Cop28 bulletin: Presidency draft text draws angry response

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Buckle up, the real negotiations have only just begun. Sultan Al Jaber’s resolve that Cop28 would be wrapped up by 11am this morning feels like wishful thinking now.

The presidency has made a first pass at a landing ground for the global stocktake text – the main outcome of the summit. People hate it.

Small island states slammed it as “a death warrant”, their spokesperson getting teary. For the EU it contains elements that are “simply unacceptable”. Campaigners variably described it as “a scandal”, “divorced from reality” and “a dog’s dinner”.

“This obsequious draft reads as if Opec dictated it word for word,” Al Gore posted on social media.

US envoy John Kerry was more restrained. He posted on social media that “the mitigation section, including the issue of fossil fuels, needs to be substantially strengthened, and the finance section contains inaccuracies that must be fixed”.

The energy package is evoking the strongest emotions. Instead of an urgent action agenda, it has become an a-la-carte menu.

To reduce emission countries are offered eight options. These “could include” a reduction of “consumption and production of fossil fuels in a just, orderly and equitable manner” to achieve “net zero by before, or around 2050”. Note “phase-out” is gone.

If that is too hard to digest, pick a lighter dish: tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency, or, more controversially, using “low carbon fuels” (code for fossil gas) and “low emissions technologies” like carbon capture and storage.

European and small island states are vowing to stay as long as it takes to deliver an outcome in line with 1.5C. They say many Latin American and African countries are with them. US and China have a critical bridging role, observers said.

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Adaptation chasm remains

After two years of unproductive talks, the Cop28 presidency has taken the global goal on adaptation (GGA) text into its own hands.  

But it seems not to have succeeded where countries failed. One developing country negotiator said last night “a majority of developing countries think it is worse than what we had already”. 

There is still no permanent agenda item on GGA at future Cops, risking it falling off the radar. While finance is mentioned in many places, it does not make it into the targets section. 

One problem is the text firmly “decides” to do things like plan and monitor. But only “urges” governments to do things like protect the food and water supply – the stuff that actually matters.   

The new text “commits to close the adaptation finance gap” although it doesn’t specify who should close this gap. 

This ambiguity is “unacceptable”, said Mokoena France, negotiator for the least developed countries bloc. “It subtly shifts the responsibility away from developed countries, contrary to the established principles of historical responsibility.” 

The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that gap is $194-366 billion per year. That makes the doubling adaptation finance to $40bn or so look like pocket change. 

The timeline has changed from 2030 to “2030 and beyond”, which France said “dilutes the urgency and ambition needed”. 

Heads of delegations met with the presidency late last night, with activists outside the doors. We’ll find out today if they’ve got any closer to a landing ground. 

climate activists stand with their heads bowed in contemplation

At the “people’s plenary” on Monday, there were speeches from youth and labour representatives. The most emotional moments came in response to the Palestinian co-chair Haneen Jarrar, who appealed for a ceasefire, saying “there is no climate justice without human rights” (Photo: Flickr/Cop28/Kiara Worth)

Opec vs Boga

Some 600km away in Doha, Qatar, Opec’s top Arab energy ministers gathered on Monday. The oil and gas cartel warned its members last week that pressure on a fossil fuel phase-out “may reach a tipping point”.

Ministers from Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria and Oman showed up to the meeting, as well as Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman. Bin Salman has been vocal about his opposition to a fossil fuel phase out, but Opec ministers did not announce an official position.

In the Cop28 venue, a small but determined band of countries were keeping that pressure up.

Ahead of the release of the presidency text, ministers from Colombia, Denmark, France and thirteen other members of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (Boga) signed a declaration. They “stand united” around a phase-out of all fossil fuels, while supporting oil-reliant developing countries.

“We must be realistic,” the declaration reads. “The fossil fuel sector will not unwind itself, nor can it, in isolation. We must plan for an orderly, just transition aligned with 1.5C, rather than risking the abrupt closure of uneconomic oil and gas production.”

In brief

Amazon oil – On Wednesday, Brazil will hold a mega-auction of 602 new oil and gas exploration areas, of which 21 are located within the Amazon and will affect at least 20 indigenous lands. NGOs sent an open letter calling for consistency with Cop28 positions.

Human rights concerns – During its Cop28 presidency, the UAE imposed 87 new terrorism charges on political prisoners, many of whom are recognised human rights defenders. Some of them were meant to be released this year after completing their sentence.

Coal sky-rocketing – India is planning to hike coal production to 1.5 billion tonnes by 2030, despite the Cop26 commitment to phase down new unabated coal. That’s up from 900 million tonnes in 2022-23.

Got beef – Campaigners have accused the FAO of lacking ambition in its roadmap for transforming food systems. The Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance criticised the plan’s target of reducing emissions intensity from livestock (instead of gross emissions reductions) and its silence on agroecology.

Dirty cooling – The Cop28 venue, ExpoCity Dubai, is being cooled with potent greenhouse gases and inefficient technology, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency. The refrigerants in four buildings alone would have a warming impact equivalent to 1,000 tonnes of CO2, the agency calculated.

Green debt swaps – Colombia, Kenya and France have commissioned an “expert review” on debt, nature and climate, which would provide international policy recommendations to help developing countries protect nature while addressing debt.

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