COP28 Letter to Parties Leaves Open Questions

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 President-Designate has published a Letter to Parties aimed at setting the agenda for the conference, which will take place in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023.  Al Jaber’s role as CEO of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) national oil company Adnoc and the increased involvement of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP26 and COP27 have raised concerns over excessive oil industry control over the global response to the climate crisis.  While there remain many open questions, Al Jaber’s letter does contain some positive signs.

    Statements made by Al Jaber and representatives of other oil-producing nations have so far focused on reducing fossil fuel-related emissions, in particular the Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gases (GHG) related to the industry’s extraction and production facilities.  Climate campaigners would rather address the vastly greater Scope 3 emissions related to fossil fuel end-use, and push for reductions in oil and gas production.  They may be encouraged by the inclusion of stronger language on this topic in Al Jaber’s letter: “Phasing down demand for, and supply of, all fossil fuels is inevitable and essential.”  He also advocates for a Just Energy Transition, which according to Al Jaber: “Keeps the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C within reach and accelerates the inevitable and responsible phase-down of all fossil fuels, accelerates the phase-down of all unabated coal, and leads to an energy system free of unabated fossil fuels in the middle of this century.”

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    Al Jaber’s outline for the successful COP28 and the delivery of the goals of the Paris Agreement rests on his four “paradigm shifts:”

    • Fast-tracking the energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030.
    • Transforming climate finance, by delivering on old promises and setting the framework for a new deal on finance.
    • Putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action.
    • Mobilising for the most inclusive COP ever.

    COP28 will focus on the outcome of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Global Stocktake (GST).  Al Jaber writes: “The global community already knows the GST will show we are off track.”  He presents a three-pronged course correction strategy:

    • A negotiated outcome on adaptation, mitigation, loss and damage, finance and means of implementation.
    • A policy, technology and finance-based Action Agenda, to be the subject of a separate two-day World Climate Action Summit.
    • A call to action aimed at governments, industry and individuals. The letter does not elaborate on this third point.

    Sultan Al Jaber has enlisted the support of Barbara Creecy, South Africa’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy, in conducting consultations with all relevant stakeholders on the results of the first GST ahead of COP28.  Interim steps include a September ministerial meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York and preparatory GST workshop to be held in the UAE in October.

    The elephant in the room

    The tone of Al Jaber’s letter does address some of the growing concerns expressed by various governments and NGOs since his appointment.  His acknowledgement of the need to phase down fossil fuels rather than just their associated emissions is welcome, as is the inclusion of Scope 3 emissions in the discussion.  Nevertheless, the persistent use of qualifying terms such as “unabated” fossil fuels within the stated goals should be properly addressed during the negotiations.

    However, by far the largest “elephant in the room” is the contradiction between Al Jaber’s apparent commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement and Adnoc’s oil and gas expansion plans.  Analysis produced by German NGO Urgewald for the UK’s Guardian newspaper in April 2023 revealed that Adnoc’s plans to add 7.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE) to its total output make it the third worst contributor to the expected global overshoot of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2050 Net-Zero scenario.  While the latter does not allow for any new oil and gas projects after 2021, 90% of Adnoc’s new projects were announced after that date.  Al Jaber, Adnoc, and other state and corporate oil companies must address this glaring discrepancy if there can be any hope for a credible and effective outcome to COP28.  The conference in Dubai will follow the timetable as laid out in the Letter to Parties:

    Image courtesy of Tom from Pixabay
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