Climate Change

Marginal triumph at COP28

The world agreed to transition away from fossil fuels at COP28 Dubai, besides operationalising a Loss and Damage Fund; it did not set a deadline for fossil fuel phaseout or reassure on climate finance & equity though

 
By Sunita Narain
Published: Friday 05 January 2024
The Mobility Pavilion at the Green Zone during the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, at Expo City Dubai on December 6, 2023__

Each year there are great expectations from the UN’s climate conference. And rightly so. Each year the quotient of the crisis increases; global temperatures rise; and extreme weather impacts become more evident and devastating. There is no doubt today that the world must act decisively to cut emissions that cause this existential crisis. The question is what countries will do to reinvent growth so that it is less carbon-intensive and how this will be done in a world that is intensely unequal; the still-to-develop parts of the world need funds to grow and fiscal space to grow differently. This is the crux of the endless climate negotiations that the world has seen. The recently concluded climate conference (COP28) in Dubai came at a time when the world is more divided than ever; and this is bad news as climate change needs more cooperation than ever.

COP28 also came at a time when the world is, one, acutely and painfully aware of the dangers of climate change; two, it knows that the poor are most vulnerable and indeed victims of climate change; three, there is a combined insecurity, which is fast spreading across the world; and four, most importantly, the scale of actions are pathetically inadequate for the required transformation.

In all this, I believe COP28 has been a move ahead—not because it has radically transformed action, but because it has changed the narrative so that meaningful action is possible in future. First, it has brought to the fore the importance not just of the quantity of finance but also its quality. The “Outcome of the First Global Stocktake” notes, for the very first time, that countries of the South need grant-based concessional finance and fiscal space for the energy transformation. This put out the issue of the debt burden of the most vulnerable countries and underscored the need to rework financial structures so that fi-nance is affordable and accessible to countries.

The same document also includes an agenda on fossil fuels—again, this is not radical by half; it does not go far enough to set deadlines for phaseout of fossil fuel in the already industrialised world and then the rest of the world. It also includes the need for transitional fuels, which could become a handy loophole for the continuation of natural gas. But the fact is that the issue of fossil fuel is now out in the open; it will need to be discussed and it will need to be worked upon.

This is just the start. The critical issue now is to operationalise the finance clause and to set up the roadmap for fossil fuel use. In fact, climate justice must now get operationalised so that there is differentiation in the use of fossil fuel based on the remaining share of the carbon budget. We cannot have a climate-secure world unless it is a climate-fair world. This is why we need to ensure that the phaseout of fossil fuels is fair and funded. The urgency is growing and so must our response.

This was first published in the 1-15 January, 2024 print edition of Down To Earth

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