That’s not what COPs are for

The headline in this morning’s Washington Post read: “The UAE has Big Plans for a ‘Success Story’ at the COP28 Climate Talks.”

The story talks about how this COP wasn’t going to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions or reducing carbon in the atmosphere. That had been tried with the previous 27 COPs and failed. This year it’s going to be about the petro-states and other rich countries financing recoveries in poorer regions which will suffer catastrophic events as a result of climate change.

It reminds me of the 1980s on Wall Street. Those were the times of the since failed investment bank, Drexel Burnham Lambert, headed by the “Junk Bond King” and later jailed, Michael Milken. Back then Drexel and Milken used to hold an annual conference of corporate raiders and their financiers to engage in excess and discuss new opportunities. They called it “The Predator’s Ball.”

For too long we’ve laboured under the false impression that finance was one of the ways the climate crisis was going to be solved. The industry now boasts that more than $30 trillion of investment funds are under socially responsible management. Yet, carbon levels in the atmosphere are higher than anytime in recorded history. Simply put, socially responsible finance has done little to solve the biggest corporate generated environmental problem of all time.

Now it’s angling to take advantage of the situation by financing disaster recoveries in countries hit the hardest. Though today portrayed as altruism, you can expect that, down the road, those providing the funding will demand a return on their investments. Some would call it predatory lending. COP28 is shaping up as The Predator’s Ball II.

That’s not what COPs are for. Their purpose is to find a way to stop the emissions. Twenty-seven times they’ve tried and failed, but that doesn’t mean there is no solution. See Delegates to COP 28 should try again. Not throw their hands up and invite the perpetrators of the disaster in to feast on its victims.

Photo by Marcus Spiske. This commentary is republished from with permisison from the author.

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“The private sector will doubtless be lauded for its efforts, despite the fact that the world’s largest companies’ net zero pledges are false promises, and Wall Street’s climate efforts are built to fail.”

“USA, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Canada, Nigeria, and those across North Africa and the Gulf — are hell-bent on increasing oil and gas production, despite the disastrous consequences. The COP process is one of consensus decision-making, so each petrostate has the power of veto over all COP decisions, ensuring that the culture of failure will endure. And Australia, despite lofty rhetoric about climate leadership, is rushing to join the club.”

David Spratt and Ian Dunlop

→ Pearls and Irritations – 23 November 2023:
COP-out: Why the petrostate-hosted climate talkfest will fail

Just over a week ago we surpassed global average temperature limits, crossing over 2 degrees Celsius of warming.

We also learned this month that Nationally Determined Contributions currently tally up to a world of between 2.4 and 2.9 degrees of warming. Yet, the latest Production Gap Report from the United Nations shows us that the planned production of fossil fuels – the driver of over 86 per cent of emissions in the last decade – is more than double what is compatible with 1.5 degrees.

After almost three decades of negotiations, world leaders are failing to deliver the action needed. Many governments avoid even using the words “fossil fuels”, let alone creating a global plan to equitably phase out fossil fuel production. Both the International Energy Agency and the IPCC clearly state that there is no room left for new fossil fuels if we are to meet the 1.5ºC climate goal.

→ UN Environment Programme – 20 November 2023:
Emissions Gap Report 2023

→ UN Environment Programme – 8 November 2023:
Production Gap Report 2023

Johan Rockstrom: ‘At COP28 we can’t keep giving beautiful promises with zero delivery’

Over the next two weeks we’ll see 70,000 people descend on COP28. All of those attending, plus millions more across the globe will be looking to the summit to produce credible delivery mechanisms to reduce emissions. We have until 2030 to halve global emissions if we’re to stand a chance of holding warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Unfortunately, recent signals don’t provide much hope. From this week’s allegations that COP28’s president Sultan Al Jaber was directed to use the climate talks to strike oil deals for the UAE, to recent reports indicating that humanity has breached six out of nine critical planetary boundaries.

COP28 could be one of the most important conventions in recent years. And few people have as deep an understanding of what is at stake at the global climate talks as Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

On the eve of the UN summit, we spoke with the internationally renowned environmental scientist, who with his colleagues first proposed and mapped out the nine planetary boundaries that provide a “safe operating space” for humanity.

In a newly published feature interview, Johan outlines why this COP has a huge responsibility and unique opportunity to bring other state-owned O&G peers around the table. And why failure could be the beginning of the end for society’s trust in the COP meetings.

Click here to read the interview