Here are some highlights from the initial portion of the Cop28 UN climate conference in Dubai. These include a heated debate over the host president’s views on the science behind fossil fuels, discussions on reducing fossil fuel usage, and progress and challenges experienced thus far.
The agreed upon amount for the loss and damage fund is not accurate.
During the opening session of the Cop28 summit, a groundbreaking decision was made to establish a fund for loss and damage. This has been a long-standing demand from the global south and was seen as a major triumph by developing countries. Journalist Nina Lakhani from The Guardian noted that this victory was hard-fought and hoped it would demonstrate a commitment from developed, polluting nations to provide financial aid for the destruction that has already occurred.
Loss and damage refers to the destruction the climate crisis is already wreaking on lives, livelihoods and infrastructure. Vulnerable and poor countries, which did little to cause the climate crisis, want to hold the biggest fossil fuel polluting countries liable for the pain and suffering they are experiencing from climate breakdown.
However, the agreed upon deal has a significant limitation, despite the presence of several compromises. The monetary contribution of $700m (£557m) from wealthier countries, who bear the greatest responsibility for the climate crisis, only covers less than 0.2% of the necessary funds each year. Estimated costs for the annual damage range from $100bn to $580bn.
According to climate justice experts, the funds must be fresh and supplementary to current promises, and provided as non-repayable grants rather than loans. However, the specifics and schedule of the promised funds are often uncertain as only a small number of countries have disclosed more information.
Surprise and disbelief regarding statements made by Sultan Al Jaber, president of Cop28.
During the conference, a news story broke that gained international attention. According to the Guardian’s Damian Carrington and the Centre for Climate Reporting, Sultan Al Jaber stated in a video call last month that there was no scientific evidence supporting the need to phase out fossil fuels in order to limit global warming to 1.5C (2.7F).
There was a strong response from climate experts after Al Jaber, the leader of Adnoc, the UAE’s government-owned oil company, made controversial statements. He was compelled to hold a press conference the next day to defend his stance. He clarified that his words were misinterpreted and that he recognizes the need to gradually reduce and eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels as a necessary step.
The spokesperson for Cop28 defended the progress achieved at the summit, highlighting advancements in areas such as the loss and damage fund, the introduction of a $30 billion private market climate initiative, and the agreement of 51 oil companies to set decarbonisation goals. Additionally, 119 countries have signed a pledge to triple their use of renewable energy. The spokesperson emphasized that this is only the start of continued progress.
There are concerns that this Cop is heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry. These concerns were reinforced on Tuesday when an examination revealed that a record-breaking number of fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access. This equated to over 2,400 individuals, which is four times the amount registered in the previous year.
The initial draft of the global stocktake has been released, with an emphasis on revising language related to fossil fuels.
The main emphasis for this year is on the negotiations regarding fossil fuel reduction at Cop28, involving nearly 200 countries. The aim is to reach an agreement on a plan for either phasing out or reducing the use of fossil fuels through a global assessment of progress towards the goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5C, as established in the Paris Agreement of 2015.
Negotiations are currently taking place to reach a significant agreement, which would be a major commitment. However, there is much dispute over the specific wording, including whether the goal is to decrease or completely eliminate the use of “unabated” fossil fuels, and the exact definition of this term. The outcome of these discussions will greatly impact the success of this conference.
According to Fiona Harvey of The Guardian, a preliminary draft was released on Tuesday and discussions showed some advancement, although major decisions still need to be made.
“The text includes a provision for the gradual removal of fossil fuels, but there is still the possibility of it being removed altogether. It has been reported that discussions have been productive, but some have observed that Saudi Arabia is consistently trying to include mentions of carbon capture and storage, even when it may not be relevant. Additionally, the kingdom is pushing for the inclusion of the word ’emissions’ when referring to the phase-out or reduction of fossil fuels.”
The stance of China is currently being examined. The conference aims to reach a consensus on the final text by December 12, although negotiations may extend beyond this deadline.
Despite the fact that the UN negotiations have been ongoing since 1995, the focus on reducing fossil fuel usage has only recently become a serious topic in the past few years. This is surprising because experts have been stressing the urgency for significant and immediate reductions for a long time.
Prominent figures at the forefront of attention during Cop28 – or maybe not as much
King Charles cautioned against a potentially risky and alarming experiment on our environment in his address at the conference’s commencement.
Critics have pointed out that Rishi Sunak’s brief appearance at the beginning of Cop28 was easily overlooked, as the UK prime minister’s recent backpedaling on climate policy indicates a retreat from its position as a leader in climate action.
Joe Biden, the president of the United States, chose to send Kamala Harris, the vice-president, in his place, and her presence was met with varying reactions, partially due to the country’s thriving oil and gas extraction sector.
The United States’ climate ambassador, John Kerry, declared a substantial push to reduce methane emissions, as reported by Oliver Milman of The Guardian. This is part of a collective effort by multiple nations at the Cop28 summit to control the “super pollutant” that is exacerbating the climate emergency.
The leader of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, officially joined a coalition of countries advocating for a treaty against the spread of fossil fuels in order to prevent the destruction of our planet. Petro acknowledged that some may question why a country dependent on fossil fuels would support this initiative, but he emphasized that it is necessary to prevent the destruction of our world. This was reported by Patrick Greenfield from The Guardian.
Brazil: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president, said it was not possible to tackle the climate crisis without also tackling inequality. Meanwhile, campaigners expressed alarm that Brazil chose the first day of the conference to announce it was aligning itself with the world’s biggest oil cartel, Opec.
Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, visited the UAE on Wednesday to address the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, causing concern among the Ukrainian delegation.