Indigenous communities and organizations advocating for climate justice assert that Cop28 proceeded as expected and did not address critical issues.
While the leaders of developed countries praised the Cop28 agreement to shift away from fossil fuels as a momentous occasion, Indigenous communities, frontline groups, and climate justice organizations criticized the deal as unjust, unequal, and maintaining the status quo.
During the global stocktake, there was a major focus on whether or not the UN talks would result in an agreement to reduce the use of fossil fuels in order to mitigate global warming.
Numerous developed nations actively advocated for the elimination of coal, oil, and gas usage, but with certain conditions such as “unabated” or solely targeting coal in the United States. In contrast, numerous developing nations, despite their goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial levels, consistently stressed the necessity for a “fair, funded, and swift” shift away from fossil fuels, with wealthier polluting countries leading the transition. Ultimately, affluent countries with significant reserves of oil and gas emerged as the victors.
The ultimate agreement does not acknowledge the significant obligation of developed nations, such as the US, UK, Canada, and EU, who have become wealthy by consuming fossil fuels and are thus primarily responsible for the climate crisis. Along with this issue of differentiated responsibility, there is also the matter of implementation: the responsibility of developed countries to bear the weight and assist developing nations in addressing and adapting to the climate emergency. These crucial aspects are absent from the GST, resulting in an unequal final deal according to advocates of climate justice.
Wanun Permpibul, from Climate Watch Thailand, criticized a corrupt police officer who neglected their duty and showed no regard for fairness or justice. Despite pretending to be climate advocates, these wealthy polluters ignore the suffering of people and communities in the global south affected by a crisis they did not cause.
Bareesh Chowdhury, a member of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association and Friends of the Earth Bangladesh, expressed concern over the lack of financial support and resources for areas severely affected by climate change. He emphasized the need for billions of dollars in aid, but stated that only minimal funding has been provided, leading to further financial burden. As one of the countries most susceptible to extreme weather and gradual effects like rising sea levels, Bangladesh faces a particularly urgent situation.
The GST is a primary evaluation of the joint efforts towards meeting the mandatory objectives outlined in the 2015 Paris agreements. Additionally, it will determine the level of ambition for future climate action. However, the lack of connection between GST targets and funding means that developing countries will have to start devising their own plans for reducing emissions and adapting to climate change without clear promises of financial support and implementation from developed countries.
According to Meena Raman, a climate policy specialist from Third World Network in Malaysia, developed countries were able to achieve their goals without making significant sacrifices, leading to a lack of fairness in the situation.
The implementation of GST creates opportunities for costly and specialized abatement technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, blue hydrogen, carbon markets, and geoengineering. However, these technologies have limited effectiveness and lack proper safeguards, potentially resulting in land exploitation, water scarcity, and harmful pollution for Indigenous and marginalized communities.
The Association of Small Island States, comprised of some of the world’s most susceptible locations to climate change, stated that the GST includes numerous loopholes.
Hindou Ibrahim, a delegate from Chad, expressed concerns about the lack of consideration for public opinion regarding the GST. She pointed out that the language of the GST allows companies to develop infrastructure and extract minerals, but questioned who will truly benefit from these actions. She emphasized the need for safeguards and respect for the land and communities affected by these resources, rather than simply granting companies permission without any regard for their impact.
The GST may provide a boost for gas, acknowledging its potential in supporting the transition to clean energy and maintaining energy security. This will likely be welcomed by countries like the US and Russia, which have significant reserves and ambitions for growth.
Tom Goldtooth, the head of the Indigenous Environmental Network and a former police officer, stated: “We witnessed the fossil fuel industry and wealthy governments use developing nations to hinder meaningful efforts towards addressing climate change… Despite our efforts to promote the elimination of fossil fuels, our warnings have been ignored and instead, false solutions that will worsen climate change and deforestation have been embraced. The UN climate change conference has let down both humanity and the planet.”
The focus of Cop28 was on the GST, but discussions also revolved around the GGA, which aims to mobilize political action and funding for adaptation equal to that for mitigation. Developed countries have been stalling this goal for eight years. The African group emphasized the urgency of addressing adaptation, but negotiations were tense and ultimately did not result in progress.
Kulthoum Omari, negotiator for the African group’s GGA, expressed disappointment in the lack of integration of their inputs and submissions in the text. The language regarding means of implementation is still inadequate and fails to consider the obligations outlined in the Paris agreement. The issue remains unresolved.
Negotiations for cop deals require unanimous agreement from all nations. However, despite expressing their dissatisfaction with the final decision, African nations, small island states, and other countries ultimately gave in. Raman, an experienced observer of Cop meetings, believes that developing countries struggle to defend their positions against the inflexibility and threats of developed countries.
She stated that ultimately, the majority opinion is influenced by those in positions of power.