Dispatches from the front lines of COP28: “What a shit show”

Dispatches from the front lines of COP28: “What a shit show”

COP Prez Al Jaber’s temper tantrum over Mary Robinson. Protests planned

Originally published by Climate and Capital Media. Our correspondent, Hunter Lovins, will be offering her insights as COP unfolds. Her first report: 

Dubai — Week one of the UN’s Conference of the Parties (COP) climate extravaganza, and nothing is working. 

There’s a poll going around among the “pavilion holders” (the non-profit organizations that have paid tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent space to showcase their efforts to implement solutions to the climate crisis) asking whether or not this COP is worse than the shit show in Egypt, where literally the sewers exploded into the UN meeting rooms. See photo above.

$50 vegan burgers 

It’s worse. Fancier. The grounds of the Dubai Expo are exquisite. But you’ll pay $50 for a couple of plant-based fake hamburgers. And for those who paid four hundred thousand dollars for internet streaming so that the world could join in their conversations, but then had no internet, this COP is an extravagant ripoff. 

I’m here with several organizations who pooled resources to get a smallish pavilion. We’d contracted for breakfast service so that the CEO and senior executives of a major food producer could meet with small-holder farmers. No food arrived. Our staff scrabbled and stood in line to buy apples, croissants, OJ. 

But the magic of human interaction overcame. Farmers eagerly ate what we had, and were thrilled to be able to tell a global purchaser of their crops why it matters that they have fair trade contracts. 

See our related story: Dispatches from COP28: A personal invitation from a thousand scientists

We showcased the spectacular work of the NGO SEKEM, the economic oasis in the Egyptian desert that is lifting thousands of poor farmers out of poverty by enabling them to get paid just a little extra, while switching out diesel generators for solar panels, implementing pesticide-free regenerative agriculture, and thereby sequestering up to 10 tons of carbon per acre. Want to help? Offset YOUR carbon by clicking here

We showcased the work of Vijay Kumar, who just inked a deal to get ecosystem service payments for the work he is doing, lifting hundreds of thousands of small-holder Indian farmers out of poverty. Yesterday, Vijay was awarded major support from an American investment firm. Slowly, slowly, we are building the real solutions to the climate crisis.

So why burn the jet fuel to come all the way to COP?

The 85,000 of us here from civil society are a forcing factor. Left to their own devices, COP negotiators would continue happily to argue where to place the brackets in the paperwork. All the real issues have been negotiated — except, of course, reaching an agreement among the nations actually to solve the climate crisis. That would entail a phase-out of fossil fuels, which we know how to do — but no COP will ever achieve.

So why maintain the charade?

Two reasons: Yesterday the nation of Colombia signed the Fossil Fuel Free Non-Proliferation Treaty originally put forth by the small Island developing nations. This is an initiative put forth by one of those annoying NGOs, and championed by long-time climate activist Tzeporah Berman, who insist on showing up at the COPs to make noise — and good sense. In late November, the European Union called for negotiation of a Fossil Fuel Treaty as part of its COP demands. Interest in the Treaty is picking up pace worldwide. 

Second, The Carbon Club, initiated by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, finally launched with more than 36 nations committing to more ambitious climate action. This followed on the official announcement of the establishment, finally, of the Loss and Damage Fund. It is, of course, far too little money, far too late. But the $100 million each put in by the COP host UAE and by Germany is a start. 

All the real issues have been negotiated – except, of course, how nations work to actually solve the climate crisis – a phaseout of fossil fuels, which we know how to do – but no COP will ever achieve. 

Germany has also been calling for a tripling of renewable energies by 2030, doubling energy efficiency and gradually phasing out fossil fuels. And yesterday more than 110 nations signed on to this agenda.

The mansplaining bombshell

So, things were beginning to look almost hopeful.

Then, the bomb dropped. The President of the COP and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Sultan Al Jaber, had the audacity to mansplain to former Irish President and human rights champion Mary Robinson — about as close as this planet has to a saint — that science does not support phasing out fossil fuels. “There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C,” Al Jaber said.

Robinson challenged him further, saying: “I read that your company is investing in a lot more fossil fuels in the future.” Al Jaber responded: “You’re reading your own media, which is biased and wrong. I am telling you I am the man in charge.” Note how Al Jaber simply side-stepped Robinson’s point: that his Abu Dhabi National Oil Company plans substantial new fossil fuel investments. Hmmm.

Al Jaber spoke with, or around, or down to Robinson at a She Changes Climate event. Unfortunately, the way He Changes Climate is not quite in sync with the non-profit that hosted the event. 

Watch the video of the She Changes Climate event to witness the exchange.

WTF? My mobile blew up. Pings of frustration and outrage from around the world, but mostly from within the Blue Zone, and mostly at Al Jaber’s dismissal of actual extensive climate change science. 

Protests planned

As it nears tomorrow, I am in discussions with scientists led by Dr. Johan Rockstrom — as close to a rockstar in climate science as you can get — on testing a letter of outrage. Protests are planned for 10 AM GST tomorrow.

Watch this space, girls and boys.  It’s fixing to get a bit western over here.

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