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CoP28: Ambition without sincerity

The CoP28 meeting in Dubai has ended with an agreement, however tentative, that nations need to transition away from fossil fuels, which are the prime drivers of climate change. The idea has been spelt out for the first time in a CoP document, but it is yet far from making any impact. The deal calls for a shift away from fossil fuels in energy systems “in a just, orderly and equitable manner”. Every one of these words is prone to different interpretations and the outcome is anybody’s guess. It wants that the shift to green energy should accelerate this decade, with the aim of net-zero emissions by 2050. A goal was set to triple renewables capacity and double the rate of energy efficiency, all part of an ambition to limit warming to the 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels threshold. But the agreement has spelt out no measures to achieve this. 

Such a goal would need an equitable climate financing deal for developing countries, which has not materialised so far. A UN report had suggested that developing countries, excluding China, would need at least $2.4 trillion a year for this. Apart from the fact that there was no sign of the financing, there were strong indications that the fossil fuel powers would not give anything away. The US and other oil and gas powers are expanding fossil fuel extraction. Within two days of the end of CoP28, its president Sultan al Jaber, credited with helping hammer out the agreement, has said his own company will continue to invest in fossil fuels. These realities do not square with the declaration on fossil fuels. The UNEP has said that the plans of producer governments will add 69% more output than what is consistent with even a less-ambitious 2 degrees C warming goal. 

There was no satisfactory outcome on adaptation strategies, either. The Global Goal on Adaptation has only sought to close the financing gap but there was no commitment on it. It did not say how the adaptation finance can be scaled up and how the rich countries can be held to their obligations. Financing did not get sufficient mention in the outcome document and enhancement of climate funding by the rich countries is to be taken up at the next CoP meet. Some frontier technologies have been identified to facilitate replacement of fossil fuels but poor and developing countries will have no access to them. Though it has been declared that the outcome of the meeting is the beginning of the end of the fossil era, the CoP28 text does not give confidence that it will happen in the time-frame envisaged.  

(Published 15 December 2023, 19:53 IST)

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