As the world prepares for the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and presided over by Mr. Sultan Al Jaber, concerns are mounting about the sincerity of the UAE’s commitment to addressing the environmental crisis, given its significant investments in the oil industry and its continued reliance on fossil fuels.
A highly anticipated UN report assessing progress toward the long-term objectives set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement is expected to take center stage at COP28. This report’s findings have been described as a wake-up call, with 17 key conclusions pointing unmistakably toward the urgent need for more aggressive action to combat climate change and meet the Agreement’s ambitious long-term goals.
Sultan Al Jaber, who is set to lead the COP28 summit in Dubai starting on November 30, issued a stark warning. “The world is losing the race to secure the goals of the Paris Agreement, and the world is struggling to keep the target of controlling global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach,” he stated. The critical question on everyone’s mind: What does the UN’s stocktake reveal?
According to the UN report, the Paris Agreement has indeed motivated global action on climate change, but the pace and scale of these efforts are far from sufficient. The report emphasizes the urgent need for countries to accelerate their actions and support measures that will significantly reduce global emissions. It underscores that emissions have not been curtailed sufficiently to meet the goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030. The report calls for robust domestic mitigation strategies, emphasizing the importance of policy changes and a rapid transition to renewable energy sources.
The report’s recommendations also include amplification of renewable energy initiatives, reforms at the local level, increased funding for resilience-building and green projects, and a decisive reduction in the use of fossil fuels coupled with an end to deforestation.
The matter of fossil fuels is poised to be a major point of contention at COP28. There is a growing international push to commit to phasing out fossil fuels, even as oil-producing nations push back against these calls. This campaign has gained significant traction in the fine print of the UN’s draft report, which calls for transformations across all sectors, including scaling up renewable energy and phasing out unabated fossil fuels. Experts believe these words in a key UN document will galvanize discussions.
Amid these discussions, British MPs have urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to take more substantial action at COP28 than merely attending. Chris Skidmore, a former Tory energy minister, argued that the UK must demonstrate its commitment to the cause by joining international allies in advocating for the end of the fossil fuel era. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas warned that attending the summit without pushing for an urgent and equitable global phase-out of fossil fuels would amount to empty rhetoric.
The fossil fuel industry’s influence on global climate negotiations has also come under scrutiny, with former US Vice President Al Gore raising concerns about its undue influence. Gore pointed out the appointment of Mr. Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of the ADNOC, as the president of COP28, describing it as a disturbing level of industry capture in climate negotiations.
Further complicating matters, over 200 civil society groups have addressed concerns about the UAE’s human rights record in a letter to the UAE and all participating governments. Amnesty International reported that the UAE has maintained a limited focus on climate issues while actively avoiding discussions of its human rights abuses. According to Marta Schaaf of Amnesty, the UAE’s priorities for COP28 seem to be centered on greenwashing its fossil fuel expansion plans and diverting attention from its concerning human rights record and ongoing abuses.
As the world watches and waits for COP28, the UAE’s commitment to addressing climate change and its willingness to phase out fossil fuels will be under intense scrutiny. The global community’s demands for meaningful action on these critical issues are growing louder, and the outcome of this conference may have far-reaching consequences for the future of our planet.