- The COP28 brings a paradigm shift by abandoning the goal of completely eliminating fossil fuels;
- The massive presence of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28 highlights the worrying influence of these industries on climate decisions;
- With the COP29 in Azerbaijan on the horizon, the search for balance between energy production and global climate objectives becomes essential.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) plays a vital role in formulating global strategies to address climate change, being an international forum where leaders discuss crucial actions to mitigate global warming.
Throughout the editions, the goals evolved, reflecting a search for realistic approaches to economic and political challenges. COP28 in Dubai exemplified this transition, seeking to implement plans that are more aligned with reality.
What is the relevance of COP and what is it?
COP, or Conference of the Parties, is a series of international meetings where leaders and negotiators from various countries gather to discuss actions and agreements related to climate change. The main objective is to seek global solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change.
The relevance of COP lies in being a crucial space for decision-making on environmental issues worldwide. During these conferences, countries negotiate agreements, goals, and strategies to address global warming and promote more sustainable practices. Each COP is sequentially numbered, indicating the edition of the conference.
Results of COP28: Goal changes or commitment deviation?
COP28 in Dubai marked a significant shift in climate change goals compared to previous conferences. Previously, there was talk of completely eliminating fossil fuels, but now, the results indicate a different approach: reducing and using these energy sources more responsibly.
The agreement reached in Dubai shows an adaptation in how we deal with greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of aiming to completely eliminate fossil fuels, the commitment now is to reduce their use and do so responsibly. This reflects a more realistic understanding of the situation, recognizing that many countries still heavily depend on these energy sources such as oil, gas, and coal.
This shift in goals also suggests a possible change in how the world approaches the fight against climate change. The agreement reflects the idea that while completely eliminating fossil fuels is a positive goal, economic reality and current energy needs require more flexible approaches.
This economic reality stems from the cost to governments of implementing this new, more sustainable infrastructure. This negative economic effect also comes from the higher cost to consumers of implementing climate projects, creating some popular opposition to climate policies that is reflected in elections.
Therefore, global leaders seem to be choosing a gradual and sustainable transition instead of paying an immediate economic and political price to prevent climate change. Thus, the evolution in the words and goals of COP28 can be seen as a more practical and realistic response to the economic and political challenges faced by many countries.
Issues of COP28: Lobbying and controversial leadership
At the COP28 climate meeting in Dubai, the record number of “fossil fuel lobbyists” drew attention. Lobbyists represent major companies (in the case of oil and gas), gaining access and influence in important climate change negotiations.
These lobbyists, totaling 2456, outnumber almost all country delegations, suggesting significant influence from these large industries in discussions, potentially impacting decisions in favor of transitioning to cleaner energy.
Analysis by the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition shows that the presence of these lobbyists, advocating for the interests of fossil fuel companies, is almost four times larger than in the previous COP. This happens at a time when the COP focuses on discussing the elimination of these environmentally harmful energy sources.
The study also highlights that many of these lobbyists are part of trade groups, with the largest being the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), bringing representatives from major polluters such as Shell, TotalEnergies, and Equinor.
This situation raises questions about fairness and transparency in negotiations, as the massive presence of fossil fuel lobbyists can influence climate decisions, often to the detriment of communities most affected by the climate crisis.
Therefore, more transparent measures are needed from the Conference organization to ensure that these influences do not harm the decision-making process for the benefit of the environment.
What are the expectations for COP29 and Global Energy Transition?
With the confirmation that Azerbaijan will host COP29, expectations are high, but crucial questions arise regarding the energy transition.
As a major producer of gas and fossil fuels, Azerbaijan faces the challenge of balancing its position in the energy industry with global goals to combat climate change, raising questions about the contradiction of this decision, given its relevance in fossil fuel production.
Regarding global energy transition, for poorer countries, this change represents a significant financial dilemma. The transition to cleaner energy sources is an urgent need, but it is not easily accessible for most countries. For this reason, the continued dependence on fossil fuels remains an inevitable reality for many of them, given the lack of resources to invest in cleaner alternatives.
One possibility that can be discussed in Baku is the use of carbon capture technology in fossil fuel-dependent countries. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a set of techniques designed to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources and energy production, such as coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities.
The main goal of carbon capture technology is to help mitigate climate change by reducing the amount of CO2 already released or at the moment it is released into the atmosphere. This is crucial because carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming and climate change. By capturing and storing CO2, overall emissions can be significantly reduced, helping carbon-intensive sectors transition to more sustainable practices.
However, although the technology exists, its large-scale implementation is limited, mainly due to the high costs associated with these solutions. This highlights the urgent need to address financial barriers and promote technology transfer to ensure an effective and accessible transition for developing countries.
Thus, COP29 in Azerbaijan presents itself as a crucial opportunity to address these complex issues, seeking practical solutions and concrete commitments to drive a more equitable and sustainable global energy transition.
Why are COP decisions important for humanity?
Decisions made at Conferences of the Parties (COP) on climate change are crucial for humanity for several crucial reasons related to the impact of countries’ energy choices on climate change and Earth’s survival.
By serving as an example of Global Governance, these conferences seek collective solutions to environmental problems, recognizing the interdependence of nations in addressing climate challenges.
However, the effectiveness of this global governance can face a “Collective Action Problem,” in which leaders and actors may be tempted to make individualistic decisions and take advantage of positive actions by others, hindering the effective resolution of environmental problems as a whole.
Therefore, it is crucial to emphasize that for these initiatives to work, each nation, international organization, and global leader must play their role in mitigating climate change, recognizing that the lack of collaboration by all results in harm to the collective.
That said, it is worth reiterating some of the risks associated with climate change:
- Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming: Emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are driving global warming.
- Impact on Climate Conditions: Energy choices that perpetuate dependence on fossil fuels contribute to extreme weather events such as heatwaves, intense storms, floods, and prolonged droughts. These events have direct implications for food security, water resources, and the habitability of entire regions.
- Melting Ice and Sea Level Rise: Decisions on greenhouse gas emissions directly influence the pace of ice melting and, consequently, sea-level rise, posing a threat to coastal communities and islands worldwide. An example is Tuvalu, a small group of islands in the Pacific Ocean facing the imminent threat of disappearing due to climate change. Situated just five meters above sea level, the country is at risk of being one of the first to succumb to the effects of sea-level rise in the coming decades. The critical situation of Tuvalu, threatened by rising sea levels, highlights the urgency of these decisions. Faced with the imminent loss of its physical territory, the country seeks to survive as a “digital nation,” showcasing the real ramifications of climate choices on the existence of nations and cultures.
- Loss of Biodiversity: Climate change resulting from energy choices affects natural habitats and contributes to the loss of biodiversity. Altering ecosystems puts the variety of life on Earth at risk, including plants, animals, and microorganisms essential for ecological balance.
- Long-Term Sustainability: Sustainable energy choices are crucial to ensure a continuous supply of natural resources such as water, food, and energy.
- Global Responsibility and Climate Justice: Lack of significant actions can result in inequalities, as the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged nations are often the most affected by climate impacts, despite contributing less to emissions.
In conclusion, decisions made by COPs are crucial for the future of human survival, shaping the planet’s future in the face of climate change. The imminent threat faced by nations like Tuvalu, the increasingly frequent heatwaves in various parts of the world, and the constant melting of glaciers in the poles highlight the urgency of these choices.