October 16

COP28 In Dubai: Climate Negotiations At A Crossroads


Another year will soon pass, another ‘Conference of the Parties’ to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“COP”) will convene. This time the 28th COP will meet in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates during 30 November – 12 December. Doubtless, the legacy media will soon be inundating us with wall-to-wall coverage of yet another attempt at the UN concert of nations to ‘save the planet’. Now that we are three years short of three decades of COP negotiations to handle an asserted “climate emergency” allegedly caused by human-driven greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, what progress have we made?

Demons and Saviors at COP meetings

The “settled science” narrative put out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the layperson and the mass media is contained in a government-approved “summary for policy makers.” These SPMs are based on Assessment Reports (the 6th synthesis report was published in March 2023) compiled by scientists who are themselves often appointed by governments. Following each of these summary reports, countless mainstream media stories offer a steady drumbeat of alarmist news of rising temperatures, surging sea-levels, disappearing ice and increasing frequency of extreme weather with floods, storms, drought, and wildfires. The underlying message is constant: manmade GHG emissions are the culprit and unless modern energy systems are radically transformed, the Earth is doomed.

Since the first COP was convened in 1995 in Berlin (and held annually since, except for 2020), the rhetoric against fossil fuels has ramped up. The demonization of the oil and gas industry at COP26 held in Glasgow in 2021 was palpable. Oil and gas industry executives were ‘not invited’ (coal, of course, being beyond the pale). Royal Dutch Shell’s CEO stated that the company would be absent from the climate talks after being told it would not be welcome. Teenage climate icon Greta Thunberg, whose tirades always go viral on social media, tweeted “I don’t know about you, but I sure am not comfortable with having some of the world’s biggest villains influencing & dictating the fate of the world.”

As COP27 wound up last year, Reuters ran a story citing anonymous ‘government officials’ who said that “fossil fuel producers benefited from sympathetic treatment in Egypt…bringing their influence to bear in rushed final negotiations and frustrating those who hoped for a more ambitious outcome.” Over 600 [oil and gas] industry participants “were able to enter” the COP27 meetings in Egypt.” Imagine the horror of it – polluters being allowed into the hallowed halls of intrepid climate warriors fighting climate change. The Reuters story opined that Egypt, a significant natural gas exporter in its own right and long dependent on financing from Gulf oil producers, was “partly responsible, although the war in Ukraine and the subsequent European energy crisis also had an impact”.

In August 2022, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres slammed the “grotesque greed” of oil and gas companies and their financial backers. “It is immoral for oil and gas companies to be making record profits from this energy crisis on the backs of the poorest people and communities, at a massive cost to the climate.” And again, last month, Mr. Guterres – no stranger to hyperbolic rants, from “code red for humanity” to “an era of global boiling” — warned that humanity had ‘opened gates to hell’ by letting the ‘climate crisis’ worsen. In a ‘lacerating attack’, he blamed “the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels” which are “embarked upon a ‘shameful’ attempt to stymie the [energy] transition.”

Where Aspirations Meet Realities…

What could go wrong? Well, COP28 President-Designate Dr Sultan Al Jaber is also chief executive of ADNOC, the national oil and gas company of Abu Dhabi. In a long article published last week on Dr. Al Jaber’s appointment to lead COP28, Fiona Harvey of The Guardian asks how can the man — an oil and gas guy, and hence the root cause of the problem — even attempt to deliver humanity’s salvation from the climate crisis? Furthermore, Dr. Al Jaber’s company, the world’s 11th largest oil and gas producer, announced late last year that it plans to invest $150 billion through 2027 to expand the emirate’s oil and gas production capacity.

The gall of it! The world’s attempts to save itself from an impending climate Armageddon caused by human-caused GHG emissions are in the hands of an oil and gas company executive. In a letter addressed to the UN secretary general, the European Commission President and the President of the United States, 133 MEPs (members of the European Parliament), senators and representatives expressed their “profound concern that current rules governing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) permit private sector polluters to exert undue influence on UNFCCC processes.”

Will the leadership of the UAEUAE -0.3% be castigated by the legacy media similarly at the conclusion of COP28? Will it care? After all, one might ask, what have almost three decades of negotiations in the UNFCCC forum over the “climate crisis” actually achieved? Not much if one were hardnosed about what the data to date reveals. The CO2 content of the atmosphere, measured at the Mauna Kea observatory since 1957, has risen steadily every year and the 27 COPs have had no measurable effect on total global emissions. In October last year, Jeff Currie, Goldman Sachs’ Head of Commodities Research, pointed out in an interview that at end 2021, fossil fuels accounted for 81% of global energy consumption, down from 82% a decade previously. The estimated cost for this marginal change is an astounding $3.8 trillion!

Not surprisingly, COP26 in Glasgow concluded with the successful last-minute insistence by China and India among other developing countries to change the communique language from “phase out” to “phase down” the use of fossil fuels (including coal). Neither China or India, nor most other large developing countries, have espoused the need to “phase out” fossil fuels if this compromises their legitimate aspirations for better standards of living which depend on reliable and affordable fossil fuel supplies.

According to a Politico report, preparatory talks for the COP28 climate summit in Bonn in June were “consumed by a power struggle”. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the talks that countries must start phasing out oil, coal and gas and demanded that fossil fuel companies “cease and desist” measures that aim to hobble progress on the issue. The group of Like-Minded Developing Countries — comprising major developing countries as well as fossil fuel producers like China, India, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia — countered by threatening to block progress unless rich countries also accepted a new agenda item about climate finance. According to an anonymous EU diplomat cited by Politico, “That was a point of principle…They want no outside pressure on reducing emissions. China doesn’t want us to be the guiding force.”

And When ‘Realities’ Change, Then What?

Yet, the uniquely interesting aspect of COP28 is not the chasm that exists between the policy perspectives of governments in the developed West and those of the rest of the world that make up 80% of the global population. That has been a permanent fixture throughout international negotiations from the earliest days of the global environmental movement. It was after all India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi who famously said that “poverty is the worst form of pollution” at the plenary session of the UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. Mrs. Gandhi’s call was a challenge to intellectuals in the West who by then were already nursing a Rousseauesque angst over industrialization and “over-consumption.”

As COP28 gets underway next month, much has changed within the political establishments in the West that have been leading the charge on the “decarbonization” and “net zero by 2050” imperatives at the UN COP negotiations. Political cracks have begun appearing across ‘environmental left’ governments in Europe and the UK, and “peak green” is much in evidence.

Over a third of the EU’s member states have witnessed “right wing” political forces gaining influence, hewing towards a common agenda against uncontrolled mass immigration and “putting the brakes on those pesky EU laws that demand radical changes in lifestyle to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050” as put by Alessandra Scotto Di Santolo of UK’s Daily ExpressEXPR +1.1%. Among the countries where the environmental left has lost political advantage are Sweden, Italy, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. Just this past week, the populist backlash against green-left policies played a role in the fall of incumbent governments in Luxembourg and New Zealand.

In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak remarked on the “unacceptable costs” of net zero as he delayed the ban on new petrol car sales from 2030 to 2035 and on new oil boiler sales from 2026 to 2035 among other tweaks. While reiterating his commitment to net zero, Mr. Sunak admitted that he risks losing the consent of the British people if strict adherence to climate policies add to the burden of British households already suffering from a severe cost of living crisis. Soon after Mr. Sunak’s announcement which watered down earlier policy commitments, his government approved development last month for one of its biggest new oil and gas projects in years, the North Sea Rosebank field, stating that energy security was the priority despite opposition from environmentalists.

COP28: Another High Carbon Footprint Farce?

According to the UAE government, COP28 in Dubai will welcome “over 140 heads of state, senior government leaders, over 70,000 participants and more than 5,000 media professionals.” One can imagine the carbon footprint of the international travel of the delegates involved, although Britain’s UCL has made available a handy calculator for this. Will the grand jamboree prove to be a farce, as many of the delegates from the West now report to new governments that are backpedaling from their own previous net zero commitments?

With what conviction can the chief German representative at the conference instruct his counterparts from around the world to pursue “net zero” policies as his or her own government approved earlier this month putting lignite-fired power plants back online for German households to keep warm this winter? Will the Netherlands and New Zealand delegates be holding up their anti-agriculture climate policies for emulation by the world’s nations, now that such policies have likely been consigned to the dung-heap of history by their own citizens?

The economist John Kenneth Galbraith once remarked, “meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” It is likely that apart from grand-sounding communiques, more breast-beating by the climate NGOs and alarmist headlines by the legacy media, nothing much of practical significance will come out of the 28th Conference of the Parties in Dubai. And Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President Designate of COP28 and CEO of ADNOC, will do just fine.

Source: Forbes.com

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