COP28 climate change summit risks a descent into farcical greenwashing – Scotsman comment
Ahead of the opening of the COP28 summit today, its president Ahmed al-Jaber, an oil industry executive and the United Arab Emirates’ climate envoy, spoke of his ambitions to tackle global warming. His aim, he said, was to help find “how we can collectively, for the first time ever, adopt a mindset that is centred around implementation and action to keep 1.5C within reach”.
He will have plenty of help, with more than 70,000 delegates, including Scotland’s Humza Yousaf, due to attend. All this might sound encouraging. Surely the assembled brain power will be able to come up with a workable plan. In particular, we look forward to hearing what our First Minister’s presence actually managed to achieve.
The problem is that, despite all the previous COPs, the global carbon emissions that are driving climate change have continued to rise, along with the temperatures; 2023 is expected to be the world’s hottest year since records began. Set against this reality, there are many who now see the COP process as a form of greenwashing. They will doubtless view al-Jaber’s talk of a new “mindset” through the same jaundiced eyes, as hopeful-sounding rhetoric that masks the lack of genuine progress.
If he is serious, if what he says about keeping 1.5C of global warming “within reach” has meaning, it is an extraordinary undertaking. In order to do this, global emissions will have to be reduced by an estimated 43 per cent by 2030, based on 2019 levels. This may be theoretically achievable, but it is, we suspect, practically impossible.
Al-Jaber’s position as president and COP28’s location in oil-rich Dubai means this will be seen as the fossil fuel industry’s summit. It is their chance to show they accept the science, validated by years of hard data, and commit to helping reduce the alarming build-up of energy in the Earth’s atmosphere.
If, instead, COP28 turns into a farce, the one crumb of comfort may be that this could expose how poorly humanity has responded to the most dangerous threat it has ever faced and prompt an outcry that forces the world to finally come to its senses.
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