At COP28, oil lobbies too powerful? Challenges for climate protection

While the objectives to limit global warming are far from being achieved, COP28 must decide on new measures from November 30 to December 12.

At COP28, oil lobbies too powerful? Challenges for climate protection

While the objectives to limit global warming are far from being achieved, COP28 must decide on new measures from November 30 to December 12. But she is coming up against pressure from oil lobbies in the United Arab Emirates.

The year 2023 is set to become the hottest year on record and one with the most extreme weather events between heat waves, floods, storms and earthquakes. It is in this context, which reflects the urgency of acting to limit global warming, that COP28 opens this Thursday, November 30, in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

This climate conference, which brings together the 198 countries that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), must be one of the most important since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015. It is time to take action towards the objective of limiting the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. “The 1.5°C target is not dead, it is alive. We have the potential, the technologies, the capabilities, and the money – the money is there, it’s just a matter of “point in the right direction” encouraged United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. And the representative calls on scientists to ensure that the goal is still achievable “but only through spectacular and immediate climate action”. Will COP28 make it possible to take and enforce these demanding measures?

COP28 must establish a first global assessment of the results of policies intended to limit global warming, eight years after the Paris Agreement. And the least we can say is that the results are not good. While it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43%, the current policies implemented by the signatory states of the UNFCCC only allow a reduction estimated at 2%. Result: as it stands, the planet could gain 2.5°C to 2.9°C by 2100 according to the annual report of the UN Environment Program (UNEP) submitted before each COP and published on November 20. Far from the objective of 1.5°C. The UNEP estimates that there is only a 14% chance that warming will not exceed this limit.

Fossil energies such as coal, oil and gas are alone responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions as reported by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, their replacement is therefore a measure that is back on the table at each COP. This year, in Dubai, the president of COP28 wants to focus on three measures: tripling the capacity of renewable energies installed in the world, doubling the improvement in energy efficiency, i.e. yield and exiting our dependence on fossil fuels. If the first two should not encounter difficulties, the third could give rise to more debates as in previous years. Two years ago, the COP26 in Glasgow only achieved consensus on reducing the use of coal.

What about oil and gas which are still the main sources of energy for many countries? The United Arab Emirates and other oil industry players are championing the process of carbon capture and storage, a solution that would allow oil and industrial activities to continue by reducing emissions through the storage of greenhouse gases emitted in an underground container. Problem is, the technology is not yet ready and has several flaws. Moreover, many countries, including those of the European Union, are opposed to the CO² storage strategy which is accused of being a solution to the continued use of fossil fuels rather than a real alternative solution. . The IPCC for its part considers this use of capture necessary in a small proportion despite the lack of maturity of the project.

The subject of nuclear energy must also be put on the table, particularly not France which, in parallel with the tripling of renewable energy capacities, wants to propose a tripling of nuclear capacities in the world by 2050. Emmanuel's vision Macron on the nuclear and renewable energy mix to replace fossil fuels is not new and the Head of State will try to impose it at COP28.

The fund supposed to compensate for the "losses and damages" of the countries most vulnerable to climatic disasters caused by warming temperatures was created during COP27 in Egypt, but it has still not been implemented. COP28 should make it possible to resolve certain questions subject to debate: who will pay? Who will benefit? Where will the fund be located? It is in particular the role of so-called "developing" countries according to the old UN nomenclature which raises the question: should China, as one of the two most polluting countries and a world economic power, finance the fund or can it? be exempted by its status?

A consensus on all these questions was found at the beginning of November by the transition committee bringing together 24 members from the countries of the North and the South. Their recommendations must now be presented and adopted at COP28. The agreement covers “the terms of creation of this fund, the location, the recipient countries, the donor base” specified Stéphane Crouzat, France’s climate ambassador to Franceinfo. As for the financing of the fund, it “will not be [assured] only so-called developed countries, but will also be open to all those who can do so,” he added.

If COP28 is one of the most important climate conferences, it is also one of the most controversial. Blame its host country and its president: the UAE is among the largest oil operators and exporters, while COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber is the CEO of Adnoc, the leading national oil company of the United Arab Emirates. The close ties that unite the businessman to the oil and gas sector and to COP23 raise questions, especially since the man has been accused of "conflict of interest" for taking advantage of his role as president to conclude deals in the fossil fuel sector.

Beyond the personality chosen to chair COP28, the place and role given to oil lobbies worries some. Very present at COP27, these lobbies are accused of being responsible for the insufficiently ambitious measures taken to limit global warming and the absence of an agreement on the exit from fossil fuels. To these criticisms Sultan Al Jaber responded that “all points of view are welcome and all points of view are necessary” to move forward on the climate issue.