Reflections on COP28 - A significant step forward?
14 Dec 2023

Reflections on COP28 - A significant step forward?

As the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) came to an end on Wednesday 13th December we are left with controversy, disagreement, and yet another deal. As the conference unfolded, controversy, conflicting interests, and unexpected turns raised questions about the sincerity of global efforts to combat the pressing climate crisis. However, it could be argued that the deal that has arisen is a vital step in the right direction.

Initial controversy

COP28 began on a disappointing note as reports from the BBC exposed the president of the talks' intentions to broker deals for new oil and gas during the conference. Sultan Al Jaber's initial non-denial and his assertion that there is "no science" behind phasing out fossil fuels sparked concern and outrage. Al Jaber later retracted these statements, emphasising the essential need for an orderly, fair, just, and responsible phase-down and phase-out of fossil fuels.

Carbon Footprint Dilemma

Ironically, research unveiled that COP28 boasts the highest carbon footprint in the history of annual climate conferences. The surge in attendees, while aiming for inclusivity and broad societal engagement, prompts reflection on the environmental toll of such extensive participation during a climate crisis. This raises concerns about the necessity of the talks and their direct impact on the climate.

Draft deals and disagreements

At the outset of the second week, optimism arose with a draft agreement proposing a worldwide “phase out” of fossil fuels. However, reports that Saudi Arabia was blocking this from becoming the final deal then surfaced. The OPEC oil group also voiced concerns, alleging that the first draft gave "undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels". This reflects the discord between nations, particularly with key demands from the European Union and vulnerable developing countries supporting the "phase out" wording.

The optimism that arose at the start of the week with the first draft agreement proposing a worldwide “phase out” of fossil fuels, soon waned as the COP28 team presented an alternative solution, diluting some of the initially robust language. Post the official deadline, negotiations continued with unresolved issues surrounding the fate of coal, oil, and gas usage. This recurring challenge has hindered progress in previous COP events, highlighting the complexities involved in reaching a global consensus.

The final agreement

The 198 nations present at COP reached a landmark global agreement early Wednesday morning(GMT), which includes a "transition" away from fossil fuels. This marks a significant difference from previous COP conferences, where a focus on fossil fuels was lacking in the agreements. Critics argue that the deal still contains ambiguities and that the initial draft's use of the term "phase out" would have better conveyed the necessary actions. Indeed, Antonio Guterres the UN Chief stated that ”whether you like it or not, fossil fuel phase-out is inevitable. Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late”.

Finally, the president of the talk’s message conveyed the urgency of action: "We are what we do, not what we say". This outlines that this "transition" away from fossil fuels demands immediate action and substantial investment. There is hope, however, that this deal, a first of its kind, is a significant step towards net zero.









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