• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

COP28 marked by controversies over burning of fossil fuels

ByAsia Kane

Dec 5, 2023
United Arab Emirates flag flying against clear blue sky

COP28, the UN’s 28th annual climate change conference, is currently taking place in Dubai. 

More than 140 government leaders and heads of state are attending the conference, including King Charles III and Rishi Sunak. 

However, US President Joe Biden declined to attend. 

A spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council said: “The president has been very much focused on the conflict between Israel and Hamas over the last month or so.”

Vice President Kamala Harris addressed delegates at the conference in place of the President, stating that it is a “pivotal moment” for climate action. 

In a speech delivered on the second day of the conference, Sunak stated: “The world needs to do more to tackle climate change.”

He stressed the measures taken by the UK to combat climate change, including cutting emissions and investing in renewable energy.

He cited the creation of a new wind farm at Dogger Bank and plans for a new national park as examples of the UK’s climate efforts.

More than 100 countries have called for a deal that commits countries to phase out their use of fossil fuels.

The aim of the deal would be to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

However, countries such as Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia have opposed the planned deal.

The deal has also been opposed by Sultan al-Jaber, the President of COP28 and the UAE’s climate envoy. He is also the CEO of the UAE’s state oil firm, Adnoc.

According to al-Jaber, a phase-out of fossil fuels would “take the world back into caves.”

He claimed there is “no science” supporting the phase-out.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, opposed these comments. 

According to Guterres, “The science is clear: the 1.5C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels.”

Scientists have described al-Jaber’s comments as “incredibly concerning” and “verging on climate denial.”

Simon Stiell, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Science tells us we have around six years before we exhaust the planet’s ability to cope with our emissions. Before we blow through the 1.5-degree limit.”

However, reports suggest that temperatures may rise by as much as three degrees by the end of the century.

Stiell believes that all action plans must be in line with the 1.5-degree limit. He said: “If we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline.”

COP28 marks the end of a “Global Stocktake”, assessing how far the world has come in tackling climate change. The process also aims to define what still needs to be done, and to implement plans for moving forward. Therefore, the agreement reached at the COP28 may be the most influential since the Paris Agreement in 2015.  

The conference is due to last until 12 December. 

UAE Flag” by Paolo Rosa is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.