IT’S a general rule that if you don’t name a problem, you can’t tackle it. You can’t fix road accidents if you don’t mention cars. You can’t prevent lung cancer without saying tobacco. Such is the case with oil and gas and COP agreements. How can you sort a problem like the climate, without saying the words fossil fuels?

Yet, after 30 years of COP climate conferences, there is still, even now, following COP27 at Sharm El-Sheikh, no mention in the final global agreement text of phasing out, or even phasing down of fossil fuels. Indeed, there is barely, in fact, any mention of the term fossil fuel in this plan to prevent the kind of global heating that could leave our children and grandchildren in a devastated world.

There’s something very Kafkaesque about a key document about a problem that barely names its root cause, that keeps it just out of view, behind the cloud of emissions talk. And emissions, of course, are the problem – but we have to recognise their source. We have to say the words, and our global agreements need to incorporate them, or those emissions will only keep on pumping out.

Report after report has stated that fossil fuels are the chief sources of the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for anthropogenic climate change. The United Nations, for instance, observes, “fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions.”

But in the Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan, the term remains almost absent. Take that in.

That said, there are achievements to celebrate coming out of COP: one of these being the inclusion, finally, of Loss and Damage clauses in the agreement text, the promise of finance from developed nations of finance to those devastated by climate-change-linked extreme weather. This was a breakthrough. But, as many have pointed out, the lack of progress on fossil fuel phase-out or phase-down means that the likely result is that there will simply be more damage. Loss and damage finance in a world without fossil fuel phase-down could be astronomical. On Twitter, Professor Nick Cowern described that the result will be that loss and damage inevitably will “come to exceed the ability of ANY group of countries to pay them”.

Fossil fuels are, in fact, mentioned once in the text – they are there in the phrase “efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. But that’s it – and one of the big hopes of this COP27 was that this could be changed and “phase-down” or even “phase-out” of fossil fuels inserted. A key country pushing this idea, interestingly, was India, which only last year pushed for the watering-down of language around coal phase-down in the COP26 agreement. At COP27 they were, now calling for an expansion of the commitment to all fossil fuel. Around 80 countries backed this idea, including the UK.

So, what has stopped the world from agreeing to stop doing the thing that we know has caused this problem – the burning of fossil fuels? This COP27 has seen the finger of blame pointed at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – historically the blockers of agreement at COP. One recent New York Times article reported that Saudi representatives at COP27 pushed to “block a call for the world to burn less oil, according to two people present at the meeting, saying that the summit’s final statement ‘should not mention fossil fuels’.”

But clearly Saudia Arabia was not alone. Several other oil-producing countries also objected. It’s also worth noting that, according to Global Witness, there were 636 oil industry delegates at COP27. The Kingdom of Fossil Fuel had so many voices present that some described it as a “fossil fuel fair”.

We have to remember that we too, in UK and Scotland, still have a long way to go on oil and gas – and that we don’t need a global agreement to phase-out. We are also, unlike developing countries, not struggling to build an infrastructure and raise living standards, having already built our world, effectively, out of emissions.

READ MORE: Cop27: Sturgeon's £5 million is right. We created this crisis

Before this year’s COP the Scottish Greens urged Nicola Sturgeon to sign up to the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a group with was funded by Denmark and Costa Rica, but that sign up has not yet happened. I like that phrase “beyond oil and gas”. Beyond seems the right way to think and the only way of affecting the influence of an industry that, even in a climate conference, appears to be managing to set the rules.

Last week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Tweeted, “Fossil fuel addiction is hijacking humanity”. That hijacking has to stop – and that starts with insisting on the right words. Fossil fuels. Never avoid saying it. Never let the world miss that chance again.