AM Briefing: Catch Up on COP28
What you missed in Dubai, new methane rules, and more
Current conditions: There’s a high risk of avalanches in the Cascade Mountains after a storm dumped up to 14 inches of snow • The AQI in Dubai is back down to 80 after spiking to 155 this weekend • The high is in the low 50s in Central Park, which has been without snow for a record-breaking 659 days.
THE TOP FIVE
1. What Happened at COP28 This Weekend
COP28 continued for its third and fourth days in Dubai this weekend. Here’s a quick primer on what you might have missed:
- On Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the U.S. will commit $3 billion to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, aimed at helping developing countries adapt to climate change.
- Exxon Mobil and Aramco were among nearly 50 oil and gas producers that signed a “decarbonization charter,” committing to reduce their methane emissions. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry separately announced $1 billion raised in grant financing by the U.S., EU, and companies like BP, Shell, and Occidental Petroleum to help curb methane.
- One hundred and eighteen nations agreed to a U.S., EU, and UAE-fronted pledge to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 on Saturday. India and China sat this one out.
- The U.S. joined 56 other nations in the Powering Past Coal Alliance, vowing to transition away from coal power plants.
- At COP’s first-ever Health Day on Sunday, the UAE, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other groups announced $777 million in financing toward the eradication of tropical diseases that will be exacerbated by climate change, such as malaria and heat stress.
Monday’s agenda is focused on finance, trade, gender equality, and accountability.
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2. Biden Administration Finalizes Strongest Federal Methane Regulations Yet
Speaking of methane, on Saturday the Biden administration announced the finalization of long-in-the-making regulations that will rein in methane leaks from existing and future oil and gas wells. The EPA says the rules will prevent the equivalent of 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted between 2024 and 2038, almost as much as was emitted by all power plants in the country in 2021. The total benefits created by the new limits, the administration estimates, will reach $98 billion by 2038.
“The U.S. now has the most protective methane pollution limits on the books,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, which has played a major role in exposing the dangers of methane.
3. COP28 President: Fossil Fuel Phase-Out Would ‘Take the World Back into Caves’
During an online event in late November, COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber claimed there is “no science out there” to support phasing out fossil fuels to mitigate global warming, The Guardian and the Center for Climate Reporting jointly reported on Sunday. Al Jabar, who is also the chief executive of the UAE’s state oil company Adnoc, further claimed in the conversation that such a phase-out was “alarmist” and would “take the world back into caves.”
The leaked comments have caused a stir on the ground in Dubai, where Al Jaber was already under fire following a BBC report that he planned to use the climate summit to promote oil interests. (A spokesperson denied this). U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the president’s newly revealed comments were “verging on climate denial,” while Oil Change International’s Romain Ioualalen said that Al Jaber’s “science-denying statements are alarming and raise deep concerns about the presidency’s capacity to lead the U.N. climate talks.”
4. Police Claim to Have Thwarted a ‘Mass Casualty Event’ at the Cybertruck Promotion
A 28-year-old Florida man was arrested last week after he allegedly threatened to carry out a “mass casualty event” at Thursday’s Cybertruck promotional event in Austin, the Austin-American Statesman reported this weekend.
Tesla was notified of the threat after a man, identified as Paul Ryan Overeem of Orlando, said in an Instagram group chat that he was “planning” an attack at the event “so up to you guys to stop me.” In another message, Overeem allegedly said “I plan on killing people” and “I would like you to do something about it so I don’t have to.” He was arrested in Austin’s Travis County after driving there from Florida, and has been charged with terroristic threat.
Though the event was attended by Elon Musk, NBC News writes the CEO did not appear to be a specific target and the suspect, rather, “appeared to object to technology in modern life.”
5. New Report Puts Airplane Contrail Mitigation Efforts in Doubt
Airplane contrails — those white, vaporous ribbons that follow jets across the sky — have long drawn scrutiny from environmental activists, who’ve pointed to them as a major source of warming, saying the creation of high clouds could trap heat in the atmosphere à la the greenhouse gas effect. Boeing and NASA have been conducting test flights to explore if sustainable aviation fuel could help limit contrails, while Google and Bill Gates-funded Breakthrough Energy climate action group have experimented with rerouting planes through regions of the atmosphere that are less likely to induce contrails.
But a new report by David Lee, an influential researcher of aviation and climate who previously looked at the issue in a 2021 paper, has found that “the fundamental premise” that contrails are concerning enough to warrant mitigation investment “is not yet established,” The Seattle Times reports. The science around contrails and the climate is extremely complicated — that much is clear — but Lee writes that it is so uncertain that efforts to limit contrails could actually be “of limited effect” or even “have unintended consequences,” like burning longer-lasting CO2 to reroute planes.
Marc Shapiro of Breakthrough Energy, who is working to reduce contrails, told the Times, “to be totally frank, our numbers are coming up on the low end of David Lee’s  estimates as well.”
Johannes Simon/Getty Images
Life on pause in Munich, where Bavarian broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk reports the 17.3 inches of snowfall on Saturday were the most since recordkeeping began in 1933.