More than 100 countries sign up to new major energy pledge

6:56 am on 4 December 2023
US Vice President Kamala Harris arrives on stage to speak during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 2, 2023. The COP28 conference opened on December 1 with an early victory as nations agreed to launch a "loss and damage" fund for vulnerable countries devastated by natural disasters. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

US Vice President Kamala Harris told the UN climate talks that countries 'must make up for lost time' on climate change. Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

Countries at UN climate talks have promised to take major strides forward in tackling global warming in a new renewable energy pledge. New Zealand is yet to join them.

More than 100 countries - including Australia - have signed a pledge promising to treble world renewable energy use by 2030, at COP28. The New Zealand government is still to discuss the pledge at Cabinet.

The United States, South Korea, Australia, the United Kingdom and a number of other European nations have backed the declaration.

University of Canterbury political science professor Bronwyn Hayward said she does not understand why New Zealand has not yet signed the pledge. She said it was concerning and made the country's climate policy incoherent.

Hayward has called on the coalition government to clarify its stance, after it promised to repeal the ban on exploring for new oil and gas reserves off the coast of New Zealand, while also committing to renewable energy.

"The government will have to clarify its position if it's going to roll back both methane and its oil and gas," she said. "How is it going to achieve its overall pledges to the world on Paris and how is it going to be a credible player in climate negotiations in the future?"

Melanie Robinson from the World Resources Institute told the BBC the pledge was important to meet climate goals. She said it was really exciting.

"This is really significant, it's the single largest step the world can take towards achieving our global climate goals. On the one hand it can reduce the need of countries to keep those old power plants going but it also has other benefits; cleaner air, greater availability to use technologies like EVs."

US Vice President Kamala Harris said time was running out for the world to take action.

"The urgency of this moment is clear, the clock is no longer just ticking, it is banging and we must make up for lost time. And we cannot afford to be incremental. We need transformative change and exponential impact."

People walk past a COP28 logo ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on 28 November 28, 2023.

People walk past a COP28 logo ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on 28 November 28, 2023. Photo: JEWEL SAMAD / AFP

Fifty oil and gas companies, including Saudi giant Aramco, also pledged to stop adding to planet-warming gases by 2050 in an oil and gas decarbonisation charter.

But that only covered emissions from production, not the burning of fossil fuels, and critics said it would not meaningfully tackle climate change.

There were also no penalties for missing targets and the promises are not binding.

The World Resources Institute called the charter "proof that voluntary commitments from the oil and gas industry will never foster the level of ambition necessary to tackle the climate crisis".

The new Minister for Climate Change Simon Watts was unavailable for comment.

* This story has been amended. An earlier version incorrectly suggested NZ was not signing up to the pledge, when Cabinet is yet to discuss it. It corrects the statement by the World Resources Institute on the oil and decarbonisation charter.

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