Nov 27, 2023 - Energy & Environment

COP28, OPEC create double dose of drama for oil

Illustration of a handshake in a graphic circle next to stacks of oil barrels

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The immediate and long-term future of oil will face intense scrutiny this week.

What we're watching: The COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates, which starts Thursday.

  • The annual UN talks, held in a petro-state this year, will feature multifront battles over how fossil fuels figure in climate policy.
  • Industry execs and oil-producing nations argue robust demand calls for their skills and scale in using their products more cleanly, including carbon capture.

Yes, but: Activists and multiple countries want a clear summit endorsement of getting away from fossil fuels, not just mitigating their impact.

Meanwhile: Russia and the allied oil producers known as OPEC+ will huddle on Thursday for a delayed meeting about output levels. All eyes are on...

  • Whether OPEC+ deepens existing output cuts.
  • Whether Saudi Arabia — OPEC's dominant producer — extends separate cuts currently in place through December.

The big picture: Bigger or extended cuts may help shore up prices, which are roughly 13% below mid-October levels, despite recent advances.

What they're saying: The climate summit's opening could influence OPEC+ talks, RBC Capital Markets analysts said.

  • They write that OPEC members will "endeavor to maintain public displays of harmony with COP28 set to begin in Dubai on the same day."
  • RBC also sees Gulf producers looking to show unity as they call for a "lasting ceasefire" between Israel and Hamas.
  • Their "base case" prediction is extension of current cuts but no deeper pullback.

The intrigue: An International Energy Agency analysis unveiled ahead of COP28 puts fresh pressure on oil companies.

  • IEA's look at the industry's role in "net zero transitions" says the sector faces a "moment of truth" in Dubai.

State of play: It knocks the industry for putting too little into low-carbon investments while pulling in $3.5 trillion in average annual revenues since 2018. It also says companies have opportunities in energy transition.

  • The study warns the industry that if countries follow through on their climate pledges, oil and gas demand would fall steeply by 2050.

Quick take: The report, and IEA boss Fatih Birol's accompanying remarks, are unusually blunt.

  • IEA said the industry currently a "marginal force" building a clean energy system.
  • And stronger commitment would mean "letting go of the illusion that implausibly large amounts of carbon capture are the solution."
  • CNN has more on IEA's brushback pitch.

The bottom line: This is an important week for oil's present and future.

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