While COP28 debates agendas, a court rules for humanity

While COP28 debates agendas, a court rules for humanity

The bomb damage from Al Jaber’s “no science” claim yesterday was invisible upon arrival at COP this morning. The lines snaking from the metro lasted for hours. It works spectacularly but was overflowing with the nearly 100,000 people flooding into COP Day 5. 

Every morning panel featured empty seats, as the cream of the world’s climate scientists, energy experts, change agents and yes, even negotiators, stood out in the blazing sun, plodding like cattle through chacons inching toward security and badge check to get inside, while protestors sought to remind the parties why they were there in the first place. 

Not exactly a promising indicator of how well COP might execute its mission “to agree on ways to address the climate crisis…” 

This is supposed to be the cool season in Dubai. But it’s unseasonably hot. Fitting, I suppose. Scientists tell us that by the early 2040s, swaths of the Middle East and Northern Africa will be too hot to be inhabitable

I believe it.

But despite the seeming imperturbability of the proceedings, rumblings surfaced. From a colleague:

“I have heard that some, if not all, of the island countries are considering boycotting COP in the wake of the attack on Her Excellency Mary Robinson,” by COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber.

This colleague, from one of the island nations, had just come out of a meeting with their representatives.

“Personally, I am not so sure if boycotting is the best course of action. Perhaps an urgent appeal, assuming that many of the island nations are all on the same page?” 

“My contact told me he might recommend that to the nations.

“I had felt that the mood of COP was rather positive. Now, perhaps it is going to be very rough.”

Then: “I could be getting the nuances wrong, but what I am hearing is that, ‘While we are very upset, we are not fighters. We don’t attack other people.

“When we decide to give up on COP, we would just leave.’”

“There could be some differences between the Pacific Island nations and the Caribbean nations, etc., but I thought you should know…

“It looks to me that, yes, they are angry at COP and its presidency, but more angry at themselves that they trusted COP.”

Then my colleague Simon Kraemer, Policy Steward at the European Alliance for Regenerative Agriculture (EARA), who has endured the hours of actual “negotiations,” told me: 

“My assessment of the first days and the party negotiations is that they are nothing but fig leaves.

“For example, the Action Agenda on Regenerative Landscapesstated: ‘COP28 UAE, together with the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), supported by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, launched the Action Agenda on Regenerative Landscapes. This will see leading food and agriculture organizations join forces to scale regenerative agriculture, transitioning 160 million hectares to regenerative agriculture by 2030, accompanied by USD$2.2 billion in future investment, and engaging 3.6 million farmers worldwide.’”  

While a fellow human being dies of hunger every 4 seconds — they are even deadlocked in setting an agenda to negotiate topics that are neither of actual on-the-ground relevance nor have any potential to address our challenges.

That sounded impressive. But Simon set forth the real numbers that should be discussed if we want to move toward a better and not a darker future:

  • the 5 billion hectares in global agricultural land;
  • 656 million farms globally, not counting all the land stewards;
  • $817 billion in annual global agricultural subsidies given to industrial agriculture — roughly $1 million a minute.

“While everyone celebrates these fig leaves (such as friendly joint statements by the Presidency, businesses and philanthropy), the actual party negotiations in the ‘Joint Work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security’ are not only deadlocked between G7 and G7+China — while a fellow human being dies of hunger every 4 seconds — they are even deadlocked in setting an agenda to negotiate topics that are neither of actual on-the-ground relevance nor have any potential to address our challenges.

See our related story: Dispatches from the front lines of COP28: “What a shit show”

“What we would need is a commitment to repurpose agricultural subsidies to pay for agroecosystem health performance of farmers, and to drive regenerative agriculture everywhere while penalizing industrial agriculture … as their subsidies disappear.”

Simon’s young. This is his first COP. He still believes that COPs are about more than arguing where to place the brackets (signifying that the parties have not yet agreed to the contained language). 

Bless him for being a real observer of the process. Without stewards like him, the process would be wholly unaccountable and pointless.  

Me? I spent my day giving speeches on the ability of regenerative agriculture to sequester carbon, the role of cities in creating a circular economy, and meeting with ministers from the Sri Lankan government who are interested in using regenerative agriculture to create a carbon market for the country. We members of Now Partners pledged to help them do this.

Then from the real world came the news that — while key “parties” negotiate over agendas, and whether there’s any science indicating we need to phase out fossil fuels to limit global warming to 1.5 C — more than a thousand climate scientists signed onto an open letter countering Al Jaber’s claim that “no science” supports a phase-out of fossil fuels and urging the public to become activists

Meanwhile, another court just ruled that humanity deserves a future


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