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Good COP, bad COP?

Good COP, bad COP?

COP28 ended with a call to action new to the history of climate negotiations: a collective decision to move away from fossil fuels. But is it all good news?

Picture this. Dubai, 2023. Nearly 200 nations gathered, a microcosm of our world, each grappling with an agenda that's no less existentially important than the survival of our species as we know it. The stage is set for COP28, and the headline? The chair is an Emirati politician, minister of industry and advanced technology, and head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. The universe really does have a sense of humour.

Following this revelation, the focus of COP28 was understandably on fossil fuels - the longstanding climate villains we just can’t seem to put to bed.

To make matters worse, stories began emerging. For one, Adnoc (the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, of which Al Jaber is chief executive) had been planning a massive expansion of its oil and gas operations. Worse? Mr Al Jaber was planning to use COP meetings as a lobbying opportunity to sell his company’s products to delegates.

Arguments, embarrassments, hilarity ensued - so where did we end up?

Our first concern was that the idea of COP had become irreparably damaged. Writer, and climate commentator George Monbiot holds an interesting view shared by many: Of 27 summits completed so far, 25 have been abject failures, while two (1997’s Kyoto protocol and the Paris agreement, in 2015) have been half-successes. It’s not a great record. COP28 for many seemed like it was going to be the final nail in the coffin for the idea.

But we may have been saved at the death.

COP28 ended with a call to action new to the history of climate negotiations: a collective decision to move away from fossil fuels. It’s the first-ever climate accord to address the primary driver of warming temperatures, and may well be the exact opposite of Mr Al Jaber and Co’s plans from the beginning. The question remains however - have we made progress?

The devil in the details

The deal itself – is a nonbinding pact, leaving the power of execution in the hands of individual nations. It's a step, sure, but critics voice concerns – the pact is voluntary, optional.

From the voices of small island nations to environmental activists, there's an undertone of disappointment. The agreement lacks a concrete deadline for ending fossil fuel production, and crucially it stops short of what many have been calling for - to leave remaining fossil fuels in the ground.

The F+H perspective

Over here at Fox + Hare HQ, we're looking at COP28 with a healthy mix of scepticism and hope. We know the true measure of any summit lies not in the talks or even what’s written down afterwards. It’s in the actions that follow. Less talk, more do.

The next COPs are in Azerbaijan and Brazil, and we can use them as millstones to measure what’s actually happened. The eyes of the world will be watching.

So, Good COP or bad COP?

So, was COP28 a success or failure? Too early to tell. But a precedent has been set, and we’ll be trying to hold those in power to Mr Al Jaber’s closing words; “An agreement is only as good as its implementation. We are what we do, not what we say.”

Bit rich coming from him in the circumstances…

In any case, let’s not let another year go by without the organisations, people, and governments responsible not being held to account. Our lives may (literally) depend on it.