Fossil Fuels at COP28

Dubai 30 November to 12 December 2023

A junk in Dubai harbour

Dubai Harbour – photo by Doreen Hosking

What is COP28?

“COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. In International Relations-speak it means a committee created after an international treaty is signed, tasked with making decisions about how that treaty is implemented.” There have been many COPs some more, some less successful. Perhaps the most promising was in Paris in 2015. There the world agreed to try and keep Global Warming to under 2°C. Even better would be 1.5°C. That would make life difficult but possible for humanity. However we have since agreed to keep it to 1.5°C and have made some progress towards that. It is not nearly enough.

(See this article Everything you need to know about COP.)

How Does it Work?

Countries meet annually to agree how they will deal with harmful human impacts on the climate. Each year a new country becomes President of the COP. (If you want to know more, have a look at the article).

This year the Conference is in Dubai which is creating a lot of controversy. The COP President-Designate is Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Many people fear a conflict of interest especially in dealing with fossil fuels. (To have any chance of keeping global heating to 1.5°C we must phase out fossil fuels NOW.)

This may be a huge issue. Fossil fuels produce a large percentage of the carbon pollution humankind is putting into the atmosphere. There it is changing our climate irrevocably. On the other hand fossil fuel companies and investors want to maximize their profit from what remains in the ground.

There will be many representatives from oil and gas companies at COP28 lobbying for the longer-term use of fossil fuels. Al Jaber is already speaking of “Phasing Down” fossil fuels rather than “Phasing Out” which we must do now if we are to have any hope of keeping the temperature rise to a level humanity can cope with. So there may be fireworks!

Time to stop doubting and act

According to the IPCC there is NO Doubt that we are creating Climate Change through our actions. They have said “Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming  – – – “

Still, it would be great if this COP came to agreements that moved us forward in our fight. We seem determined to destroy our civilisation. So let’s see.

I am not over hopeful but often the discussions behind the scenes can be constructive and useful.

Aerial view of Dubai with the famous Burj Al Arab hotel

A Desert City – photo by Christoph Schulz on Unsplash

The Agenda for COP28

Chatham House, a respected Think Tank for International Affairs has produced a document explaining what key issues will be discussed at the Summit. They will be:

  1. The First Stocktake on what the world has achieved after the Paris Agreement.
  2. Making a Loss and Damage Fund work.
  3. Discussing a global goal for Adaption.

They will also be discussing the transition to renewable energy and the transformation of the global food system.

The Global Stocktake

This is a chance to see how far we have progressed on our commitments after Paris. According to Simon Steill in What is COP28 and why is it important? it is a report card of our collective climate action – and not a good one. He says COP28 is our chance to make a dramatic course-correction.

So the world has made some progress. I believe that the potential is there to change to a sustainable and just lifestyle that will make all our lives better. To do so though, means each and every last one of us must change and fight like never before. Which I trust we can do.

The Loss and Damage Fund

Global Warming and the consequent Climate Change have brought chaos on a global scale. The damage produced by fires, droughts, floods and storms has cost billions of dollars worldwide. However the poorer developing countries do not have the money to repair this damage. That has destroyed many livelihoods in these countries. Also lack of support from developed countries principally responsible for the situation is naturally causing considerable anger and upset from emerging economies. Agreement on support is hard to reach, as is agreement on who should pay what.

Offshore wind turbines

Adapting to Renewable Energy – photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash


In order to cope with the effects of Climate Change we will have to adapt our way of life. This will involve issues like building renewable energy and transport systems, ecosystem restoration, building climate-resilient infrastructure, securing our water supplies, and changing global food systems.

Adaption finance has been very patchy up till now, to say the least. Developed countries have now agreed to double adaption finance from 2019 levels by 2025. According to Chatham House “finance for adaptation falls far short of what is needed and is dwarfed by the scale of future need.” In 2022, the UN Environment Programme estimated developing countries’ annual adaptation needs to be $160-340 billion by 2030 and $315-565 billion by 2050.

So, not only does the funding promised fall short but there are many examples of corrupt behaviour from richer countries. There is pressure on poorer countries to buy oil and gas rather than renewables. The result being a long-term commitment to fossil fuel use and more carbon emissions.

Delivering on promises builds trust so it is important that COP28 comes up with a meaningful and deliverable proposition here.

What Can you Do to Help?

These big international conferences tend to leave one feeling there is nothing one can do.

Our world is struggling with huge issues like war, a move to right-wing politics, and a deteriorating economic situation. Somehow we have to find a way to keep the most vital issues to the front of our minds. Our children will be grateful if we do.

However, as always, I believe there are things we can do.

  1. Write to your politicians now and tell them we must support developing countries for all our sakes.
  2. Write to them afterwards and ask why they have not done it!
  3. Think about ways you can reduce your fossil fuel emissions, so buy a heat pump or solar panels. Run your old car into the ground rather than buy a new one, even if it might be electric.
  4. Eat less meat!!!!
  5. Buy organic if you can
  6. Read all my old blogs for suggestions
  7. Talk to friends and neighbours about the situation and keep doing it.

Above all, Get Active!

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