Following my article two weeks ago on what would count as ‘success’ at COP28, here is a report back. Predictably, COP28 ran over for an extra day as delegations struggled to tried agree a final statement that all might support.
Fossil fuels – ‘Phase down’ or ‘Phase out’?
COP28 became the ‘Oil and Gas COP’ as a record number of industry lobbyists descended on Dubai. But it was also the ‘Oil and Gas COP’ in a more positive sense in that it is the first time that fossil fuels were made the centre of attention and were to feature prominently in the final communique. Keeping the goal of 1.5 degrees in sight requires reductions in production and consumption of fossil fuels before 2030 (rather than after, as some nations and oil and gas companies are hoping). As UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated before COP28, “We cannot address climate catastrophe without tackling its root cause: fossil fuel dependence. COP28 must send a clear signal that the fossil fuel age is out of gas — that its end is inevitable.” He then called for a phase out of fossil fuels.
As you will no doubt have heard, the phrase “phase out” was the subject of intense discussion in Dubai. Crucially, the US now supports a commitment to phase out, so the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), (led on this occasion by Saudi Arabia and Russia) were forced to show their hand and found themselves to be in a small minority against the rest of the world. The text that finally achieved consensus was a commitment to: –
Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science;
The positive aspect of this text is “accelerating action in this critical decade” reflecting the urgency of our situation. Nevertheless, it is outrageous that some countries claim to accept the scientific consensus and then refuse to take the action that the science demands.
Here is a report of progress at COP28 in some of the others areas of concern: –
Climate Finance – the $100bn/year for mitigation and adaptation.
The target set in 2009 still has not been met. However there is recognition at COP28 that $100bn is a floor not a ceiling for future climate finance targets, and the meeting resolved to undertake work to increase finance beyond $100bn. This is critical because developing nations state that their ability to exit fossil fuels more quickly relies on available finance to fund the alternatives.
Loss and Damage
Pledges to a new Loss and Damage fund at COP28 totalled $792 million (including £60 million from the UK). This is great start. Now that the fund has contributions it needs to be seen to work efficiently. Nations/communities that have suffered loss and damage must be at the centre of its decision making. There is general recognition that what has been pledged, or indeed is likely to be pledged by governments, is a drop in the ocean when set against the need to address loss and damage from climate disaster. The next stage must be to look at innovative financing mechanisms (such as taxation on aircraft fuel or other aspects of air transport) that can bring in the $ billions that are required. There were no firm commitments at COP28 to investigate specific proposals for new sources of finance (an area on which I suggest we must focus our campaigning in the future).
The Faith Pavilion
All in all, COP28 was a mixed picture. It is easy to lose faith in this annual gathering as States are good at talking yet poor when it comes to taking action. While the COP process could be reformed for the better1, at the moment it is the only game in town and it is crucial that civil society representatives and those at the sharp end of the climate crisis have a platform in which their voice can be heard. In this respect, a positive aspect of COP28 was the first ever ‘Faith Pavilion’ established in the Green Zone (the area to which members of the public can apply for access). Faith groups were able to come together in this zone to represent their members in climate stressed areas of the world and to demand action.
When we join together in climate action it underlines that climate justice is fundamental to all of our faith traditions. The actions that governments take (or don’t take) cannot be assessed simply in the light of economic pragmatism. The visibility of faith groups at COP, and that of their members across the world, emphasises that the decisions around the climate crisis are essentially ‘ethical’ in nature. Governments may not like it, but people of faith and faith leaders will join with others to hold our governments to account.
Find all of our COP28 resources and content here.