What’s going on here?

COP28 (the 28th Conference of Parties) began last Thursday. The international climate summit takes place every year, and provides a space for decision makers from all over the world to address the climate crisis.

The conference this year is being held in the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s top oil and gas producers. It’s being hosted by conference president Sultan al Jaber, CEO of Adnoc: the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. The irony of this is not lost on anyone.

What does this mean?

Things seemed to get off to a bad start, with Al Jaber making comments verging on climate denial that caused great concern. In a conversation with Mary Robinson (chair of global leaders group Elders), who commented that his role as head of Adnoc could present an opportunity to lead the transition away from fossil fuels with credibility, the COP President responded by saying: “There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”.

Al Jaber has since backtracked, claiming that his comments were being misrepresented, and stating “I have said over and over that the phase down and the phase out of fossil fuel is inevitable,”. He has even expressed “cautious optimism” about getting agreement from all parties to commit to a phasing out of fossil fuels, an action seemingly at odds with the UAE’s intention to ramp up oil production.

Many remain concerned that a COP hosted in a country whose economy is based on fossil fuels, and which is being attended by a record number of fossil fuel delegates and lobbyists, cannot deliver the urgent action the world needs.

Why should we care?

There were greenwashing concerns about last year’s COP27 summit which was sponsored by Coca-Cola, the world’s biggest plastic polluter. This year COP28 could prove even more controversial. Increased representation and influence of climate-destroying industries and parties undermines COP as a tool to trigger action against the climate crisis.

The latest IPCC report from earlier this year warns that we are on a path to surpass 1.5 °C of global heating – a dangerous limit for the planet. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres famously expressed that, “investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness”. Even the International Energy Agency have conceded that the world needs to end fossil fuels and transition towards renewable energy.

For COP28 to be deemed a success, all parties must commit to a phase out of fossil fuels. It remains to be seen whether this can be achieved

Be curious!

It’s not all doom and gloom – there have already been some positive announcements from COP28. Read more about these good news stories:

Keep on top of all the breaking news from COP28 with Guardian live updates.

Read more about COP28, why it is so important, and what outcomes we need to see in these guides from Client Earth and Grist.org

Featured image by Ben Wicks on Unsplash.