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Climate

AM Briefing: A COP Breakthrough

On the historic climate deal, EV adoption, and AI

AM Briefing: A COP Breakthrough
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Spain recorded its highest-ever December temperature • Flooding forced some London drivers to abandon their cars • It will be cold but clear tonight in New York City for Taylor Swift's blowout birthday bash.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Breakthrough COP28 deal calls for transition away from fossil fuels

A deal has been reached at the COP28 climate summit that marks “the beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era, says United Nations climate chief Simon Stiell. After two weeks of intense negotiations and several rejected drafts, an agreement was swiftly finalized today that calls on countries to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels this decade in pursuit of achieving net zero by 2050. It also calls for tripling renewable energy capacity, phasing down unabated coal, reducing methane emissions, phasing out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, and accelerating zero and low-emissions technologies.

Applause at COP28COP28 leaders and delegates applaud a breakthrough at the conference.Fadel Dawod/Getty Images

The text of the deal will not please everyone. It is weak on financial commitments for helping developing countries. It allows for the use of “transition fuels” – such as natural gas, a fossil fuel – in facilitating the energy transition, as well as carbon capture technologies. It uses vague language that leaves much room for interpretation and loopholes. But this deal marks the first time oil and gas has been mentioned in a COP agreement, which would have been “unthinkable just two years ago,” saysBusiness Green’s James Murray. COP28 president Sultan Al-Jaber called the deal historic but followed that with a word of caution: “Any agreement is only as good as its implementation. We are what we do, not what we say. We must turn this agreement into tangible action.”

2. COP agreement met with mixed reactions

The positive:

  • “We’re standing here in an oil country, surrounded by oil countries, and we made the decision saying let’s move away from oil and gas.” – Dan Jorgensen, Danish Minister for Climate and Energy
  • “It puts the fossil fuel industry formally on notice that its old business model is expiring.” –Jake Schmidt, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • “The decision at COP28 to finally recognize that the climate crisis is, at its heart, a fossil fuel crisis is an important milestone. But it is also the bare minimum we need and is long overdue.” –Former Vice President Al Gore

The negative:

  • “We asked for a fast phase out. This is not that.” –David Tong, Oil Change International
  • “The wealthiest countries have clearly refused point blank to offer any new finance to help developing countries make these targets a reality on the ground.” –Teresa Anderson, ActionAid
  • “Carbon capture and storage, hydrogen production, nuclear energy and others, increase climate vulnerability and lead to the violation of the rights of communities and nature in the Latin American and the Caribbean region as well as the entire Global South.” –Eduardo Giesen, global campaign to demand global justice
  • “The text calls for a transition away from fossil fuels in this critical decade, but the transition is not funded or fair.” –Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa

3. Study: EV adoption is seeing ‘genuine exponential growth’

A new study concludes electric car adoption is seeing “genuine exponential growth” across the world and that EVs “are highly likely to dominate the global passenger car fleet in the near future, less than a decade from today.” After analyzing the uptake of passenger EVs across 17 individual countries, Europe, and the world, the researchers believe that “system-wide adoption” will happen much faster than other estimates suggest. In Europe, for example, the researchers predict the majority of passenger cars will be EVs by 2031. The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, hint at “radical economic and infrastructural consequences in the near future.”

Estimated future share of EVs within fleets across regions.PLOS One

4. The Arctic just had its warmest summer ever recorded

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s annual Arctic Report Card, out yesterday, outlines the many ways climate change is dramatically transforming the Arctic’s delicate landscape. Some key takeaways:

  • October 2022 to September 2023 was the sixth warmest year in the Arctic since recording began in 1900.
  • Summer 2023 was the region’s hottest ever.
  • Arctic temperatures have risen at least twice as fast as global temperatures.
  • The area is seeing record “greening” – the emergence of shrubs, grasses, and other plants – as the tundra thaws.

There was one bright spot: A restoration initiative in Finland has helped protect nearly 130,000 acres of carbon-storing peatland and brought the return of more than 200 species of birds.

5. New DOE office will examine how AI could address climate change

The Department of Energy (DOE) yesterday announced the creation of a new office that will focus on “emerging technology” including artificial intelligence and how it could be used to address climate change. The Office of Critical and Emerging Technology will help the DOE research how AI could help the nation prepare for “climate-related risks, enable clean-energy deployment (including addressing delays in permitting reviews), and enhance grid reliability and resilience.” “We are preparing to ensure that, as new technologies emerge, the United States leads the way in exploring those frontiers,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

THE KICKER

The Gila River Indian Community in Arizona recently broke ground on America’s first project to line a water canal with solar panels.

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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