In Dubai, world climate conference: pure makeup

The 28th UN climate summit began in the United Arab Emirates, the oil giant that hosts the meeting with little ambition. Fulfilling the urgent task of reducing greenhouse gasses and compensating for damages continue to be the goals of a plan that does not propose substantive measures. The poorest and most vulnerable countries are suffering the enormous consequences. The agenda at COP28 does not propose changes in the production structure. The paths to an eco-socialist exit.

By Carolina Menéndez Trucco

Following the liar’s paradox (“this sentence is false”), the United Nations conference on climate change could well have been framed this way. The meeting, which brings together leaders from governments, businesses, NGOs and civil society from around the world from November 30 to December 12 to reach concrete solutions to environmental problems, was held to everyone’s surprise in the United Arab Emirates, the questioned oil monarchy.

The controversial host (the backdoor for fossil fuels) had already begun undermining the spirit of the summit. The BBC revealed this just before the conference began through leaked official documents that shed light on how the Arab country planned to use the event to discuss oil and gas deals with 15 nations. “These allegations are false, not true, incorrect, and not accurate,” however, replied the oil CEO and minister of Industry, Sultan Bin Ahmad Al-Jaber, who heads the state oil and gas company ADNOC, also questioned for presiding over COP28 this year.

But not everything got off on the wrong foot. On the opening day of the World Climate Conference at Expo City Dubai, there was great joy at the success, when states agreed on the rules for the loss and damage fund and the first countries also made financial commitments for it. They adopted a reparation aimed at compensating those most vulnerable to global warming, since most of the victims occur in places that do not produce CO₂. No one expected this to happen so soon on a controversial topic. In any case, the initial impulse cannot hide the fact that difficult negotiations still lie ahead, in a rather contradictory framework. The world’s seventh-largest oil producer hosts space, which hopes to phase out all fossil fuels.

High (or low) ambition

A group of countries within the summit, the High Ambition Coalition, advocates for “progressive” proposals with big objectives, such as the fulfillment of the upper limit of 1.5 degrees, tripling the capacity of renewable energy and, as a key point: progressively eliminating the production and use of all fossil energies. The demands are reasonable, but whether they can be achieved is another matter. As global leaders discuss the environmental agenda at COP28, the World Health Organization published a worrying report on the records that were broken. From the hottest year, to fires, cyclones, thaws and floods; the range of catastrophes is extensive. This year’s Production Gap Report from the United Nations Environment Program is also not encouraging. The main fossil fuel producing countries aim to produce twice as much coal, oil and gas. If they carry out these plans, it is clear that they will not reach the 1.5 degree objective. In this context, even for the High Ambition Coalition, it is doubtful to achieve sufficient diplomatic weight to obtain its demands in the summit negotiations.

A zigzag course

World climate conferences have always been characterized by changing blocs: between the most industrialized and polluting countries and the undeveloped ones, between those who advocate for climate protection and those who suffer the most from the consequences. But in this COP28 there is a crucial issue that divides the 198 participating countries: the oil and gas producers, and those who press for their exit. Well, the gradual elimination of oil becomes a litmus test. Both the conference leader and many governments disagree on the issue of phasing out fossil fuels.

Basically, the question is whether technologies for capture and storage of CO₂ can play an important role or not. This would open the door to continuing to burn coal, oil and gas, since climate-damaging gasses could theoretically be captured and stored, that is, used “sensibly,” at least according to its proponents. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assumes that storage technologies will only play a minor role in the energy transition, are in the testing phase and pose great risks.

An empty parade

Despite the scientific consensus on the existence of an environmental crisis, there are still people who refuse to believe it. A study in the journal Global Environmental Change analyzes the phenomenon of climate change deniers. Australia, New Zealand, Norway and the US have the highest percentages of people who deny global warming. In Spain, on the contrary, only 2% of those surveyed deny the progressive increase in temperatures. And Argentina? Well, the new president may be among the first: Javier Milei proclaimed himself a “denialist” and even if he takes office in the middle of the summit, he will not participate in the last two days nor will he send any delegates. The Ministry of the Environment, by the way, will be one of the 10 that will disappear.

Eco-socialist alternative

Although the summit proposes the gradual elimination of fossil fuels by 2050 as essential, the reports from climate researchers from universities and institutes presented also develop it, and the countries have signed the commitment, the global meeting to address the climate emergency, beyond the formalities it does not contribute much. Rather, it highlights that only 18% of large energy companies, 3% of oil-producing countries and 3% of gas-producing countries are planning to phase out fossil fuels. The first day decision (the loss and damage fund) in a damaged global architecture and in a system that does not work, undoubtedly, is not enough.

On the other hand, talking about social justice for poor countries, as was boldly heard at the beginning of the conference, for eco-socialists it is pure noise. The water apartheid in Palestine carried out by the genocidal State of Israel is the extreme example. The tail blow of the rising fossil fuel prices after the invasion of Ukraine, another shock. The world is interconnected and, unfortunately, full of examples, which is why the environmental fight must have capitalism in its sights. True climate and social change requires a productive revolution of the entire system as a whole in the perspective of socialism.