COP 28 - To phase out or not to phase out

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), which took place in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates this year, lasted almost 14 hours longer than initially planned. The results that were achieved thanks to this extension were able to prevent major setbacks and worst case scenarios, but at the same time, they confirmed the fears that the interests of the fossil fuel lobby could play a disproportionate role in the negotiations at a climate conference in an oil state.

In addition to the COP28 presidency being set under the head of the UAE's largest oil company, the number of fossil fuel industry representatives this year was higher than at any previous climate conference, at over 2,000 people. Thanks to pressure from civil society, it was possible to demand additional rules concerning transparency in the registration process for all participants. The fossil fuel lobby can also be found in the EU country delegations, including BP and Exxon. The result is therefore unfortunately not surprising: there is no clear commitment to a rapid, fair, feminist, financed and full phase-out of all fossil fuels in line with the 1.5° target.

Even though the need to move away from fossil fuels has been recognized, the wording remains full of loopholes and watered-down phrases, such as "phase-down" instead of phase-out, of "unabated" coal, or the phasing out of "inefficient" fossil subsidies. Not without Us! member Greta Pallaver draws the following conclusion: "False solutions such as nuclear energy and Carbon Capture and Utilization and Storage (CCU/CCS) are mentioned as solutions on an equal footing with renewable energies. For the Women and Gender Constituency in particular, this shows the ignorance towards the perspectives of women and partners from the Global South, who have been pointing out the dangers of these false solutions and diversionary manoeuvres for years. The fossil fuel lobby stands out as clear victors of this battle."

The phase-out of fossil fuels must be financed fairly which means that the countries of the Global North in particular must live up to their historical responsibility and support the countries that have contributed least to the climate crisis in a just transition. However, financial commitments and ambitious support are lacking in the areas of adaptation, NCQG and Just Transition.

Although the Loss and Damage Fund was operationalised at the beginning of the COP, the financial commitments made are insufficient. As long as the fossil fuel industry continues to be used and expanded, we will continue to see damage and losses. The seven largest historical CO2 emitters are also among the countries with the highest military spending worldwide. A serious commitment to phasing out fossil fuels requires a redistribution of these financial resources.

In the negotiations on the design of carbon markets and the Sustainable Development Mechanism, no consensus could be achieved among the parties (paragraph 6 of the Paris Agreement). This is a success and not a delay, as it prevented non-transparent markets and emission reductions. The framework conditions for carbon removal (e.g. sinks, but also technologies such as CCS/CCU) and methods for calculating emission reductions have yet to be improved. We demand that activities under these mechanisms under the UNFCCC must not start before there are strong social and environmental safeguards and a functioning and independent grievance mechanism. 

The Just Transition Work Program should focus on human rights and workers' rights, take into account unpaid care work and the informal sector, and enable civil society and all relevant stakeholders to have their voices heard and amplified. Unfortunately, these aspects were not taken into account at all or heavily watered down. There are no concrete results in the work program itself.

This year's negotiations were dominated by the discussions about two important action plans that promote social and equitable climate protection: Action for Climate Empowerment and the Gender Action Plan. While the former got stuck in debates over financing, which ultimately resulted in the postponement of an important decision, the latter debated over established wording of gender equality, with the result that the decision did not contribute to equitable climate protection. Neither issue should be treated as a sideshow or a bargaining chip.

Similar to previous years COP in Egypt, the climate justice movement wasn't able to organise a large-scale demonstration for (gender-) just climate protection due to the challenging human rights situation of the host country. At the beginning of the conference, there were eight spaces available to civil society within the conference grounds. Their use was permitted only after the meeting of the heads of government on the third and fourth day had finished. Two of these places were cancelled after just one day. Additionally,  temperatures did not allow demonstrations during the midday heat with the right to freedom of expression further restricted through the (new) language in the customarily used Code of Conduct of UN conferences.

We look forward to the next climate conference with worry as we experience a global situation in which civil society's freedom of action is not only restricted in areas of crisis. Nonetheless, the international climate and gender justice movement is strengthened when it can realise and organise itself as a collective power at high political levels such as the UNFCCC. The alliances and connections that are forged here show effect beyond the boundaries of the COP.

We live in the historic decade, or more precisely in the last two remaining years, in which global greenhouse gas emissions must peak globally. In two years' time, we mustn't  find ourselves in a situation where we have to admit that the 1.5°C of the Paris Agreement can no longer be achieved. In two years' time, the climate conference will take place in the rainforest of Brazil - the lungs of the world. Climate protection must be social and gender equitable and has no place for wars - we need a permanent ceasefire everywhere and immediately. These are not conditions, but the solution to achieve a fast, just, feminist-financed and full phase-out of all fossil fuels.

This statement was written in collaboration with LIFE e.V.