The United Arab Emirates (UAE) plan for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) has raised widespread international doubts amid criticism of the practical implementation of its provisions and accusations of excessive optimism.
The Guardian highlighted that Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s Minister and President of COP28, presented his long-awaited action plan to government leaders at a climate working conference in Brussels a few days ago.
The plan covers all key aspects of climate action based on the 2015 Paris Agreement and is divided into what Al Jaber referred to as the four pillars: rapid tracking towards a low-carbon world, financing climate action, focusing on people and livelihoods, and full inclusivity.
While experts and civil society have welcomed the plan, and its broad lines appear favourable, “the devil is in the details,” as The Guardian noted.
This issue is expected to be one of the main topics discussed at the COP28 summit in the UAE, where governments will conduct a global evaluation for the first time to assess the progress countries have made in their emissions reduction commitments, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted in Paris.
The newspaper stated that the assessment would likely find that the world is far off track from achieving its goals in Paris, but the COP presidency has decided not to name and shame individual countries.
Instead, all countries will be asked to submit updated NDCs by last September, which must be stringent enough to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This will require a shift from fossil fuels, which Sultan Al Jaber stated is “inevitable and necessary.”
Two months ago, Al Jaber faced strong criticism for repeatedly referring to the “gradual phasing out of fossil fuel emissions.”
Observers interpreted this as a means for oil and gas companies to continue extracting fossil fuels as long as the resulting carbon dioxide is captured in one way or another. However, scientists have warned against using carbon capture and storage technology as a “free lunch” to justify ongoing extraction.
Additionally, the phrase “gradual phasing out” will likely disappoint activists and over 80 countries that want COP28 to commit to a total phase-out of fossil fuels.
Roman Ewalaln, Head of Global Policy at Oil Change International, believes that COP28 will only succeed if its presidency puts aside the interests of the oil and gas industry and reaches a clear consensus on the need for a decline in fossil fuel production and use, as well as the rapid deployment of wind and solar energy. He added, “The only way to build a new clean and just energy system is by phasing out the old system.”
In addition to leading COP28, Al Jaber is the CEO of the UAE’s national oil and gas company, ADNOC. He led an attempt to bring oil and gas executives to COP28, arguing that they must have a seat at the table. This raised concerns among many activists.
When Al Jaber addressed oil and gas companies earlier this year, he focused on what they can do to make their operations less carbon-intensive, such as improving extraction efficiency and sealing methane leaks, a potent greenhouse gas.
However, critics argue that this overlooks the more significant impact of fossil fuels when consumed and the resulting CO2 emissions, known as “scope three emissions.”
The Guardian noted that Al Jaber also wants to ensure that the long-term commitment of wealthy nations to provide $100 billion annually to poorer countries, which was supposed to be fulfilled by 2020 but remains unfulfilled, is finally met.
During COP27 last year, countries agreed to establish a fund for loss and damage, which means rescuing and rehabilitating countries affected by the worst impacts of the climate crisis.