Next week sees the start of COP28, the United Nations (UN) climate change conference (COP is an acronym for Conference of Parties). This year the conference is hosted by the United Arab Emirates and the programme extends from 30 November to 12 December, with the world leaders’ summit being held on 1 and 2 December.
The themes of this year’s conference are:
- what technologies can be deployed to mitigate the effects of anthropological climate change; and
- finance for the programme and financial support for impacted and under-developed countries.
I should feel encouraged
As an environmental activist I should feel encouraged that the UN and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) continue to highlight and give priority to the existential challenges facing humanity (and by association, most other life forms on the planet). And indeed I am. But I feel that in their current form these climate conferences have passed their usefulness. They have become a jamboree for political grandstanding and very little progress results from the COP series.
It’s ironic that COP28 is being held in the UAE. Middle East countries have the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions than any other country. Many thousands of COP attendees will visit the UAE; all will require air-conditioned accommodation and almost all will use air transport to travel to the conference.
Considering the technology exploitation theme, it’s equally ironic than very little use is being made of virtual attendance and video-conferencing. I’ve previously written (email and royal mail) to our prime minister to ask him not to attend the conference, but to show leadership by attending virtually. I didn’t receive even an acknowledgement.
As we’re all painfully aware, there are conflicts in Ukraine, Palestine, Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria, Lebanon and Nigeria, to name some of the more widely reported. Yet COP28 has no theme to reduce warfare, despite this being a major contribution to environmental damage.
I’m embarrassed that the COP conferences have become a platform for some world leaders, especially the UK, to inappropriately laud over supposed progress made. The truth is that no substantial progress has been made in either reduction or mitigation of effects.
We will witness the unedifying spectacle of both King Charles and Rishi Sunak saying how the UK is ‘world leading’. What utter nonsense. The supposed reduction in the UK emissions is an accounting trick. We have exported (by significantly closing down our manufacturing sector) our emissions. And the recent about-turns by Sunak on green commitments show his approach, priorities, and character.
One of the few agreements reached at COP27 was the establishment of a global fund for financial support to under-developed countries affected by climate change. This is termed the loss and damage fund. On behalf of the UK, Sunak made pledges to this fund when he attended COP27 in Egypt last year. To date, the UK has not fulfilled those pledges. We have provided zero financial support, and we are now prevaricating and stepping back from this pledge.
So my expectations for COP28 are low. As I write, the words of the theme tune for the 1970’s comedy The Likely Lads are buzzing around my head:
“Tomorrow’s almost over, today has just begun; there’s only one thing to look forward to; the past”.
Should we just give up? My answer to that is a resounding NO! We only give up if we’re defeatists and cowards. Now is the time for those of us who care, really care, to up-our game. What will you do?
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