As around 70,000 people descend on Dubai for COP 28, the warning signs of the climate crisis are clear. So far this year has been the hottest ever, and the future looks bleak.
The world is on track to heat up by a hellish 2.5C to 2.9 Celsius by the end of the century, well past the international Paris Agreement limit of 1.5C to 2C above pre-industrial levels, said the recent UN emissions gap report.
Another major new report published earlier in November assessed found that global governments plan to produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, and 69% more than would be consistent with 2°C.
And only one nation is on track for its emissions targets, and that is – surprisingly – China, according to 2022 data from the International Energy Agency and Energy Transitions Commission.
Daily climate news is indeed dire, and political leaders are right now distracted by inflation and wars in Gaza and Ukraine.
The optics of the absence from COP28 of President Joe Biden of the US and President Xi Jinping of China are appalling given the existential nature of the climate crisis. COP28, from November 30 to December 12, is the largest and most important climate meeting globally.
Nor does it help that Sultan al-Jaber, who runs the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC), is president of the COP28. Critics say this is a major conflict of interest given that according to the UN fossil fuels contribute 75% of climate emissions and nearly 90% of all CO2 emissions.
The host country, the UAE, is the third-largest oil-producing member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
“This is a very sobering, even sombre moment as world leaders gather,” Rachel Cleetus, policy director of the climate programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg. “That said, there's a real opportunity in the climate space to secure some wins.”