COP 28 Expectations vs Reality

COP 28 Expectations vs Reality: A Dark Side

The United Nations has been organizing worldwide climate conferences, referred to as COPs (Conference of the Parties), for almost three decades. These conferences bring together participants from various nations to explore strategies to prevent or mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. However, the upcoming COP28 climate conference scheduled in the United Arab Emirates has raised doubts and skepticism.

The Fossil-Fuel Industry’s Victory

The selection of an oil-producing nation, the United Arab Emirates, as the venue for this year’s COP28 has raised doubts and skepticism. The announcement that the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s (ADNOC) Chief, Sultan Al Jaber, was appointed the president of COP28 completes the fossil-fuel sector’s victory. This decision has irrevocably undermined the conference’s credibility, leading to further doubts about the effectiveness of the entire COP process.

Read More: Why COP28 In UAE? (Is UAE Eligible To Host Climate Conference?)

The UAE’s Significant Investments in Fossil Fuels

It is difficult to comprehend why the United Nations considered it appropriate to let an authoritarian nation heavily reliant on oil and gas host a vital conference during the height of the climate crisis. It was predictable that there would be significant conflicts at COP28 between efforts to combat climate change and the fossil-fuel industry, considering the UAE’s significant investments in this sector. The topic of fossil-fuel cutbacks has been a contentious issue since the beginning, and the closest to an agreement has been a vague and meaningless understanding at COP26 to “phase down coal.”

Lack of Credibility

We cannot trust an oil CEO to effectively secure a commitment to reduce the use of fossil fuels. In the previous year, there was a promising agreement on “loss and damage” which aimed to provide financial support to developing countries impacted by climate change. The year prior, there was the grandiose Glasgow climate pact, which essentially meant “we will strive to improve, we promise.” The commitments may appear genuine, but they are typically non-binding and provide no assurance that they will be delivered. This is largely due to the significant influence of the oil, gas, and coal lobbies.

Lobbying and Public Relations Efforts

Documents filed by the US Department of Justice reveal that the UAE ramped up its lobbying and public relations efforts around climate matters. At least $126,500 was spent on agreements with FleishmanHillard aimed at promoting a positive public image of the UAE in USA, including advertisements highlighting the use of solar power in Emirati government company aluminum production. Records indicate that Masdar, a renewable energy firm located in Abu Dhabi and led by Jaber, hired three public relations experts in September of this year for an undisclosed sum to assist the UAE in its role as host of COP28 in 2023.

Alternative Energy Sources

It appears that the UAE is not prioritizing divestment from oil and exploring alternative energy sources, despite their public relations efforts suggesting otherwise. According to an expert, the country cannot afford to do so and lacks a serious intent to transition away from oil. Additionally, the expert suggests that the UAE’s partnership with Egypt in hosting COP28 is a way to maintain international legitimacy for both countries and showcase their regional alliances. The expert emphasized that Egypt cannot make significant progress without the UAE’s assistance.

A New Approach

It is possible that the annual COP conference, intended to address emissions as required by scientific evidence, is no longer effective. It has turned into a carcass attracting fossil-fuel interests, and its duration will have been nearly a year by the time the UAE conference ends. It might be a suitable point to consider replacing the yearly media spectacle with a new approach. One option could be to establish smaller COP sub-committees that could work more effectively by addressing the core issues, such as energy, transportation, deforestation, loss and damage, behind closed doors. In addition to major polluters, representatives from those most affected and vulnerable to climate change should have a place at the table, with the authority to negotiate binding agreements to bolster their influence. Continuing with the current arrangement will only reinforce the fossil-fuel industry’s domination of the COP process, allowing them to continue their harmful practices without consequence.