If a country is organizing a climate summit, you would expect it to lead by example. Well… think again. The United Arab Emirates, set to host this year’s UN climate summit, reportedly plans to leverage the event for fossil fuel deals — as per leaked documents obtained by the BBC.
A fossil fuel facade?
COP, or the Conference of the Parties, is the annual climate change conference of the United Nations (UN). This yearly summit brought us the Paris Agreement, that’s supposed to get countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Now on its 28th edition, the summit, which starts this Thursday, is being hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a massive fossil fuel producer.
The choice of host has been controversial from day one. Campaigners are worried it could result in weak outcomes at COP, which is expected to (finally) agree on plans to phase out fossil fuels this decade. The UAE also appointed Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of state oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as the president of the COP — another decision that raised eyebrows.
Now, the BBC, together with the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR), cited leaked documents that show the UAE planned to discuss fossil fuel deals with countries during COP28. The UAE didn’t deny using COP28 for business talks, stating that “private meetings are private,” and declined to comment on the content of these discussions.
The documents include “talking points” for ADNOC to “evaluate international LNG [liquefied natural gas] opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada, and Australia. They also suggest telling authorities in Colombia that ADNOC “stands ready” to help the country in developing its fossil fuel resources. There are talking points for 13 other countries.
Earlier this month, an investigation by AFP revealed that McKinsey, the world’s leading management consultancy company, was using its position as a COP28 advisor to the UAE to push the interest of its fossil fuel clients. McKinsey had suggested to the UAE energy transition scenarios for the world that contradict the climate crisis, AFP said.
Can we have a normal climate summit?
COP28 might be off to a rocky start, but it could still lead to some degree of progress over the next two weeks of the summit. The summit will feature a contentious set of issues for countries working to find common ground in tackling the climate crisis — including whether to phase out fossil fuels and how to finance the energy transition.
Countries agreed at COP26 in 2021 to accelerate “efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” Then, at COP27, a group of 80 countries asked to expand the COP26 language on coal to include all fossil fuels. However, the discussion didn’t make it into the final text of the summit.
Now, fossil fuel phase-out is expected to get a lot of attention at the climate talks in Dubai. Countries will also discuss whether to set a goal to triple renewable energy capacity and energy savings by 2030. This was proposed by the US and the European Union but developing countries are asking to pair this with phasing out fossil fuels.
Climate finance will also feature at COP28. Developing countries need much more money than what they are getting to cope with the effects of the climate crisis. In 2009, developed countries pledged to allocate $100 billion per year from 2020, but this target was never met. At COP28, governments will push for a new (and higher) target.
Finally, another important task of COP28 will be to assess countries’ progress toward meeting the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global temperature to “well below” 2 °C, while aiming for 1.5 °C. Countries will seek to agree on a plan to get the world on track to meet climate targets — with temperatures now heading to 2.9 °C this century.
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