/ 14 December 2023

Editorial: COP28 a compromise we’ll pay for

Cop28 In Uae
The president of COP28, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, is also the chief executive of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/Getty Images

Every year the United Nations hosts a climate summit known as the Conference of Parties (COP). The aim of it is to find solutions for the climate crisis the world is in. 

The major cause of climate change is fossil fuels — coal, oil and gas. These cause about 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which blanket the Earth and trap the sun’s heat causing global warming and climate change. 

The solution seems simple: get rid of fossil fuels, which will result in far fewer emissions, reducing climate change. 

This year the United Arab Emirates — a major fossil fuel-based nation — hosted the Conference of the Parties. 

The president of COP28, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, is also the chief executive of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. 

During the conference he declared “no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5°C”. 

It gets worse. The Guardian reported that this year a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists attended COP28. That number reached 2  456 people. To put it into context, more people from the fossil fuel industry had passes to the summit than delegates from nations particularly vulnerable to climate change. 

If the fossil fuel industry is a key contributor to this problem the world faces, why do they have a voice and a seat at a summit where the removal of fossil fuels is crucial? 

The credibility of this event must be called into question. 

There was drama on the penultimate day of the summit. 

As discussions were taking place on the final text, threats to withdraw from the summit reverberated through the media. Why? Because the phasing out of fossil fuels was absent from the final text of the first draft. 

Seemingly the push by countries such as major oil producer Saudi Arabia to not have the phasing out of fossil fuels in this text was working. 

But the fact that early versions of the final text was devoid of language saying fossil fuels must be phased out reeks of capture.

Al Jaber had his work cut out for him; he needed to herd the cats and ensure a resolution and compromise was reached before COP28 was declared an abject failure. 

In the end, fossil fuels did feature in the final text, something that has never happened before — but the agreement was for “a transition” away from fossil fuels. Al Jaber avoided upsetting the oil bloc by not reaching an agreement on a phase-out of fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, our planet and its people will continue to suffer from climate change.