2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (Redirected from COP28)

2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference
Logo
A group photo of national leaders and other dignitaries at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference
Native name مؤتمر الأمم المتحدة للتغير المناخي 2023
Date30 November – 13 December 2023 (2023-11-30 – 2023-12-13)
LocationExpo City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Organised byUnited Arab Emirates
ParticipantsUNFCCC member countries
PresidentSultan Al Jaber
Previous event← Sharm El Sheikh 2022
Next eventBaku 2024
Websitecop28.com
Al Wasl Plaza, Expo City, Dubai

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, more commonly known as COP28, was the 28th United Nations Climate Change conference, held from 30 November to 13 December at Expo City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The COP conference has been held annually (except 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) since the first UN climate agreement in 1992. The event is intended for governments to agree on policies to limit global temperature rises and adapt to impacts associated with climate change.

The conference was orginally scheduled to end on 12 December, but had to be extended following Saudi objections on the final agreement. On 13 December, the conference president, Sultan Al Jaber announced that a final compromise agreement between the countries involved had been reached. The deal commits all signatory countries to move away from carbon energy sources "in a just, orderly and equitable manner" to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, and reach net zero by 2050. The global pact was the first in the history of COP summits to explicitly mention the need to shift away from every type of fossil fuels, but it still received widespread criticism due to the lack of a clear commitment to either fossil fuel phase-out or phase-down. China and India did not sign the pledge to triple their output of renewable energy and committed to coal power instead.

The conference was widely criticised for its controversial president Sultan Al Jaber, as well as its host country, the UAE, which is known for its opaque environmental record and role as a major producer of fossil fuels. Al Jaber is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), leading to concerns over conflict of interest. Claims of greenwashing of Al Jaber on Wikipedia, Twitter, and Medium; the legal inability to criticise Emirati corporations in the UAE; alleged covert access to conference emails by ADNOC; and the invitation of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have all raised concerns regarding the integrity of the conference. Al Jaber stated before the beginning of the conference that there was "no science" behind fossil fuel phase-out in achieving 1.5 °C; and leaked documents appeared to show the UAE planned to use the conference to strike new fossil fuel deals with other nations. Al Jaber claimed that his comments on the phase out of fossil fuels were "misinterpreted" and denied the latter allegation, asserting that the UAE does not need the COP presidency to establish business deals.

Background

The United Arab Emirates is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, due to its very hot and humid climate. The observed annual average mean surface air temperature in the UAE has risen by 1.27 °C (2.29 °F) between 1990 and 2022. Without a reduction in emissions, wet-bulb temperatures in the region are expected to cross 35 °C (95 °F) for a prolonged period of time by the 2070s. The Red Sea and Persian Gulf are the regions with the highest number of heat-humidity extreme events in the world, and they have exceeded safe wet-bulb temperature thresholds several times. Other impacts felt in the region are dust storms, sea level rise, and drought. According to the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, the UAE is making efforts to reduce emissions in many ways across different sectors of its economy. Measures include promoting organic and hydroponic agriculture, building the Etihad Rail, reducing waste (especially food waste), and promoting a more circular economy.

The UAE pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050; the first Middle Eastern government to make such a pledge. It was the first country in the region to sign the Paris Agreement on 21 September 2016. The country has invested $50 billion into clean energy internationally and promised an additional $50 billion by 2030. In November 2022, the UAE agreed to partner with the United States to invest another $100 billion in clean energy.

History

In early 2021, the United Arab Emirates offered to host the 2023 event, and in November 2021 the prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, announced that the UAE would be hosting the 2023 conference. It was the third time it was hosted by a member of OPEC after Qatar in 2012 and Indonesia in 2007.

On 1 August 2023, the UAE allowed environmental activists to "assemble peacefully" at the summit and vowed to provide them a space to "make their voices heard", despite its laws that prohibit unauthorised protests.

Roughly two months before the conference, some called for an increase in international cooperation which they saw as a necessary condition for successful climate action. Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, expressed hope for significant achievements in the summit but noted: "[the] geopolitical situation, with many nations at loggerheads over the war in Ukraine, and still frosty relations between the US and China, would make for a difficult summit [...] The most important challenge [to limiting temperature rises to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels] is the lack of international cooperation." The climate envoy from Bangladesh described the lack of global solidarity as the main obstacle to stopping climate change, emphasising the need to create a loss and damage fund. Governments have expressed concern that similar to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 2023 Israel–Hamas war may adversely impact negotiations at COP28.

At the end of November 2023, a pre-COP meeting of ministers was held. 100 delegations and 70 ministers attended, more than any prior pre-COP meeting. The general director of the COP, Majid al-Suwaidi, insisted the conference would deliver in the domain of loss and damage what was agreed at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Before the conference, Pope Francis issued an apostolic exhortation called Laudate Deum, calling for brisk action against the climate crisis and condemning climate change denial. The Pope planned to attend the conference, which would have marked the first papal visit to a United Nations Climate Change conference, but had to pull out due to ill health. Charles III, king of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth realms, made the opening speech at the summit. United States president Joe Biden did not attend, with the 2023 Israel–Hamas war and internal US government spending difficulties being cited as possible causes.

China's representative declared that China, the United States, and the European Union agreed to cooperate to ensure the success of the conference. At the beginning of November, insiders cautiously expressed hope for a climate agreement between China and the United States ahead of the conference, similar to the agreement of 2014 that paved the way for the Paris Agreement. China published a plan to reduce methane emissions ahead of the conference, but there was expected contention on coal use in China. China has recently characterised coal as essential for its energy security although others say energy security could be improved through upgrades to the energy grid and domestic energy market. Talks between Janet Yellen and He Lifeng yielded a decision to enhance cooperation between the countries on climate related issues and much was expected from the meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping later in the month at the 2023 APEC summit. According to Kate Logan from the Asia Society Policy Institute, cooperation between the two countries could "set the stage for a successful outcome at the COP28".

On 15 November, the United States and China announced an agreement based on negotiations between climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua to "pursue efforts to triple renewable energy globally by 2030". The agreement included a commitment to addressing greenhouse gases, including warming agents other than carbon dioxide, but was criticised for not including a commitment from China to phase out coal-fired power plants. The agreement was praised as a "significant outcome" by COP28 president-designate Sultan Al Jaber.

Global stocktake

In September 2023, in advance of the opening of COP28, the United Nations published the first two-year assessment of global progress in slowing down climate change, called the "global stocktake". This type of overview was established during COP26 in Glasgow and is scheduled to be repeated every five years. The report says that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed. Previously the United Nations avoided making similar statements. Among the 17 key findings of the report are:

  • The Paris Agreement and the resulting climate action significantly helped in reducing emissions. In 2011 the projected warming by 2100 was 3.7–4.8 °C. After COP27 it was 2.4–2.6 °C and in the best case, if all pledges are accomplished, 1.7–2.1 °C.
  • As of September 2023, the world is not on track to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement. For having a more than 50% chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 °C and more than 67% chance of limiting it to 2 °C, global emissions must peak by the year 2025.
  • Trillions of dollars are needed for limiting warming to 1.5 °C. Financial flows need to significantly change.
  • More effective international cooperation and collaboration are crucial for reaching the targets of the Paris Agreement.

Reception

As the host country, the UAE named Sultan Al Jaber as president-designate of COP28 in January 2023. His appointment was criticised by Western lawmakers due to him being the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). 99 members of the European Parliament and 34 US senators and representatives wrote an open letter, addressed to US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, to call the UAE to withdraw Al Jaber's appointment. Signatory US lawmakers included Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. European signatories mostly hailed from the Greens and Left groups. The letter claimed that "the private sector polluters were exercising undue influence over the climate summit's process." ADNOC is a UAE state-owned corporation. The UAE government did not respond to the open letter, neither did the US president nor the European Commission president. US climate envoy John Kerry expressed his support for Al Jaber's appointment.

Al Jaber's presidency of the COP28 climate change conference contradicted his company's decision to expand fossil fuel production in ADNOC Drilling company. The human rights organisation Amnesty International raised concerns, stating, "Sultan al-Jaber cannot be an honest broker for climate talks when the company he leads is planning to cause more climate damage."

In January 2023, Dubai Cares became the Education partner for COP28. It had already participated in COP27 held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

In April 2023, the Emirati organisers of COP28 told the speakers at the climate and health conference to not protest or "criticise corporations" in the Emirates. The warning cited the Gulf state's laws, under which the panel members were warned: "Do not criticise Islam, UAE government, corporations or individuals". Climate activists raised concerns about how the UAE would host COP28 without freedom of speech. The UAE invited the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, to COP28. According to Human Rights Watch, the UAE was assisting Assad to improve his image and HRW stated it was outrageous that COP28 was being used to reintroduce Assad into the international community.

In June 2023, governments gathered in Bonn to prepare for COP28. HRW highlighted that the UAE doesn't allow freedom of expression and had been aggressively silencing critics. The organisation said the governments in Bonn should use the opportunity to push the Emirati authorities to ease the "grip on civic space and uphold rights". It said the UN and other governments must demand the UAE end the persecution of rights defenders like Ahmed Mansoor, and it expressed concern that COP28 participants may stay silent fearing retaliation.

On 7 June 2023, a report based on technical analysis by The Guardian revealed that Sultan Al Jaber's ADNOC was able to read the emails to and from the COP28 climate summit office. ADNOC was also consulted over how to reply to media inquiries by the consultancy firm, Gulstan Advisory. The report also stated that the COP28 office shared its email servers with ADNOC. The COP28 office shifted to a different server after the The Guardian's inquiry.

In August 2023, John Kerry urged the oil and gas industry leaders to bring strategies at COP28 to cut their scope 1 (directly caused) and scope 2 (indirectly caused) emissions by 2030. He also asked them to initiate capital allocation commitments for renewable energy during the same timeline. On the other hand, climate experts and campaigners were raising concerns that the COP28 event would become an "oil COP", as it was taking place in a petrostate. Central to this criticism was the inclusion of the oil and gas industry in a crucial role in the discussions to combat climate change.

Pope Francis was scheduled to attend the COP28 for three days, but cancelled his trip after a flu-related lung inflammation.

Summit proceedings

Over 70,000 people were accredited for the summit, with 400,000 more granted access to the surrounding "blue zone".

On the starting day of the summit on 30 November 2023, a "loss and damage" fund to compensate poor states for the effects of climate change was agreed on. The fund aims to distribute funds to poor states harmed by climate change and is to be administered by the World Bank. Initial promises were made by the host (UAE) to donate $100 million to the fund, and by the United Kingdom ($75 million), United States ($24.5 million), Japan ($10 million) and Germany ($100 million).

In his opening speech of the conference, Charles III expressed alarm at rising levels of pollution, saying that the world was "dreadfully far off track" its climate targets. The British monarch warned that "we are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition, all at once, at a pace that far outstrips nature's ability to cope".

On 1 December 2023 activists protested outside the venue, calling for ecocide — mass environmental destruction — to be made a crime at the International Criminal Court.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, expressed satisfaction from the beginning of the conference because the loss and damage fund was created, but said that for further decarbonisation carbon pricing should be advanced and fossil fuel subsidies eliminated. Fossil fuel subsidies reached a record level of 7.1 trillion dollars in the year 2022, due to high fuel prices and inflation. There are propositions for a creation of a global carbon market managed by the United Nations in the conference. Some steps are already done.

On 2 December 2023, COP28 participants launched a declaration to triple nuclear energy capacity from 2020 to 2050. The declaration was unveiled by US climate envoy John Kerry, and signed by 25 countries: Armenia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ghana, Hungary, Jamaica, Japan, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States. The signing countries pledged to implement policies to extend their nuclear capacities, stating that nuclear power played a key role in cutting carbon emissions to net zero.

On 3 December 2023, The Guardian revealed that COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber had dismissed demands for a fossil fuel phaseout, denying its basis in science and claiming it would prevent economic development. The following day, Al-Jaber held a press conference in which he stated he "respects science", thinks a phaseout of fossil fuel use is inevitable and claimed his comments were taken out of context.

On 6 December 2023, Haitham al-Ghais, the current OPEC Secretary-General, urged member nations to focus negotiations on reducing carbon emissions, rather than prohibiting the extraction and sale of fossil fuels. As a reaction, Greenpeace published a press release calling for Arab countries to phase out fossil fuels by 2050, ensuring a just transition. Greenpeace said that "The latest research from Christian Aid and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna shows that both the UAE and Saudi Arabia face a GDP growth reduction of −72% by 2100 if the global temperature rise is allowed to reach 3°C." The study called Mercury Rising: the economic impact of climate change on the Arabian Peninsula predicts a 69% drop in GDP growth for countries at the Persian Gulf in average, with the highest impact on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates if temperatures will reach this level. If temperature rise will be limited to 1.5 degrees, the reduction in economic growth will be limited to 8.2% by 2050 and 36% by 2100.

Draft and final agreements

The COP28 draft agreement, published on 11 December, avoided calling for a fossil fuel phaseout. It was subsequently rejected by the Umbrella Group and the Alliance of Small Island States, which described the draft as a "death certificate" for small island nations.

On the morning of 13 December, shortly after the start of the COP28's final plenary assembly, Al-Jaber announced that the participating countries had agreed to a compromise deal that encouraged all signatory states to end their dependence on fossil fuels "in a just, orderly and equitable manner", in order to prevent the worst outcome of climate change, while also working to achieve net zero by 2050. The agreement, which had been released to countries for consideration only four hours before being passed — although this aspect did not lead to any formal objections — also called for a tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030, the development of numerous "zero- and low-emission technologies", further efforts "towards the phase-down of unabated coal power" and a cut in methane emissions. China and India did not sign the pledge to triple their output of renewable energy, and committed to coal power instead.

For the first time in the history of COP summits, the global pact explicitly mentioned the necessity to shift away from all kinds of fossil fuels; however, the deal was widely criticised for not including a clear commitment to "phase out" or "phase down" fossil fuels — as requested by many participating countries, civil society groups and scientists — as well as a clear financial plan to help developing countries reach the goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels. Moreover, the choice to include carbon capture and storage in the list of "zero- and low-emission technologies" was questioned due to their relative expensiveness and lack of effectiveness in comparison to other methods.

The participants of the conference pledged 85 billion dollars to different climate issues and made 10 pledges:

  • COALITION FOR HIGH AMBITION MULTILEVEL PARTNERSHIPS (CHAMP) FOR CLIMATE ACTION PLEDGE was signed by 71 countries including United States, Brazil, France, Germany. It includes commitments to promote international and subnational climate action, made new, more ambitious Nationally determined contributions by 2025, increase efforts for climate change adaptation, preserving biodiversity for limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
  • UAE LEADERS’ DECLARATION ON A GLOBAL CLIMATE FINANCE FRAMEWORK was signed by 13 countries including United States, India, United Kingdom, Germany. Includes targets of mobilizing 100 billion dollars by 2025 and 5-7 trillion dollars by 2030 to climate action, make a debt reform, put in place an emissions pricing mechanism, mobilize concession and private capital.
  • COP28 UAE DECLARATION ON CLIMATE AND HEALTH was endorsed by 143 countries including the European Union, China, United States. Includes commitments to reduce negative health impacts from climate change in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, women, local communities and health workers, prevent zoonotic spillover.
  • COP28 DECLARATION ON CLIMATE, RELIEF, RECOVERY AND PEACE was adopted by 82 countries, including Canada, China, Ukraine, United States, Rwanda. The declaration includes commitments to promote peace, environmental policies that support peace, prevent climate change from increasing conflict, help and empower people affected by environmental degradation and conflict.
  • GLOBAL RENEWABLES AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY PLEDGE was signed by 130 countries, including Bhutan, Brazil, European Union, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Chad. The countries pledge to refer to energy efficiency as "first fuel" and double the rate of energy efficiency increase "from around 2% to over 4% every year until 2030". They also pledged to triple the capacity of renewable energy by 2030, ensuring a just transition, increase renewable energy use and energy efficiency in an "environmentally responsible manner".
  • COP28 UAE DECLARATION ON SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, RESILIENT FOOD SYSTEMS, AND CLIMATE ACTION was adopted by 159 countries including Australia, Belarus, Brazil, China, United States. It includes commitments to make the global food system more sustainable and climate resilient, promote food security by helping vulnerable people, pass to sustainable water management, include food systems into climate action strategies, protect and restore nature.
  • COP28 GENDER-RESPONSIVE JUST TRANSITIONS AND CLIMATE ACTION PARTNERSHIP includes 76 countries, among others Canada, China, Sweden, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Israel, United Arab Emirates. Its declaration includes a pledge to ensure a just transition, considering the effects on women especially indigenous, rural and with disabilities.
  • GLOBAL COOLING PLEDGE FOR COP28 was endorsed by 61 countries including Denmark, Japan, Canada, United States, Spain. The declaration mentions the effects of increasing heat waves on health and economy (including food waste) and the contribution of the cooling industry to climate change. The signers pledged among others to cut GHG emissions from the cooling industry by 68% by 2050, increase the efficiency rate of air conditioning equipment by half by the year 2030, make a national plan for cooling, increase green spaces and blue spaces in cities and promote passive cooling (that can "reduce a building’s cooling load by more than 25%").
  • COP28 DECLARATION OF INTENT was endorsed by 37 countries and includes different pledges to advance hydrogen engines (including derivatives of hydrogen) as a climate solution.
  • COP28 JOINT STATEMENT ON CLIMATE, NATURE AND PEOPLE was endorsed by 18 countries including China, United States, Canada, France, Germany, United Kingdom. The statement recognizes that the problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation ocean degradation and social inequality are interconnected and cannot be solved separately. Therefore, the signers pledge to unify the plans to solve the problems into one integrated strategy.

Public health considerations

COP28 is the first COP to discuss the impact of climate change on public health. In a letter addressed to Sultan Al Jaber, "organisations representing more than 46 million health professionals" said a complete phase-out of fossil fuels was the only decisive way to deliver health for all. The World Health Organisation called on ministers of health to raise their voices for health as the driving force behind climate action, leading by example with climate-friendly healthcare systems, and advocating for climate finance that safeguards human well-being. It has been estimated that climate change is set to cost up to $580 billion by 2030 in climate related damages to vulnerable countries.

Previously, experts such as Edmond Fernandes urged UNFCCC to make public health an essential part of all climate meetings and policies, calling human health integral to sustainable climate futures.

Global Faith Leaders Summit

Ahead of the COP28 summit between political leaders of the world, the Muslim Council of Elders, in partnership with the COP28 Presidency, the UN Environment Programme, and the Catholic Church, and under the patronage of the UAE's president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, organised a Global Faith Leaders Summit convening 28 faith leaders to address climate change.

Controversies

Greenwashing accusations

Prior to the conference, the UAE attempted to greenwash its international reputation. The country hired PR and lobbying agencies, including Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Gulstan Advisory, and FleishmanHillard, to promote itself as the host of COP28. The appointment of the UAE as host of the conference was controversial due to the country's track record on fossil fuel production. The president of COP28 is Sultan Al Jaber, who as head of ADNOC has overseen a substantial expansion of gas and oil production at the same time that fossil fuel industries are under pressure to reduce output in order to mitigate climate change. In May 2015, COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber was accused of attempting to greenwash his image by paying users to clean his Wikipedia page. A Wikipedia user revealed that they were paid by ADNOC, while another was paid by Masdar to control the narrative on Wikipedia. Another report revealed that fake user accounts were being used to run promotional campaigns and defend controversies around COP28 on social media platforms. Hundreds of such pseudo-accounts were operating on Twitter and Medium. The campaign aimed at promoting and greenwashing COP28, while also defending criticism against the conference and Al Jaber. Leading into the summit, users on social media noted a large number of fake social media accounts being used to defend UAE's presidency of the climate summit. The social media accounts were tracked by Marc Owen Jones of Hamad Bin Khalifa University.

Campaigning journalist Amy Westervelt has been critical of lead‑up efforts by the UN organisers to improve the transparency of COP28 by requiring industry lobbyists to identify and argued this measure is entirely inadequate to control influence.

During the past decade, the UAE has spent more than $1 million on direct climate-focused advocacy and paid millions more to advisory firms like Gulstan Advisory and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and think tanks helping to polish its green credentials. No other host nation has invested as much time and money to shape its image ahead of the annual climate negotiations.

A report by The Guardian based on leaked documents revealed that the UAE prepared an all-inclusive list mentioning the "touchy and sensitive issues", ranging from the UAE's climate issues to human rights violations, such as the war in Yemen and human trafficking. The document included "strategic messages" approved by the Emirati government, which were to be used as a reply to the media. The document highlighted that the country would defend ADNOC's failure to disclose its emissions since 2016 by saying that "ADNOC is currently conducting necessary studies". Besides, the document also mentioned that questions on Sultan Al Jaber's presidency will be answered with, "Dr. Sultan's full circle career [in energy, climate, and diplomacy] gives him the expertise needed to constructively engage, disrupt, and unite the very sectors needed to achieve meaningful action."

The UAE hired a US-based PR firm, First International Resources, to "counteract all negative press and media reports" around the Gulf state as a COP28 host. The agreement followed the negative criticism of the UAE's decision to assign Sultan Al Jaber as the COP28 president. On 4 August 2023, the company registered under the United States Foreign Agents Registration Act to represent Masdar. According to the filings, the PR firm was supposed to seek to "reinforce attitudes among decision-makers in Washington DC, and across Europe regarding the strategic value of the UAE in the global fight to address climate change". The UAE was to pay First International Resources a monthly retainer fee of $100,000. Fossil Free Media founder and director Jamie Henn said such an amount is not paid to a PR firm "when you're confident about your public image". He said that much is spent "when you want to spin the public to believe the impossible", such as the claim that the UAE and Al Jaber had been "really committed to transitioning away from fossil fuels".

In August 2023, The Guardian revealed that the UAE failed to report its methane emissions to the UN for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, Sultan Al Jaber's ADNOC set a much higher methane leak target than the level it claimed to have already reached. Cutting methane emissions is believed to be a fast and low-cost method to slow the temperature rise because methane causes almost a quarter of global heating. In November of the same year, the Centre for Research on Energy reported that the UAE regularly flared methane gas, breaking its own regulations. Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan commissioned a survey of over 20,000 from 20 countries, which was used by the officials to discuss the public attitude towards the Arab nation. The major concerns were all about human rights. One of the participants, Sconaid McGeachin said COPs have become a platform for activism, and reportedly said: "We need to preserve the reputation of the UAE ... and try to minimise those attacks as much as possible". A spokesperson for COP28, called the leaked recording "unverified", but stated that COP28 would "engage all stakeholders".

Treatment of migrant workers

The UAE has been adapting its conference facility, the prior site for Expo 2020, to host the COP28 climate conference. FairSquare, a UK-based human rights group, released a report based on testimonies and photographs, stating that the migrant workers were being exposed to dangerously hot weather and humidity to prepare for the climate summit. According to the rights group, in September 2023, a dozen migrant workers from Asia and Africa were working outdoors in temperatures hitting 42 °C (107.6 °F) despite a midday ban. COP28 denied the allegations and claimed that no evidence of the midday ban's breach was found. A worksite supervisor said most of the work is done at night, but some has to be done whenever possible. A COP28 spokesperson said contractors were required to have worker heat safety plans and weather stations that monitor the Thermal Work Limit, as well as taking into account heat and humidity metrics including wet and dry bulb temperature and wind speed.

Digital surveillance

Ahead of COP28, Amnesty International raised concerns that the UAE might continue to use digital surveillance to spy on human rights defenders and civil society members in the UAE, including the COP28 participants. According to Amnesty International's Disrupting Surveillance Team, the UAE had a record of using digital surveillance to "crush dissents and stifle freedom of expression". Amnesty's view of the UAE's promise to offer a "platform for activists' voices" would be unachievable without respect for the human rights of privacy and the right of peaceful assembly. Amnesty opposed the "unlawful electronic surveillance of conference participants [and of] Emirati nationals and residents". It said that the COP28 attendees should be allowed to download "privacy-respecting international communications applications" in the UAE that would ensure safe and encrypted means of communication.

Alleged fossil fuel deals

On 7 November 2023, an AFP investigation revealed in multiple leaked documents that McKinsey was using its position as the primary advisor to COP28 hosts, the United Arab Emirates, to push the interest of its oil and gas clients (ExxonMobil and Aramco). McKinsey has been accused of putting its own interests ahead of the climate by sources involved in preparatory meetings for COP28. McKinsey's energy scenario for the COP28 presidency would allow for continued investment in fossil fuels, which would undermine the goals of the Paris Agreement; an "energy transition narrative" recommends oil use to be reduced by only 50% by 2050, and that trillions of dollars should continue to be invested in high-emission assets each year to at least 2050.

On 27 November 2023, the Centre for Climate Reporting and BBC News reported that based on leaked documents, the UAE intended to use COP28 as a platform to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 countries, including a deal with China to "jointly evaluate international LNG opportunities" in Mozambique, Canada and Australia. The report stated that fossil fuel talks between ADNOC and 15 countries were planned, in addition to talks between Masdar and 20 countries including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and others ahead of the summit. Al Jaber denied reports that the UAE wanted to seek oil deals at the summit, calling the allegations an attempt to undermine his work.

An analysis found that at least 2,456 COP28 attendees were fossil fuel lobbyists, receiving more passes than the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change. Analysis by Oxfam found that 34 billionaires – together worth roughly $495 billion – attended COP28 as delegates; a quarter of them had made their money in "highly polluting industries".

Sultan Al Jaber, the president of COP28, has drawn criticism for asserting there is no scientific basis for phasing out fossil fuels to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a claim revealed by The Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting. Described as "incredibly concerning" and bordering on climate denial, his comments contradict the stance of UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The remarks were made during a confrontational exchange with Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders group, at a live online event on November 21. The Times noted widespread condemnation of Al Jaber's statements at COP28, where numerous countries, including the UK and EU members, advocated for the phased reduction of unabated fossil fuels. In contrast, former US vice president Al Gore emphasized the historical significance of a potential COP28 agreement to phase out fossil fuels, considering it one of the most crucial events in human history. Simultaneously, BBC News reported a substantial increase in the United Arab Emirates' oil production, with Adnoc, the state oil firm, projected to drill 42% more by 2030. Despite this, Adnoc claims it aims to enhance climate-friendliness, including venturing into renewable energy, amid the global call for fossil fuel reduction.

Carbon footprint

Several commentators criticised the fact that COP28 had over 70,000 accredited attendees, as well as the use of private jets by many figures to attend. The meeting is estimated to have the largest carbon footprint of any climate summit.

Suppression of protests

On 11 December 2023, Licypriya Kangujam, a climate activist from India, walked onto the main stage of the conference, held up a sign, "End fossil fuels. Save our planet and our future.", and gave a brief speech. She was given a round of applause by the audience and removed from the session by security personnel. According to Kangujam, she was banned from further participation in COP28. Other activists criticised the UAE's heavy restrictions on protests, which Human Rights Watch called "shocking". Protests at the summit were largely confined to the "blue zone", an area under UN control where local laws do not apply. In the blue zone, local activists used COP28 as a platform for human rights demonstrations that are rare and generally not permitted in the UAE.

See also


This page was last updated at 2024-01-16 01:21 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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