The 28th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or the UN climate treaty) wrapped up on Wednesday, December 13th in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While some have called the final agreement of the summit in Dubai “historic”, Taproot Earth understands that COP28 has failed the climate frontlines at a time when accountability and justice are most urgent.
Leading up to COP28, movements and governments around the world demanded a fair, fast and funded phase out of all fossil fuels. The United Nations scientific advisory body — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — earlier this year declared that the global emissions of greenhouse gasses must peak by 2025 and be cut 50% by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Global South countries, especially small island states and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) echoed these calls and further demanded that the countries of the Global North like the United States and the European Union provide the finance required for a just transition, climate adaptation, and climate-induced loss and damage. Climate justice demands for COP28 included the operationalization of a fund for Loss and Damage and meaningful replenishments of the UNFCCC’s Adaptation Fund and Green Climate Fund by these rich countries.
Yet, in the end COP28 delivered a deeply-flawed compromise agreement that fails to meet the urgency of the moment and allows fossil fuel polluters to keep devastating communities around the world.
While the agreement finally calls for all countries to transition away from fossil fuels, the final language in the text is weak (providing no timelines or firm commitments) and contains, in the words of the lead negotiator of Samoa, a “litany of loopholes” that will perpetuate climate injustice. Such gaping loopholes include allowances for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), nuclear power and a host of ill-defined and unspecified “low carbon fuels”.
Even the commitment to triple renewable energy, it must be noted, the term “renewable energy” is never explicitly defined, leaving the door open for energy sources that pollute the frontlines, like nuclear, fossil gas and carbon-based technologies.
The final agreement of COP28 is soaring rhetoric with no substance. It is a death sentence for billions of people on the planet who are living on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Worse, it responds to decades of negotiating for assistance to the Global South with meager pledges of climate finance that will leave communities at the mercy of extractive loans and lending institutions.
We will not give up. The global movement to advance climate justice will continue to demand an end to fossil fuels that is fair, fast and funded. Some of the critical fights on the road to COP29 next year in Azerbaijan include:
- the revision (and push for increased ambition) of national climate plans and long-term low greenhouse gas development strategies,
- the fight to enact strong regulations and human rights protections for a UN-backed global carbon market scheme, and
- the negotiation of a New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) for climate finance.
- the demand for reform of the COP process — for example by kicking out fossil fuel industry representatives— or momentum for new international mechanisms — like a binding treaty on fossil fuels that can deliver the rapid and just phase out of fossil fuels the world needs. Activists and civil society from around the world decried the jump in fossil fuel industry lobbyists (there were almost 2500 within the halls at Dubai COP. Frustration with the slow pace and ineffectual, watered-down results of the UNFCCC COP process are at an all time high.
Taproot Earth will continue to move in deep solidarity with the Global South demands for climate reparations that acknowledges harm and responsibility of those who have fueled the climate crisis. We plan to attend COP29 in Azerbaijan. And, we plan to bring the frontlines with us!
By Sriram Madhusoodanan, Director of International Strategy