Some are calling it COPOUT28 and others COOPTED28. Although it started out with finally setting up a Loss and Damages fund, less than .2% of what is needed every year has thus far been pledged by the most polluting countries. Held in the UAE (Unite Arab Emirates) and presided over by Sultan Al Jabar who runs the UAE state owned fossil fuels company there was an immediate controversy as a recording of him saying that there is “No science saying that a phase out if needed to restrict temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius” (which he later had to backtrack on) and then documents were leaked showing that his staff had prepared talking points for at least 20 countries with the goal of using COP28 to make fossil fuel deals and extraction agreements with International fossil fuel executives and governments, including China and Brazil.
Indeed, there are at least 2400 known fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28. The icing on the cake was an exposure in a CNN article that this year a UAE fossil fuel company with ties to Dubai’s Royal ruler purchased over 24.5 M hectares of forested land in 5 African countries-Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Liberia and Tanzania. In Zimbabwe, it amounted to 20% of their land base. In Kenya, the UAE company immediately began evicting indigenous forest protectors, the Ogiek tribal peoples, from their land. All in the name of Carbon Credits, which UAE is pushing their model of carbon trading at COP28 despite the critiques of scientists and a scandal showing that in this greenwashing attempt they have overstated the climate value of carbon credits.
Fossil fuel producers push for carbon trading to forestall the movement to cheaper clean energies like wind and solar as many of fossil fuels companies plan to continue expansion and extracting more than 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than is consistent with limiting temperature increases. As critiques and protests begin to rise at COP28, UAE began revoking the credentials of protesters and restricting freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.
On a more positive note, in addition to the Loss and Damages fund establishment, 51 oil companies and 119 countries have pledged to move to 3x the amount of renewables but it’s unclear what all that category could entail. There was a food declaration signed by 134 countries pledging to cut emissions from agriculture and to transform food systems. There is a debate scheduled on whether to end fossil fuel subsidies.
One of the most important demands coming from the global south is for the Global North to cancel the debt of the Global South. The Global North owes 7.9 trillion$$, 65x the debt of the global south in terms of Loss and Damages. Debt service is 12-13x higher than funding for climate adaptation in the Global south and often results in cuts to essential services and social protections as well as harmful austerity measures that fly in the face of human rights, equity, and justice. That is why it is so important to amplify the voices of the Global South for reasons of climate justice as the US holds a huge sway over the World Bank and other Debt holding institutions. With XRPDX helping to sponsor four African delegates to COP28, we are grateful for the courageous actions taking place there as part of Debt for Climate and resistance to fossil fuels.