Assessing the Impact of the COP28 Climate Deal

This time, they really mean it: Though historically climate agreements have infrequently amounted to much of anything, journalists across the mainstream publications are heralding the resolution agreed to by diplomats convened at Dubai’s COP28 climate summit as a huge deal.

The resolution calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels … in a just, orderly and equitable manner … so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

“The sweeping agreement, which comes during the hottest year in recorded history, was reached on Wednesday,” reports The New York Times, describing the two rival groups at the summit as fast-growing or Arab oil-exporter nations vs. European nations seeking an aggressive phase-out of fossil fuels.

“In the end, negotiators struck a compromise: The new deal calls on countries to accelerate a global shift away from fossil fuels this decade … and to quit adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere entirely by midcentury,” adds the Times. “It also calls on nations to triple the amount of renewable energy, like wind and solar power, installed around the world by 2030 and to slash emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.”

“Over 100 countries called for language in the COP28 agreement to reference the ‘phase out’ of fossil fuels,” per Axios. “The deal reached at the summit that was supposed to wrap up on Tuesday commits to ‘accelerating efforts towards phase-down of unabated coal power.’ But it does not mention other fossil fuels, and major oil producing nation Saudi Arabia was strongly opposed to such language.”

“We are what we do, not what we say,” Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the summit’s president (and a breath of fresh air on climate realism, despite his oil-industry conflicts of interest), said in a speech. “We must take the steps necessary to turn this agreement into tangible actions.”

Therein lies the rub. It’s extraordinarily easy to write headlines greeting the text of this resolution as some kind of historic victory; it’s a lot harder for the assenting nations to keep their word and have the right incentives in place to actually implement the agreed-upon climate policies—and in a manner that doesn’t hinder development.

More on this from Reason‘s Ronald Bailey, who reported from Dubai and writes that “there is no 1.5°C climate cliff.”

Section 702 fight: On Monday evening, two dueling bills were pulled from the House floor. The bills would have reauthorized Section 702, which allows the federal government to warrantlessly surveil foreigners abroad—sometimes catching Americans’ communications in their dragnet.

“The GOP has been divided over how to extend section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” reports CNN, “and so [House Speaker Mike] Johnson was planning to put both bills on the floor Tuesday to see which one would garner the most support, but his right flank pushed backed on the idea.”

Johnson had been intending to see which bill garnered more support among his party and send that one to the Senate. This plan fell apart.

Members of Congress “are especially at odds over how severely to restrict officials’ ability to plumb Americans’ communications once collected,” per The New York Times. “On one side, progressive congressional Democrats have joined with harder-right Republican allies of former President Donald J. Trump to rally around a Judiciary Committee bill that would sharply curtail the law while enhancing protections for Americans’ privacy rights.”

But there’s also an Intelligence Committee bill backed by national security hawks that contains a lot fewer privacy protections. Hawks “have denounced the more reform-minded legislation as likely to put the country in greater danger from terrorists, hackers, spies and other threats,” per the Times.

The actual law on the books will lapse later this month if not renewed, but the program itself may stay in operation until spring.


Scenes from New York

“Earlier this week, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—the state agency that runs rail and bus service in the New York City area—gave initial approval to a toll schedule that will charge the average driver $15 to enter lower Manhattan during peak times (5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends),” writes Reason‘s Christian Britschgi.


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