COP28 and UAE Consensus: retreat to the sidelines?
The 2023 vintage will not be a great one. The now global exercise in the annual renegotiation of national climate commitments ended, as it should have, with an agreement and a retreat to the sidelines. How can you embody a total and global paradigm shift when your day-to-day mission is to run your country’s oil company?
2023 was marked by the 1st Global Stokestake on the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Against a backdrop of multiple crises and a widespread sense of climate urgency, the twenty-page final declaration is remarkable for its tempered approach to the situation.
– In the UAE Consensus (“Consensus of the United Arab Emirates”), the number of times the word “science” appears increases from 3 in 2022 to 8 in 2023 (according to our count).
– The UAE Consensus introduces the word “nuclear” in a prominent place, alongside renewable technologies to be accelerated.
– The word “fossil” appears twice this year, compared with once previously.
The transition of our energy system away from fossil fuels is one of the many and varied efforts required to deliver on the promises of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Note that the word science also appears in this sentence, where every word is worth its weight in gold. « Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science; ».
The declaration notes the ineffectiveness of the process for setting national targets (nationally determined contributions (NDCs)) in making progress in the fight against global warming. At the same time, the final decision calls on the parties to set themselves a new collective target of a 60% reduction in global GHG emissions by 2035 compared with 2019. The new national roadmaps are expected by 2025.
Dr Al Jaber and the webinar that will mark COP28.
Reaching a unanimous final agreement is always a victory. This outcome will not overshadow the disastrous episode of the webinar made public by The Guardian, in which the President of the COP was confronted by a vindictive Mary Robinson (former President of Ireland and President of The Elders). In the heat of the discussion, Dr Al Jaber once again became the head of ADNOC for around ten edifying minutes, suggesting that there was no scientific energy transition scenario based on a shift away from fossil fuels that would enable us to reach 1.5°C (including those of the IPCC and, by extension, those of the IEA).
1.5°C with oil.
The very personal and unconvincing explanations given by Dr. Al Jaber the day after this very negative event for his image at the head of the COP will not be enough to convince anyone of his pro-climate position.
So should we read into the UAE Consensus an alternative pro-fossil fuel and pro-nuclear scenario? The text of the Sultan’s address to the plenary session closing the summit clearly shows the difficulty of putting an end to double talk.