COP28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, took place from November 30th to December 12th, 2023 in Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the capital of the Emirate of Dubai.
It has now been 28 years since the first COP was hosted from March 28th to April 7th,1995 in Berlin, Germany. There may still have been time when that first COP was held to curb climate change, but that most definitely is no longer the case. In fact, we may have already passed the point of no return.
COP28 was, for the most part, more of the same.
The choice to hold COP28 in Dubai, UAE, was controversial from the start as the UAE is one of the world’s ten largest oil producers. There are few nations on earth with a greater interest in promoting our deadly dependence on oil and gas.
On top of that, COP28 President, UAE’s Sultan Al Jaber, is the head of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Despite also serving as Chairman of Masdar, the state-owned renewable energy company, and being touted by COP28 for his commitment to addressing global environmental challenges, he has been quoted as claiming ‘there is “no science” indicating that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed to restrict global heating to 1.5C.’
To make matters even worse, a record number of lobbyists from the oil and gas sector attended COP28, totalling 2,456 according to conference records — vastly surpassing the previous record of 636 who officially attended COP27.
One activist observed that ‘It’s a bit like inviting tobacco companies to a health summit.‘ Or inviting an arsonist, who has already burned your garage, to dinner.
Rather than taking the steps necessary to prevent the oil and gas industry from being able to send delegates, COP officials decided only to require fossil fuel lobbyists to identify themselves as such. This was a quintessential COP response. As writer Amy Westervelt observed in The Guardian, ‘So what if fossil fuel lobbyists have to declare themselves at COP28? Oil and gas companies don’t just have a seat at the COP table: they are in charge of the table.’
In charge of the table they were. When the time came for delegates to craft a final statement outlining commitments towards responding to the climate crisis, oil rich countries were instrumental in producing a draft which dropped a pledge to ‘phase out’ fossil fuels – a commitment which was clearly needed.
That draft was not acceptable to many. Indeed, it was termed a ‘monstrosity that falls far short’ by many vulnerable countries. The International Energy Agency warned that the pledges that had been made so far were not sufficient to limit warming to the promised 1.5°C, although some were significant.
The group responsible for drafting the statement were forced to go back to work.
In the end, delegates agreed to a compromise final statement which included a commitment to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels. It was still historic as it involved the first ever mention of fossil fuels in a COP final statement. Whether it was sufficient is open to debate.
The meeting was able to boast of a few successes. Delegates agreed to set up a new fund to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change such as floods, drought and rising sea levels. And Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, announced stricter methane emissions regulations targeted to reduce oil and gas methane emissions in Canada at least 75 percent from 2012 levels by 2030.
Clearly much more is required. What the world desperately needs now is more Greta Thungbergs and fewer timid, tepid, compromise pronouncements from yet another COP conference.
Our world is running out of time.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (December 17, 2023): 422.67ppm
One year ago (November 28, 2022): 417.31ppm
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