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The COP28 climate talks are a farce.

Brian Champ

December 14, 2023
2023 has been the hottest year on record. The world has seen devastating wildfires, droughts, flooding and more extreme weather. The worst impacts are being felt by people in the global South and Indigenous people, but no area of the planet is immune to the unfolding crisis. 
Climate justice activists worldwide have been clamoring for the rich economies most responsible for the historic carbon emissions driving global warming to pay up for the loss and damage experienced by those most impacted. 
These losses have been estimated at $400 billion (US) but only $700 million has been raised - less than 0.2%. This is dwarfed by continuing annual global fossil fuel subsidies of $7 trillion contributed by states worldwide.
For these climate meetings to be considered a success, they also needed to chart a path for the phase out of all fossil fuels. But the makeup of the conference has structural barriers to achieving this.
The COP28 president is Sultan Al-Jaber, who is the chair of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) national oil company. Leaked documents on the eve of the conference showed that he had met with governments to discuss further oil and gas deals - which he later denied. 
Despite the many scientific reports that have persuasively made the case, Al-Jaber claimed in the lead up to the conference that there was "no science" behind the calls to phase out fossil fuels to prevent the worsening of the already devastating climate crisis.
Almost 2,500 of the registered attendees are coal, oil and gas industry representatives - the most ever to attend the yearly climate talks. This is larger than all but two of the country delegations (Brazil and the host UAE). It is significantly more than the number of representatives from the 10 most climate vulnerable nations combined (1,509) and more than seven times larger than all official Indigenous attendees (361).
The Canadian delegation this year included 35 fossil fuel representatives along with the oil industry boosting premiers of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Liberal Environment Minister Stephen Guilbeault led the delegation and made a number of commitments. These included a paltry $16 million (CAD) to the loss and damage fund, new regulations that would require oil and gas producers to reduce methane emissions by 75% by 2030 and new, "bold" targets to cap emissions from oil and gas production to meet Canada's 2050 net-zero goals.
While Danielle Smith bristled at these commitments and is vowing to fight them tooth and nailearning for Alberta the label of "Fossil of the Day" on December 6ththey do not come close to the fossil fuel phase out that is needed. 
Mandating the rapid phase out of fossil fuels is crucial because the official carbon accounting hides the problem of accelerating emissions as tipping points are reached. For example, Canada's unprecedented wildfires this year released a record 478 megatons of carbon into the atmosphere, almost a quarter of wildfire carbon emissions globally. 
They aren't included in Canada's official carbon accounting (and equal 71% of the 672 megatons of carbon emitted in 2022) and undermine the rosy predictions of falling emissions. 
And the final text of the agreement coming out of the UAE "Conference of Polluters" has dropped language around phasing out fossil fuelsinstead it calls for "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."
While Sultan Al-Jaber, John Kerry and Steven Guilbeault hailed the deal, a spokesperson for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) facing the inundation of rising sea levels said there were "a litany of loopholes". These include the use of unproven carbon capture to continue oil production even beyond 2050. For their part, Canada has only committed to the "phase out of unabated fossil fuels" - giving the green light to further greenwashing of oil and gas production.
The 2050 timeline is also too long – we need much more rapid action.
As COP28 was meeting, Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza continued. Protesters at COP28 called for the end of Israeli settler colonial violence and the end of the economic and military support from countries like the US and Canada. Wars and military spending divert much needed resources from tackling the climate crisis, and climate justice demands that we stand up against colonial violence from Turtle Island to Palestine.
COP29 will be held in Baku, Aberjaiban which is another oil producing region. But it was also the a major centre in the revolutionary workers movement that spread outward from Russia after 1917. At that time revolutionaries linked the socialist movement with the movements against colonialism and imperialism. We must look to revive these connections and build mass movements from below to challenge the global imperial order that is wedded to the burning of fossil fuels.

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