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  • Writer's pictureJanine L. Campling

Insights from COP28

Having recently returned early from COP28 in Dubai, amidst debates over the apparent conflict of interest involving the COP28 president, Sultan al-Jaber, who also serves as Chair of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) that is planning to double its oil extraction by 2027, there's a waiting game to see whether talks will lead to substantive action or if this event was merely an exuberant charade, overshadowed by high-profile socialising, despite global calls for reduced fossil fuel reliance. 

Mr Jaber was seen to 'call the kettle black' by urging countries to commit to deeper emissions cuts while attributing a mere $420m commitment – that received widespread applause on the floor – as a 'unique, unprecedented achievement'. Overall, the setup at the event was indeed impressive – one could spend 20 minutes walking in the Green Zone, which felt more like a sustainability expo than an advocacy platform, and still have barely covered any ground. Carbon credits and blockchain were dominant themes, alongside investment in Africa. Perhaps this is something the world could take away from Arab hospitality because, for the first time, delegates from emerging economies faced fewer hurdles in obtaining visas to attend COP. Usually, some struggle with entry policies of host countries and can't attend, but this time there was a notable difference. As a result, this COP seemed more diverse and balanced between the Global North and Global South delegates.


A standout takeaway was the message that Net Zero has a different meaning in Africa and that a different pathway for Africa should be taken in the run-up to 2030. At GUD Malta, we endorse this view and advocate for a shift from mere transactional carbon offsetting to a more holistic approach that prioritises societal impact. Current nature-based solutions often appear soulless and transactional, focusing only on carbon removal. This approach can lead to high 'leakage', which refers to the level of negatively affecting local communities, biodiversity, or the environment. For instance, in Blue Carbon programmes, a staggering 70% of proceeds are retained by the company, with 30% going to the government and nothing to local communities or landowners. We hope that leading carbon registries authorising such programmes will adopt stricter accountability measures, ensuring fair treatment for those most affected by climate change for their efforts in restoring a climate they didn't compromise.


In conclusion, COP28 starkly highlighted the critical fossil fuel crisis at the core of the broader climate emergency, raising questions about the genuine commitment of nations to address the climate emergency, given the prominent role and significant influence of the oil sector in this year's talks. It is concerning that COP28 discussions largely overlooked the recommendations of the UNIPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to maintain the current 1.1-degree level, to mitigate escalating weather catastrophes. Africa's unique position and challenges in this crisis were prominently featured, reinforcing the need for strategies that not only strive for environmental sustainability but also ensure social justice and economic viability to effectively narrow the divide between developed and developing nations in our collective fight against this complex crisis.

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