By: Daniele Savietto
The next United Nations Climate Conference, known as COP, will start on the 30th and, this time, somewhat controversially, will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
After four years of a denialist government that remained ineffective, there is an expectation that this COP will be an opportunity for Brazil to reassume a leading role in negotiations and use its diplomacy to mediate the needs of developing countries against the restrictions of developed countries.
Specifically, this involves mediating the establishment of new funding sources, as well as advocating for increased allocations in existing funds, recognizing the need for significantly more financial resources.
This situation presents an old problem in a new and more challenging context, particularly due to two factors: the political polarization among countries in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the material and immaterial damages that climate change is already causing in countries.
What to expect from COP 28 in Dubai?
This will be a complex COP. Although Dubai’s economy is now diversified, we cannot ignore that its development was driven by the oil industry. Under the motto “Bringing the international community together at the crossroads of the world,” the host country welcomes the international community with a message of welcome from this year’s president of the negotiations, Sultan Al Jaber, who says:
(…) Together, we will prioritize efforts to accelerate emissions reductions through a pragmatic energy transition, reform land use, and transform food systems. We will work to mobilize solutions for vulnerable countries, operationalize loss and damage, and deliver the most inclusive Conference possible.” – H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, President-Designate for COP28 UAE
The term ‘pragmatic’ carries significant weight in the context of energy transition. Does this pragmatism align with the financial objectives of the oil industry? From an environmental standpoint, the realistic goal would be to have achieved zero emissions already.
Furthermore, how do they define ‘the most inclusive COP in history’? Inclusivity for whom, especially in one of the world’s most expensive countries? Despite this, there is hope that this COP will broaden engagement opportunities for civil society and the private sector, aiming to develop joint agendas with more transparent timelines.
Presently, we are experiencing a period of global fragmentation, evident in the yet undecided host country for the next conference, highlighting the challenges in reaching a consensus among the parties.
Recently, the Climate and Society Institute (Instituto Clima e Sociedade Brazil) conducted the first part of a course for journalists on COP28.
In this course, Brazilian negotiator Matheus Bastos (Second Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Brazilian negotiator for Climate Financing at the UNFCCC) emphasized that this conference will focus on setting a new climate target, increasing funding amounts, and establishing the parameters of the Loss and Damage Fund, which was created at COP27 in Egypt last year.
Additionally, we can anticipate:
Significant pressure from the oil industry:
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, hosting this COP in one of the world’s largest oil-producing nations makes it controversial. If we had to choose only among sustainable nations, we might see such a location as pragmatic.
However, a particularly contentious move was the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the state oil company, as the conference’s negotiation president by the United Arab Emirates. This appointment is akin to assigning the fox to guard the henhouse, a decision that has drawn criticism from numerous activists.
This situation presents a climate conference, intended to facilitate the negotiation of emission reductions, in a nation that has financially prospered as one of the major contributors to the climate crisis, and led by an individual at the helm of this very industry. The scenario almost resembles a script from a film.
As a result, we can anticipate robust lobbying efforts from the oil sector and the pursuit of agreements aimed at slowing down the energy transition, all while not completely phasing out oil.
Loss and Damage Fund
As we previously discussed, the last COP session marked a significant milestone with the agreement to establish an additional Loss and Damage fund, hailed as a major triumph of the conference. This fund is designed to provide support to the most vulnerable countries already bearing the brunt of climate change impacts.
This was a key issue highlighted by Matheus Bastos, especially given the novelty of the fund. It represents a step towards climate justice, recognizing that the countries least responsible for climate change are often those most adversely affected by it.
Initially, this fund is set to be managed under the auspices of the World Bank for the next four years. However, there are challenges to be addressed, particularly regarding universal access to the fund. For instance, some countries, like Cuba, do not have access to the World Bank, necessitating the establishment of specific conditions by the World Bank council to ensure inclusive access.
Furthermore, there is an expectation for developed nations to assume a leading role in supporting this fund, aligning with principles of climate justice. Thus, a key goal of this conference is to lay out clear guidelines and operational parameters for how this fund will function.”
This is a formal item on the COP28 agenda. The Paris Agreement stipulated that developed countries should contribute $100 billion annually to combat climate change, a target that has not been met to date.
However, Matheus Bastos also pointed out that this amount is insufficient. Based on a study presented in 2019, this figure needs to double by 2025.
The concern is whether the countries might agree to double the amount by 2025, but there’s no guarantee that this funding will actually reach the developing countries.
NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions)
NDCs are commitments by countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, forming a key component of the Paris Agreement signed in 2015. These commitments represent the specific emission reduction goals that each signatory country has pledged to achieve.
I attended my first COP in 2013, and ever since, there has been a consistent call for countries to adopt more ambitious targets. In practical terms, this would entail setting higher objectives for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving these enhanced targets will require increased pressure from civil society, advocating for more significant commitments.
We must ground our advocacy in solid data, as we trust in scientific evidence. The latest findings from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that we need to reduce global emissions by at least 43% by 2030 to meet climate goals.
The discussion around setting new, more ambitious targets is a crucial part of the COP28 agenda. It’s clear that we need to aim for goals that are significantly more challenging and impactful.
And Brazil’s Role in All This?
Rising from the ashes left by its previous administration (and there are indeed many ashes after widespread environmental deregulation), Brazil is set to reclaim a prominent role at this year’s COP. There is an expectation that Brazil will utilize its political influence to forge connections in this fragmented global landscape.
President Lula has confirmed his attendance, along with Environment Minister Marina Silva, who was named one of the world’s 100 most influential climate leaders by Time magazine.
Brazil boasts a relatively clean energy matrix, and this year’s data shows a decrease in deforestation and, consequently, a reduction in emissions. This progress may have been less challenging given the high deforestation rates under the Bolsonaro administration.
In the wake of the Amazon Summit, Brazil has committed to a strong representation, though key issues like the non-exploitation of oil in the Amazon were notably absent from the resulting Belem Declaration.
Who will dare to challenge the influential agribusiness sector in the plenary session, a sector that continues to steer many public policies in Brazil, remains uncertain.
Matheus Basto pointed out that the Loss and Damage committee will scrutinize Brazil significantly, especially for non-economic losses such as biodiversity and the cultural impacts on traditional communities, topics that need thorough addressing.
Lastly, this COP will also prepare the groundwork for COP 30, scheduled to take place in Brazil, establishing Brazil’s future role in global climate discussions.
In the face of all the critiques that are undoubtedly necessary, this gathering continues to be a crucial arena for deepening discussions and pushing forward on critical issues, such as establishing greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030, hastening the transition to renewable energy sources, and ensuring the effective distribution of financial resources from developed to developing countries.
On a personal note, I am inclined to believe that a substantial achievement would be the concrete establishment of the Loss and Damage fund, complete with definitive goals and deadlines. In the end, the crux of many of these issues revolves around financial implications.
This situation poses a profound and perhaps the most challenging question: Is it possible to instigate a meaningful and sustainable transformation within the very financial system that has been instrumental in creating these environmental dilemmas? Does the capitalist system hold the key to a genuine solution?
My optimism rests in the power of collective human effort. There is hope in this diverse gathering of individuals from all corners of the globe, each bringing their unique cultural perspectives, experiences of distinct challenges, and innovative solutions. This confluence of diversity could potentially be the birthplace of a new, revolutionary paradigm. We are in need of radical change, and this might just be the opportunity for such a transformation to take root.