• Pivotal COP28 riven with internal conflicts, threatening much-needed consensus

Fuel for Thought

Pivotal COP28 riven with internal conflicts, threatening much-needed consensus

Nov 24 2023

As the world's eyes turn towards the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the upcoming COP28 climate summit, concerns are mounting over deep-seated divisions that may obstruct crucial progress in global climate negotiations. The UAE, a leading oil-producing nation, is set to host this significant event in Dubai, a decision that has sparked a mix of skepticism and cautious optimism. 

The summit, scheduled to begin on November 30, is attracting over 100 national delegations and more than 70 environment ministers, congregating in an attempt to forge a unified approach against the backdrop of a world grappling with escalating climate crises. This year is particularly critical, as global temperatures are on an unprecedented rise, underscoring the dire need for immediate and effective climate action. 

At the heart of the debate is the COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber, who holds a dual role as the head of the UAE's state oil company, Adnoc. Al Jaber's position as both a leading figure in the oil industry and the president of a climate summit has raised eyebrows and drawn criticism from prominent figures like climate activist Greta Thunberg. She has called his appointment "completely ridiculous," casting doubt on the integrity of the UN climate process itself. 

Al Jaber's stance is that oil and gas sectors must be integral to climate discussions, asserting that his experience in the industry uniquely positions him to advocate for substantial action. However, his company's plans to expand oil production significantly by 2030 have led many to question the sincerity of his commitment to reducing emissions. 

The UAE's role as the host and Al Jaber's leadership are symptomatic of the broader challenges facing COP28. The summit is not just a forum for environmental deliberation but also a complex interplay of international politics, economic interests, and differing national agendas. The EU and a coalition of about 80 nations are pushing for a complete phase-out of fossil fuels, in stark contrast to major oil producers who advocate for a gradual "phase down." 

Another crucial issue is the establishment of a "loss and damage" fund, a key outcome from the last UN climate conference. The fund is intended to aid poorer nations in coping with the consequences of climate change. However, disagreements over its setup and management threaten to stall its implementation, with fears that major polluters like the US might withdraw from the discussions. 

Amidst these challenges, Al Jaber has called for unity and compromise, emphasizing the importance of meeting the target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. He acknowledges the necessity of deep emissions cuts, but reconciling the contrasting positions of various nations remains a daunting task. 

The UAE's ambitious goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 has garnered support from most major economies. However, this consensus could be jeopardized by disagreements over fossil fuel phase-out commitments. 

COP28 thus stands at a critical juncture. The optimism that marked the Paris Agreement's signing is giving way to a more nuanced and contentious reality. The focus has shifted from agreeing in principle to combat climate change to the more challenging task of translating these agreements into concrete actions. 

The stakes at COP28 are high, with the UN warning of a potential 3C global temperature rise, a scenario far exceeding the Paris Agreement's target. Despite the urgency, the path to consensus is fraught with conflicting interests and political dynamics. 

The upcoming summit in Dubai is not just about climate action; it's a litmus test for global cooperation and the willingness of nations to prioritize environmental sustainability over competing interests. The world is watching, hoping that COP28 will mark a historic turning point in our collective response to the climate crisis. 


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