COP28 in Dubai: A Crucial Test for Turning Climate Promises into Concrete Actions

Countries and oil companies at the UN climate talks have promised to make major progress in tackling global warming in a large new energy pledge.
The commencement of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai’s dazzling skyline has placed the spotlight on the United Arab Emirates, an economically robust, oil-rich nation leading the charge with a series of high-profile pledges. However, amidst these publicized commitments, a note of caution emerges from experts. They warn against getting sidetracked by impressive promises and stress the importance of addressing the fundamental issues surrounding fossil fuels and reaching a consensus on the formal COP28 agreement.


COP28: UN climate talks go big on ending fossil fuels

As 2023 shapes up to be potentially the hottest year on record, the conference has already witnessed significant commitments. In a groundbreaking move on the summit’s opening day, the launch of a “loss and damage” fund marked a crucial step in aiding countries battered by climate disasters. The UAE and Germany each committed a striking US$100 million, with France, Britain, Denmark, and the United States following suit, albeit with varying figures. Critics, however, have been quick to point out the inadequacy of these amounts, especially the US’s contribution, against the backdrop of its historical pollution legacy.
As of December 2nd, the fund had amassed about US$656 million, a far cry from the US$100 billion annually demanded by developing nations, who bear minimal responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions yet face the brunt of climate calamities.
In another significant stride, over 116 countries have vowed to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, a goal endorsed by the G20 nations in September. However, there’s growing apprehension that these ambitious targets might be relegated to voluntary agreements, rather than being cemented in the final COP28 outcomes.
The United States made waves by committing to phase out unabated coal power as it joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance. Colombia’s adhesion to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative marked another pivotal moment, highlighting a growing consensus among major fossil fuel producers. Concurrently, an alliance of oil and gas companies, representing a substantial fraction of global production, pledged to decarbonize operations by 2050, though this excludes emissions from the end-use of their fuels.
Nuclear energy has also emerged as a key talking point, with over 20 countries, led by the US, advocating for a tripling of nuclear energy capacity by 2050. This push comes despite concerns over the lengthy timelines required for new nuclear plants and the rapid rise of renewable energy sources.
In the realm of agriculture, over 130 countries agreed to integrate food and farming systems into their national climate agendas. This move, while celebrated, has drawn criticism for its lack of tangible goals and failure to address fossil fuel consumption or promote sustainable diets.
A health-centric approach to climate action gained traction, with over 120 countries pledging to prioritize health impacts such as air pollution and infectious diseases exacerbated by climate change. Despite recognizing the health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the declaration stops short of directly confronting the fossil fuel industry.
Lastly, the UAE announced a major investment in climate action, launching a US$30 billion private climate investment fund named Alterra. Focused on climate projects in the developing world, the fund aims to catalyze investments totaling US$250 billion by 2030.
As COP28 unfolds in Dubai, these varied pledges paint a complex picture of global climate action: one of hope, skepticism, and the relentless pursuit of tangible change. With the health-themed day scheduled for December 3rd, the world watches and waits, hoping that these commitments translate into meaningful action against the looming shadow of the climate crisis.

Lead image courtesy of Alexman89 from pixabay