The climate hide and seek

The climate hide and seek

Governments of over 200 nations will be in Dubai beginning on Thursday for the two-week-long COP28 summit to discuss ways of keeping alive the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels in the face of a rapidly narrowing window. Recent estimates suggest that the world is on track for an alarming 2.5 to 2.9 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of this century. On the agenda for the climate conference are several contentious issues, including the operationalisation of the loss and damage fund, a phase-out of fossil fuels, the tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030, cuts in methane emissions, and the use of technology like carbon capture and storage to remove emissions after fossil fuels are burned. This year will also witness the first global stocktake, a comprehensive assessment of the progress of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Apart from this, the hosts have also listed impacts on health and food production as the agenda for the summit.

The two-week COP28 summit starts on November 30 (REUTERS)

But the summit has run into controversies even before its scheduled start. On Monday, media reports suggested that the UAE planned to use its role as the host of this year’s conference to strike oil and gas deals. The revelations came after months of objections over the choice of the host since the UAE is one of the biggest oil-producing nations; over the COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber, who is the chief executive of a State-owned oil company; and over the formation of the COP28 advisory council, which has at least four current or former oil industry executives. In what could have a devastating impact on small and developing nations, the US has demanded that contributions to the loss and damage fund be made voluntary. Separately, al-Jaber’s use of the terminology “phase down” instead of “phase out” of fossil fuels has raised eyebrows. There is also a focus on geoengineering techniques to ameliorate the impact of greenhouse gases, which scientists say can buy time to accelerate emissions cuts, but also help governments delay reductions altogether.

Except for last year’s conference, when countries agreed upon the loss and damage fund, the summits have come under criticism for being mere talk shops. The attendance of hundreds of delegates from the fossil fuel industry has added to the scepticism. The conference, in the hottest year ever, may well be the last chance for leaders and policymakers to arrest global temperature rise and respond to the climate crisis.

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