of “climate justice.” Pure hypocrisy.
If the past is prologue, it seems like COP28 was less of an arena for common action and more of a stage for grandstanding and virtue-signaling. While climate change is complicated, extreme environmentalists see the solutions as cut-and-dry. The consequences of their dogma reverberate globally.
We must see through elitist rhetoric and discover sensible, common sense solutions to rising global temperatures. As economies around the world grow, the demand for reliable energy such as coal and oil will remain. Leaders at COP28 must understand that reliable energy sources such as clean coal are here to stay in the 21st century.
Extreme rhetoric and pandering will not save the climate, but pragmatic goals and solutions will.
Senator Rupie Phillips, R-Logan is a West Virginia State Senator from the 7th District. He proudly represents Logan, Boone, Lincoln, Mingo and Wayne Counties.