By Charity Phoebe Kilei
When news circulated about Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, set to preside over COP28, concerns arose among certain individuals. Al Jaber, the head of Abu Dhabi’s oil company pumps approximately 4 million barrels daily, with plans to increase to 5 million, which drew attention ahead of the conference.
Before COP28, alarm bells rang regarding the choice of Dubai as The conference hosts a significant oil producer worldwide. Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), under Aljaber, aimed for 5 million barrels of sustainable production by 2030.
The 2023 Conference of the Parties (COP28) faced pressure to establish a new climate agreement. Yet, the controversy surrounding Sultan Al Jaber’s appointment is due to his position as a United Arab Emirates oil tycoon. sparked debates about his stance on climate science.
During contentious discussions on fossil fuels’ future, Al Jaber, also head of the UAE’s ADNOC, criticized attempts to undermine COP28’s work. His comments during an interview in November with the Guardian sparked controversy, questioning the phase-out of fossil fuels’ necessity to achieve a 1.5C goal.
Al Jaber defended his statements to reporters, emphasizing belief in and respect for science. However, the incident highlighted the importance of precision in negotiations. The discrepancy between “phase-down” and “phase-out” and the definition of “unabated” fossil fuels required clarification.
The COP28 agenda centered on the phase-out of fossil fuels, but encountered stalemate as some members rejected a draft that diluted the language from “phase-out” to “phase-down.” Over 100 countries, including the US and EU, pushed for a firm commitment to transition away from coal, oil, and gas.
Criticism mounted against the draft’s weakness from Australia, Canada, Chile, Norway, the EU, and the US, demanding a resolute pledge to end reliance on these resources. African countries, deeply affected by climate change despite low emissions, emphasized financial support in reducing global emissions.
Despite being one of the least greenhouse gas-emitting regions, Globally, Africa has suffered the most from climate change since 2010. Over half of the continent’s population faces various impacts of climate change. including drought, escalating temperatures, land degradation, flooding, desertification, and alterations in rainfall patterns.
Africa’s primary focus during COP28, held in the United Arab Emirates, aimed to persuade global stakeholders to demonstrate greater generosity in financially supporting initiatives aimed at reducing global emissions. The continent had perceived COP27, hosted by Egypt, as largely unsuccessful and held hopes for a more productive outcome at COP28
Despite increased climate ambitions and net-zero commitments, the 2021 Production Gap Report reveals that governments are planning to produce over twice the amount of fossil fuels by 2030 than what aligns with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Meanwhile, the Horn of Africa is grappling with its severest drought in more than four decades, exacerbated by five consecutive below-average rainy seasons.
COP28 made strides with declarations on sustainable agriculture, resilient food systems, and climate action. Efforts to address climate-induced health issues and agriculture emissions signify progress, yet challenges persist, especially if major oil producers fail to commit to fossil fuel phase-out, impacting Africa’s climate vulnerabilities.
African nations, deeply impacted by climate change and low emissions, emphasized the need for financial support to reduce global emissions. Africa, though among the lowest greenhouse gas emitters, has suffered disproportionately from climate change. Droughts in Kenya, for instance, resulted in a loss of 2.5 million livestock, with an additional 10 million facing scarcity of pasture and water.
The impact extended to wildlife, with reports of 205 elephant deaths due to drought in Kenya’s protected areas. This dire situation affected pastoral women and children severely.
The 2023 Global Report on Food Crises highlighted a concerning reality: impoverished nations’ economic resilience diminished significantly, leading to longer recovery periods and reduced capacity to withstand future shocks. Despite the repercussions, major fossil fuel producers hesitated to address
This is a critical issue.
Additionally, the Kenya Drought Response Plan for the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) region projected over 6.4 million individuals requiring humanitarian aid in 2023. Among them, over 677,900 children and more than 138,800 pregnant and breastfeeding women in the ASAL area are expected to face acute malnutrition.
Activist Purity Jebor stressed the necessity for inclusive decision-making
in climate change initiatives during a webinar titled “Climate Change and
Social Inequalities.” Organized by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Jebor highlighted the importance of holding leaders accountable, particularly for their impact on young people.
Jebor also raised concerns about the lack of a clear plan to assist indigenous
communities most affected by climate change.
Africa’s emphasis on funding was concerning, given that if the issue of fossil fuel emissions isn’t addressed seriously, the consequences will continue to affect Africa. While demanding compensation, greater accountability is crucial because Africa feels the impacts more than other nations, and unless If serious action is taken, these consequences will persist.
Many have alleged that Al Jaber, leading the meeting, aimed to weaken the push to phase out fossil fuels due to his strong ties with oil-producing allies. The question arises: why appoint someone with vested oil? interests to oversee its reduction? This move is seen as a strategic play. especially after the initial draft diluted the phasing out of fossil fuels to a “phase down.”
Countries are now vigilant to see if the agreements made during COP28 will be put into action, especially considering that many countries often fail to honor their commitments.