The world is still not on track to tackle the climate crisis, and global leaders have failed to heed resounding calls from climate scientists, activists and other stakeholders to set more ambitious emissions targets to do so. Nevertheless, more and more politicians, investors and businesses are waking up to the rapid and far-reaching transitions, such as clean energy, that are needed to limit the effects of climate change that are already on display. Several developments this past year have made it clear that the transition is accelerating, albeit in fits and starts, with important implications for finance, trade and geopolitics.
There is, however, strong resistance to this transition, as was evident at the recent United Nations COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt. Over 600 oil and gas lobbyists attended—more than ever before and outnumbering any single country’s delegation, bar the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. Their pressure successfully defeated an Indian proposal to include a call to phaseout all fossil fuels in the summit’s final text, despite the language having gained broad support among activists and major negotiation blocs including the European Union, the United Kingdom and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States.
As if to highlight the power of these vested interests, just a few weeks after delegates left Egypt, the U.K., last year’s COP26 president, approved a new coal mine, despite having led a “powering past coal” campaign over several years to mobilize other countries to move away from it. Ignoring science and skeptical of the pace of technological progress, these lobbyists continue to successfully convince investors and policymakers to finance increasingly uncompetitive infrastructure that will need to be shut down before the end of its useful life in order to meet emissions targets. In the meantime, these projects will contribute to hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars’ worth of climate-inflicted damage.