Was COP28 a Success? Depends On Who You Ask

Was COP28 a Success? Depends On Who You Ask

COP28 was a success—but only if we’re grading on a very lenient curve.

The United Nations’ climate summit known as COP28 concluded last Wednesday in Dubai, and the results represented a landmark—only observers can’t seem to decide if it was good or bad. President of COP28, Emirati official, and UAE state oil concern chief Sultan Al-Jaber was quick to describe the Global Stocktake final document and other announcements and agreements as a collective “historic achievement.” He was referring in part to the COP decision’s first-ever explicit call for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems.” 

That a consensus-driven body including every petrostate in the world, and itself chaired and hosted this year by an oil tycoon, could agree to the eventual demise of coal, oil and gas was eye-opening, to say the least. On a recent podcast featuring leading climate policy experts, Amy Harder called the landmark COP decision committing to move past our collective hydrocarbon addiction “a clear success for pretty much everybody.” Melissa Lott, a climate professor at Columbia University, declared the result “incredibly impressive,” “a milestone” and “more than I was expecting.” A voluntary initiative announced in Dubai at the summit’s outset on methane further inspired some environmentalists: 50 oil majors responsible for nearly one-half of global oil output pledged to deeply cut methane emissions by 2030, which alone could spare 0.1˚C of warming. Fred Krupp, head of the Environmental Defense Fund, hailed this and related announcements on Dec. 2 as possibly “the single most impactful day of announcements from any COP in… 30 years.” 

The COP28 result, like a Rorschach test, revealed a completely different picture to others. Environmental advocates, human rights organizations and scientists who had been calling for the agreed text to include a “phaseout” of fossil fuels with concrete actions and timelines were left disappointed. Prominent climate scientist Michael Mann was quoted saying this omission was “devastating.” Anne Rasmussen, the lead negotiator of the Association of Small Island States, admonished negotiators before the summit’s conclusion by saying, “It is not enough for us to reference the science and then make agreements that ignore what the science is telling us we need to do.” 

Read more: observer.com

Photo: observer.com

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