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regular-article-logo Thursday, 23 May 2024

Dubai disappointment: Editorial on decision to transition away from fossil fuels at CoP-28

Even India, which has the fourth-best climate performance in the world and is on track to meet its Paris targets, has strongly objected to a definite goal for the phasing out of coal usage

The Editorial Board Published 16.12.23, 07:36 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

The elephant in the room has finally been acknowledged. It has taken almost 30 years of climate talks for the Conference of the Parties to call on nations to transition “away from fossil fuels” in a “just, orderly and equitable manner” to be able to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. There is thus reason to acknowledge the resolution passed in Dubai, a climate summit that was hosted by an oil major and attended by at least 2,456 oil lobbyists. Unsurprisingly, the outcome — the UAE Consensus — while better than feared, is much less than what is needed at this critical hour. The ‘agreement’ also remains vulnerable to the vagaries of international diplomacy — as is the wont of CoP summits. In the absence of binding pledges, it is not improbable that nations that have committed to make concessions — such as the retreat on fossil fuels — would backtrack on their green commitments at some later date.

The measures ag­reed upon at the CoP-28 — tripling renewable capacity and doubling the rate of energy efficiency — could, indeed, limit warming to the 1.5°C threshold. But this depends heavily on an equitable climate financing deal for developing countries. On this key issue, the CoP-28 resolution had little to say. Developing nations, except China, would need $2.4 trillion a year to make good on their targets, according to the United Nations. Developed countries, though, have a history of not putting money where their mouth is — they have already reneged on an earlier commitment to mobilise $100 billion in climate finance by 2030. This also does not bode well for the much-feted $650 million Loss and Damage Fund that was agreed upon at CoP-28, especially since contributions to this fund are voluntary. Significantly, the fund was made contingent on its decoupling from the contentious issue of owning up to the historic responsibility of emissions. Moreover, the committed amount is a tiny fraction of what is needed to rehabilitate people threatened by inclement weather and sea-level rises: some estimates suggest the costs of climate-related damages are about $400 billion annually for developing states.

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Short-term self-interests have usually prevailed over the longer-term health — survival — of the planet. Would the global fraternity summon the resolve to take decisions that would adversely affect entrenched pro-fossil fuel lobbies that exercise tremendous political influence? All signs suggest otherwise. The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, who is seeking re-election soon, announced the watering down of some previous climate commitments earlier this year. In the United States of America — the richest country in the world and the second-worst polluter — a president who just a few years ago pulled the country out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement could come back to power next year. Even India, which has the fourth-best climate performance in the world and is on track to meet its Paris targets, has strongly objected to a definite goal for the phasing out of coal usage. The imperatives of growth, however inimical to the environment, and the unwillingness to share the collective responsibility of mitigatory action continue to undermine the future of the planet and its species. CoP-28, just like many other climate summits, split hairs on the semantics associated with climate change even though time is running out to put words to action.

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