GRAY MAGUIRE: Stage is set for an epic clash of interests at COP28
With targets still far off, vested interests are thick on the ground and go all the way to the top
With COP28 now fast approaching the halfway mark, a stocktake of the first week’s outcomes is in order, along with a forecast of what lies ahead for the final week when the fanfare dies down.
As usual with the start of COP negotiations, things kicked off with a fair bit of fireworks when COP president Sultan al-Jaber announced a $30bn commitment to the United Arab Emirates’ newly launched catalytic climate finance vehicle, Altérra, which aims to mobilise $250bn in climate finance by 2030, with an emphasis on improving access to climate funding for the Global South.
This was followed by several days of pledges, totalling more than $650m, to the global loss and damage fund established at COP27, which aims to compensate developing countries for unavoidable climate effects. In a similar vein, the second replenishment round for the Green Climate Fund has been well supported, with pledges now surpassing the previous top-up round with a total of $12.8bn.
Closer to home, the African Development Bank announced the launch of the Climate Action Window under the African Adaptation Accelerator, to raise $14bn in adaptation support for 37 low-income countries through distributed renewable energy provision, climate-resilient agricultural technologies and insurance products for smallholder farmers, as well as the rehabilitation of 1-million hectares of degraded lands.
This was complemented by the announcement from the COP presidency on Friday that 134 world leaders had signed up to its agriculture, food and climate action declaration, which will provide $2.5bn in funding to support climate resilient agriculture.
So far so fabulous. Lots of cash, important people and flashing cameras. But after the heads of state (including our own Uncle Cyril) have jetted off to tackle other pressing matters, the real nuts and bolts must be addressed. While all of these finance commitments are great and necessary, the core objective of COP28 is a global stocktake to ensure our collective emission reductions to maintain a habitable climate are effective.
Simply put, we are a long way from where we need to be when it comes to meeting these targets, and by early 2025 each country will have to come back with a plan to close the gap. This COP must develop the set of agreed goals and approaches to guide individual country strategies, and with 90% of the agreement’s text still to be written, this will be no small ask.
Headlines from the event indicate that 118 countries — including the US, UK, India, China and members of the EU — are backing a pledge to triple clean energy production by 2030. But with the IMF stating that fossil fuel subsidies hit a record $7-trillion in 2022, these pledges must be taken with a dollop of salt. Eliminating just these subsidies alone would free up 7.1% of global GDP, in orders of magnitude larger than the fuzzy-math figures concocted in Bjorn Lomborg’s article published on December 1 (“COP28 performative theatre set to produce more hot air”).
Indeed, vested interests are thick on the ground at the negotiations as well, not least of all with the COP president himself, who lost his composure in an interview with former UN special envoy for climate change Mary Robinson in the build-up to the negotiations. Jaber, the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, said “there is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5°C”.
Given his company’s decision in 2022 to invest $150bn to increase oil production to 5-million barrels a day by 2027, I’m not surprised he’s less than ecstatic over proposals to cut emissions and boost renewable energy production.
With one week left to go, one thing is for sure. The stakes at this year’s COP are as high as they’ve ever been, and the stage is set for a clash of interests of epic proportions.
• Maguire is carbon project manager at Climate Neutral Group SA. He writes in his personal capacity.
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