COP28 Summit Concludes with Contradictory Agreement

Although the final document calls for “transitioning” from fossil fuels, many developing states and territories wanted stronger language and economic commitments

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By Abayomi Azikiwe

A two week-long annual climate conference sponsored by the United Nations in Dubai ended on December 13 with an agreement to “transition from” the use of fossil fuels on a global scale.

Organizers and officials at the COP28 (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC) gathering hailed the outcome of the event saying that this was the first time that a document was signed which made reference to the potential for reliance on renewable energy in the future.

The agreement requires the participating entities to triple renewable capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030. Also, the creation of a Loss and Damage Fund will ostensibly address the crisis of climate change within the most impacted states and territories by the main culprits in the production of fossil fuels and other pollutants.

At the beginning of the conference on November 30, the UAE pledged $100 million to the Loss and Damage Fund. In addition, Germany made the same financial commitment providing hope that this aspect of the demands made by developing states were being realized.

Although there were others who pointed out that the agreement did not include the concept of “phasing out” of reliance on fossil fuels, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said that the distinction was insignificant. Obviously, Guterres shared the same optimism as the hosts of the conference, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as represented by the conference President Suffan Al Jabera, who heads the national oil company (ADNOC), along with the UN Climate Executive Secretary Simon Stiell.

The UAE is one the largest producers of petroleum and natural gas in the world. Consequently, the government and private sector have a considerable stake in the future of the energy market.

Approximately 96% of the UAE’s 100 billion barrels of known oil reserves are to be found in Abu Dhabi, making it the sixth largest deposit internationally. The country produces 3.2 million barrels of petroleum and liquids daily.

A report published by the United Nations news agency said of the response by the Secretary General that:

“Reacting to the adoption of the outcome document, UN chief António Guterres said that mention of the world’s leading contributor to climate change comes after many years in which the discussion of this issue was blocked. He stressed that the era of fossil fuels must end with justice and equity. ‘To those who opposed a clear reference to a phaseout of fossil fuels in the COP28 text, I want to say that a fossil fuel phase out is inevitable whether they like it or not. Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late,’ added the Secretary-General.”

Guterres in his remarks pointed to scientific research which indicates that the planet was becoming warmer. The Secretary General pointed out that the Paris Agreement of 2015 limiting the earth’s temperature to a 1.5 Celsius increase will be impossible if fossil fuels are not phased out.  He noted the continuing economic challenges facing the countries in the Global South and emphasized the necessity of the developed states to address poverty among large segments of the world’s population impacting their ability to withstands severe weather events such as cataclysmic storms, floods, drought and food deficits which result in greater displacement.

Developing States and Territories Disappointed and Angered at COP28 Outcomes

Despite the positive words articulated by some delegates, others held an opposite view saying that the results of the conference fell far short of what is required. By not establishing specific guidelines for phasing out fossil fuels while making inadequate financial commitments to the Global South, will only uphold the economic and climate status-quo.

A UN news report captured the sentiment of one delegation from the South Pacific:

“Anne Rasmussen, the Samoan representative and lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), pointed out that the decision was gaveled during their absence in the plenary room as the group was still coordinating its response to the text. She lamented that the delegations she represents cannot ‘afford to return to their islands with the message that this process has failed us.’ Underlining the importance of the Global Stock Take process, she said, ‘this first GST is of particular significance. It is the only GST that matters for ensuring that we can still limit global warming to 1.5C.’ But Ms. Rasmussen bemoaned the outcome’s lack of ‘course correction’ and expressed disappointment over ‘incremental advancement over business as usual, when what we really needed was an exponential step-change in our actions and support.’”

These comments reflect the general attitude of many climate activists within the developing and developed regions of the world. Population displacement, hunger and environmental destruction remain major impediments to sustainable economic development. The contradiction between the imperatives of adopting renewable energy models and the ongoing dominance of the capitalist mode of production and imperialist militarism must be resolved in order for genuine progress to be realized.

In this same article Harjeet Singh, the director of global political strategy for Climate Action Network International emphasized:

“’After decades of evasion, COP28 finally cast a glaring spotlight on the real culprits of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. A long-overdue direction to move away from coal, oil, and gas has been set.’ But the outcome was ‘marred by loopholes that offer the fossil fuel industry numerous escape routes, relying on unproven, unsafe technologies.’ Mr. Singh also pointed to what he saw as ‘hypocrisy of wealthy nations…that continue to expand fossil fuel operations massively while paying mere lip service to the green transition.’ Developing countries still dependent on fossil fuels are, he said, left without robust guarantees for adequate financial support in their ‘urgent and equitable transition to renewable energy. While this COP recognized the immense financial shortfall in tackling climate impacts, the final outcomes fall disappointingly short of compelling wealthy nations to fulfill their financial responsibilities,’ he added.”

System Change is the Only Solution to Climate Change

A popular slogan surfaced several years ago which summed up the struggle against environmental degradation. The demand “System Change not Climate Change” goes straight to the essence of the problem.

The global division of labor and economic power must be transformed in favor of the workers and oppressed peoples so that real initiatives to save the planet and humanity can come to the forefront of human society. This of course must address the greenhouse emissions which are directly the result of imperialist militarism.

What must be stated is that the Pentagon is the largest spreader of dangerous pollutants in the world. Successive White House administrations and Congresses continue to fund the presence of hundreds of military bases and installations across the globe. Major military conflicts taking place in Palestine and Ukraine are proxy wars of Washington and Wall Street.

With specific reference to the plight of Palestinians during the more than two-months long siege of Gaza where thousands have been killed and injured, the settler-colonial state is making it impossible for people to live any type of decent life in the already densely populated strip. The majority of the Palestinians in Gaza have been dislocated and are facing widespread hunger, lack of healthcare and preventable diseases as the direct outcome of the U.S.-backed genocidal war carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

On the first day of the COP28 conference, the Israeli regime abandoned the one-week temporary truce and began bombing Gaza at an unprecedented level. Several speakers such as the presidents of Turkey, Jordan and Iraq condemned the IDF actions in Gaza.

The Islamic Republic of Iran refused to participate in the gathering due to the presence of a small low-level Israeli delegation. The UAE is one of the few Arab states to have diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv’s war against the Palestinian people constitutes a severe assault on the environmental conditions in Gaza and throughout the entire occupied territories. The Biden administration has consistently voted against a ceasefire in Gaza at the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. Meanwhile, the U.S. is the leading provider of weapons to Israel which are utilized against the Palestinians and other neighboring states.

Therefore, to end the threat of climate change imperialist militarism must cease. The basis of imperialism is the ever-expanding capitalist relations of production. The system of exploitation and oppression are driving forces behind the collapse of a stable environment.

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