The UK must choose: the past, or our futureIan Cheshire, Chair of We Mean Business Coalition
This article was first published in The New Statesman.
In September, during the northern hemisphere’s hottest summer on record, the United Nations secretary-general António Guterres told the world that “climate breakdown has begun”. Through June to August, heat records were broken across the world – from China to the US and Europe, North Africa to the Middle East.
Three months later, nearly 200 countries with the power to accelerate the action needed to slow and reverse this trend are gathered in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It is no surprise that the context of this year’s Cop28 climate summit has thrown up controversies: UAE is among the world’s ten largest producers of oil – one of the fossil fuels at the root cause of the climate emergency – and the Cop28 president Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber is CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).
These seeming contradictions cannot be ignored, but there was a positive early start to negotiations with the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund. Finance immediately started to flow in. A raft of additional announcements followed, including more than 130 countries signing a declaration to include emissions from agriculture and farming in their national plans to tackle climate change. Some 50 oil and gas companies also pledged to reach near zero-methane emissions by 2030, and submit a plan to meet those targets by 2025. A $30bn fund for global climate solutions that aims to attract $250bn of investment by the end of the decade was announced, too.
The UAE’s desire to crank up ambition and create momentum is palpable. On the critical theme of fossil fuel phase-out, Al-Jaber has said that phase down (which is of course the route to phase out) “is inevitable”.
We’re at the 28th Cop, and yet this is the first time the phase-out of fossil fuels is squarely on the negotiating table. More than 100 countries have already said they want to see this happen. Although neither attended the leaders’ summit, China’s Xi Jinping talked for the first time about targets for emissions reduction from electricity generation during a meeting with the US president Joe Biden in November.