SEVENTY thousand delegates from 190-odd nations will fly off to Dubai at the end of this month to attend the Conference of the Parties number 28 (COP28) as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
That ‘28’ is a clue showing there have already been 27 of these talk-fests since COP1 in 1995, every one of which has declared emissions must be stopped or we’re doomed. Emissions in 2022 were 5.6 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels. Carbon dioxide is said to be one of the villains: the atmosphere’s content has been measured daily from 1958 and has risen steadily. The 27 COP meetings have had no effect so far.
Curious that we in the UK are being urged to reduce our carbon footprint. Heat electric, we are told. But my electricity costs nearly four times as much as gas. Drive electric, we are told. Electric vehicles are more expensive, there is worry over batteries, insurance and second-hand values, and if you’re unable to park off-road you are committed to more expensive and often unavailable chargers.
If the UK gave up all oil, coal and gas tomorrow the effect on the graph of CO2 emissions would be unnoticeable. Therefore every action we take to plant more trees or give up eating meat is pointless. If the climate is warming because we are clogging the atmosphere with our fossil-fuelled activities, it will take concerted action from every emitting country to have any effect. Which is why they keep having COPs.
COP28, says its President Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, is ‘a prime opportunity to rethink, reboot and refocus the climate agenda’. He has called for tripling of renewable energy generation by 2030, but has accepted a fossil fuel need for the ‘least carbon-intensive producers’. rather hopefully announced that ‘COP28 brings together leaders from governments, businesses, NGOs and civil society to find concrete solutions to the defining issue of our time.’ Concrete? No chance.
The outlook for real action is worse now than in 1995. The world political situation is not favourable for countries to do away with their dependable fossil-fuelled energy supplies. There has already been comment about a ‘breathtaking’ conflict of interest as the COP28 president is also head of his country’s oil company.
In July China’s President Xi Jinping said that his country ‘would set its own path on the [emissions] issue’. A Chinese official later explained what that meant: ‘Countries must refrain from empty slogans,’ he said, ‘and adopt a pragmatic attitude to climate change that reflects concerns such as energy security, employment and growth.’
If you have to run a really important meeting, you will take precautions such as calling preliminary gatherings to thrash out the foundations for the final decisions. Bad-tempered haggling between national representatives in the last few hours of the conference will delight the media but the rest of the world will groan. Several sub-meetings have therefore been taking place over the last few months.
In Nairobi, for instance, in September African leaders called for changes to what they say is an unfair international climate finance system. At the same time ‘Sherpa’ level meetings (that’s what they called them) in New Delhi reported difficulties getting agreement on ‘phasing out fossil fuels and tripling renewable energy capacity’.
By October the EU Climate Action Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra was saying ‘the EU would not accept an outcome at COP28 that only reached deals on less contentious topics – such as increased use of renewable energy – if it failed to solve tougher issues such as phasing out fossil fuels’.
The Spanish deputy prime minister Teresa Ribera, who will represent the EU 27 at the summit, said a major topic for COP28 will be ‘how to provide the finance needed for vulnerable countries to transition to sustainable economies and refund loss and damage caused by emissions’. She hoped that ‘the preparatory work for the loss and damage mechanism will be completed and expects the world to move on to a more sophisticated discussion around climate finance’.
So everybody says how important it will be to get an agreement. That will happen of course; it has to. But it will certainly not fulfil the less-developed nations’ hopes for vast amounts of cash to help them reach their Net Zero targets. It will certainly not reach a decision that all countries must give up their coal, gas and oil.
Who is going to tell China and India to run down their coal-fired power stations and switch to erratic wind and solar? Who will give orders to richer nations that they must pay compensation to the poorer ones because we first-world lot sullied the atmosphere with our efforts to become rich? Where will the money come from to furnish the world with nuclear fission plants – which is the only way we have at the moment to provide emission-free, constant and reliable power?