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The Climate Crisis Talks at COP28: Dominances of Plunderer Corporate Power

The Climate Crisis Talks at COP28: Dominances of Plunderer Corporate Power

19-05-2024
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10 mins Read
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Nowadays, due to the continuous threat of global warming to humanity and the planet, the climate crisis is one of the most concerning issues worldwide, from the UN to society at large. Besides, to describe the impact of the threatening global warming cause and its effects, talks on the climate crisis are rising daily among scientists and the general public.

Accordingly, the significance of a just transition to clean energy to address the global climate crisis and the necessity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the transition to renewable energies, must be emphasized. Hence, to promote profit-driven solutions like carbon trading instead of focusing on reducing carbon emissions, criticism must include international financial institutions and governments.

On the other hand, climate change’s effects include severe droughts, a lack of water, wildfires, flooding, rising sea levels, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms, and declining biodiversity. In 1988, the issues of global warming and ozone layer depletion dominated international discourse and political agendas. However, all the attendees, a union of concerned scientists, agreed in the conversation that climate change may not be stopped; it can only be slowed down. Gaining “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier will be necessary to prevent the worst effects of climate change. When carbon emissions are balanced against atmospheric removals, it is called net zero.

However, based on that most significant issue of climate change, to combat the global climate crisis, since 1995, every year, political leaders, advisers, media, and corporate lobbyists around the world gather for the “United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP).” The primary theme has been to talk about how important it is to convert to renewable energy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how important it is to avoid continuing damaging behaviours that result in inequality and exclusion. Regretfully, despite the planet’s imminent danger, attendees let carbon emissions soar, and the issue worsens anyway.

United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP)

Based on the goals, such as “Secure Global Net Zero by Mid-Century and Keep Warming to 1.5 Degrees Celsius Within Reach,Adapt to Protect Communities and Natural Habitats,Mobilise Finance, and “Work Together to Deliver,” the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) has started to serve as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC parties. Its objectives were to review the steps taken to combat climate change, starting in the middle of the 1990s, and to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol, which would impose enforceable legal responsibilities on industrialized nations to cut back on their emissions of greenhouse gases.

Additionally, the 1992-adopted United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a global agreement, frequently hosts COPs nowadays. The Conference of the Parties holds official meetings, which explains the abbreviation. Likewise, the United Nations’ first significant Conference on the Environment and Development is where this Conference of the Parties started. The world’s national and international governments, however, are the parties.

Thus, until the Parties (the participating nations) decide otherwise, the Conference of the Parties (COP) attended the UNFCCC, which is an annual international climate conference generally known as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Essentially, leaders around the world get together at COPs to collaborate on finding ways to address climate change.

Essential Background of COP 

Significantly, it is essential to bear in mind that countries joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Global Climate Change in 1992 as a framework for international cooperation to fight climate change through controlling global average temperatures, ensuing climate change, and adapting to impacts that were, by then, unavoidable.

However, countries began negotiating in 1995 to fortify the international response to climate change, and two years later, the Kyoto Protocol was ratified. The parties to the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries, are legally required to meet emission reduction goals. The first commitment period for the Protocol ran from 2008 to 2012. The second commitment period will last through 2020, starting January 1st, 2013.

Thus, through COP, the participating parties have finally begun dealing with the global climate issue, which calls for a swift shift to renewable energy sources and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Undoubtedly, the possibility exists, therefore, that such a shift would uphold the prevailing exploitation and dispossession practices, perpetuating injustices and escalating socioeconomic marginalization.

COP28: Unveiling the corporate houses plundering

Background of the COP28: Based on the primary purpose of addressing the urgent need for global transformative climate action, COP28 has unveiled its summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on November 30, 2023. Basically, COP28 refers to the 28th annual United Nations (UN) climate summit, where the countries attended together to form a policy on how to limit and prepare for future climate change by designing such strategies to deal with the causes of climate change and manage the effects of a warming world. This influential summit, also known as the UN Climate Change Conference, ensured that all delegates from the 198 countries that attended signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Undoubtedly, the COP28 was the largest of its kind. COP28 has gathered 85,000 participants (which includes more than 150 Heads of State and Government) among the representatives of national delegations, civil society citizens, businesspersons, and Indigenous Peoples, including youth, philanthropy, and international organizations. In summary, COP28 was crucial because it addressed climate change on a global scale and highlighted the demand for combined steps to protect our world and secure a sustainable future for all of us.

At COP28, world leaders aimed to expedite proactive climate shifts and unlock essential resources. The UAE Consensus, an improved and well-balanced package intended to hasten global climate action, was highlighted throughout the meeting. In addition, COP28 expected unprecedented recognition and momentum for connecting actions to address climate and biodiversity emergencies alongside pollution, which are mainly interlinked environmental issues confronting humanity. Surprisingly, at the end of the summit, only an agreement reached at COP28 marked the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel age by setting up the framework for a quick, simple, and fair transition supported by significant reductions in emissions and increased funding.

Theme of COP28: The conference was organized around four cross-cutting themes:

* Mitigation: To focus on decreasing the emission of greenhouse gases.
* Adaptation: detecting the effects of climate change and building stability.
* Finance: mobilizing the financial structure for fighting climate finance to support permanent and sustainable solutions.
* Nature-Based Solutions: Exploring methods to shield and revive ecosystems.

However, just because it marked the end of the first “global stocktake” of the worldwide steps to fight climate change according to the Paris Agreement, COP28 was undoubtedly especially significant. Countries reacted by deciding to accelerate all areas of climate movement by 2030 after demonstrating that progress was too slow, from lowering greenhouse gas emissions to bolstering resilience to a changing climate to providing vulnerable nations with financial and technological support. In their upcoming round of climate promises, the expedition to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, governments were severely urged, especially wind and solar systems.

According to the official website for COP28, “key highlights are as follows:

1. Signaling the ‘beginning of the end’ for the fossil fuel era.
2. New funding for loss and damage.
3. Enhancing global efforts to strengthen resilience.
4. Linking climate action with nature conservation.
5. Ramping up practical climate solutions.
6. Looking ahead to the negotiations on the enhanced transparency framework.”

Infame to COP28:With COP28 being held in Dubai, UAE, the Arab region has hosted the climate talks five times since beginning in 1995. Undoubtedly, COPs attract massive media attention, though many suspect their intention is not to achieve breakthroughs. For instance, the 2022 COP27 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, produced a payment for loss and damage accord that some hailed as a crucial first step towards holding wealthier nations accountable for the suffering climate change causes in the global south.

However, critics believe the deal will suffer the same fate as the unfulfilled pledge to give $100 billion in climate finance by 2020, initially made at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. This is because the accord lacked transparent funding and enforcement measures. Now, regarding COP28, many activists and observers perceive the UAE’s choice of Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, to chair the discussions as a symbol of the country’s strong determination to continue to extract oil at whatever cost, which has been the hallmark of earlier negotiations.

Indeed, the negative perception of COP28 stemmed from worries that Arab renewable energy projects represent a type of “green colonialism”—a practice that takes advantage of underdeveloped areas to collect and export energy and natural resources to wealthy countries. As a result, these projects’ export-oriented focus has drawn criticism for putting the energy security of the EU and other affluent areas ahead of the domestic energy requirements of the nations where they are located. It also emphasizes how these programs replicate the present practices of exploitation and dispossession, aggravating socioeconomic marginalization and perpetuating injustices.

Why is the climate crisis a so-concerning issue?
A “climate crisis” is an alarming situation where long-term changes in Earth’s climate have significant adverse and negative effects on the environment and call for swift action and audacious solutions. It includes the pressing threat that climate change and global warming pose to the world and humankind. However, here are some key points highlighted in the climate crisis:

Definition: The term “climate crisis” refers to the growing effects of global warming, such as temperature increases, harsh weather, rising sea levels, and ecological disturbances.
Urgency: Activists use this phrase to highlight the seriousness of the risks posed by ongoing greenhouse gas emissions. It seeks to strengthen political determination for vigorous action to mitigate climate change.
Scientific Consensus: Globally, more than 11,000 scientists have agreed that the climate catastrophe has already materialized. They underline the importance of significant efforts to protect our environment and stop unnecessary misery.
Emotional Impact: Announcing it as a crisis makes people feel urgent and involved. Similar to how “climate change” received less attention than “global warming,” the phrase “climate crisis” seeks to have an even more significant influence.

At the end, though some may argue that the alarmist undertone of the word might cause a backlash, it is critical to balance urgency and positive action. However, concisely, urgent action is needed to combat global warming and save our world from irrevocable damage in light of climate change.

Why are corporate houses called plunderers? 

A fair transition to sustainable energy is supposedly a great opportunity to transform the global economy, but a new form of green colonialism is robbing the world’s poorest people. Climate breakdown is a threat to the ecological and social foundations of life, which is already apparent in the Arab world. However, unfortunately, instead of pressuring developed countries and fossil fuel companies to cut carbon emissions and stop using fossil fuels, they have been pillaged by corporate power and private interests that support fictitious, profit-making solutions like carbon trading and so-called “net-zero” and “nature-based solutions.”

Evidently, the corporate houses’ plundering factor shows how changing the global economic system and ending colonial relations of exploitation are necessary for an equitable transition to renewable energy and tackling climate change. However, via “green colonialism” and “green neocolonialism,” many of the present renewable energy initiatives in the Arab world seem to uphold the same extractive, exploitative methods as conventional energy. Large-scale, export-focused projects in Palestine, Tunisia, and Morocco contribute to European energy security yet have no impact on the local populace. Instead of putting the people’s interests first, influential players promote a capitalist, corporate-led change centered on private profit through more privatization and public-private partnerships. Thus, there are worries that corporate influence and a lack of enforcement would prevent substantial improvements at climate conferences like COP27.

Hence, it is now apparent that these climate negotiations are failing and are bankrupt. In other words, it is becoming evident that the autocratic and avaricious power structures that have fueled climate change also influence how it is addressed. Their primary objectives are to safeguard individual rights and increase revenue.

Background of the accusations: A renowned Algerian researcher, Hamza Hamouchene, recently raised a question about the accusations COP28 is facing. He thinks the global economic system needs a significant transformation for an equitable and green transition. The COVID-19 epidemic has shown that it is unfit for social, ecological, and even biological purposes. The colonial relations that continue to enslave and dispossess people must stop.

Hamza Hamouchene wrote, “We must always ask: who owns what? Who does what? Who gets what? Who wins and who loses? And whose interests are being served?”

Therefore, if we do not address these concerns to advance a supposedly shared “green agenda,” we will swiftly slip into green colonialism and speed up extraction and exploitation. On the other hand, climate change and the imperative green transition can transform politics in many ways. Breaking with current militarist, imperialist, and neoliberal objectives will be necessary to deal with the drastic shift. As such, the fight for climate justice and an equitable transition has to be passionately democratic.

Thus, it was evident that the critics focused on how the UN climate talks, known as the COP28 summit, have been fruitless in decreasing the emissions of greenhouse gases and transitioning to renewable energy. Those critics argue that corporate interests have plundered the climate discussions and are promoting false resolutions like carbon trading that do not require decreasing fossil fuel usage. Moreover, critics urge that it is necessary to move the world economy away from militarism, colonialism, and neoliberalism to achieve an equitable transition. Yet, many renewable energy programs in the Arab world contribute to “green colonialism” by further exploiting undeveloped areas to harvest and export energy and natural resources to wealthier countries.

One huge example of a significant renewable energy project that serves European energy security but not local populations is the TuNur project. This project aimed to build a 4.5 GW solar plant in the Tunisian desert to deliver electricity via submarine cables to power 2 million European homes. The project openly described itself as a solar energy export project linking the Sahara and Europe, raising concerns about the focus on exporting energy rather than producing it for domestic use in Tunisia. However, these accusations reveal that Tunisia’s renewable energy sector is being privatized and incentivized to produce green energy for export. Additionally, a significant push has been taken in Tunisia to expand the privatization of the country’s renewable energy sector and to offer a high incentive to foreign investors for producing green energy in the country, including for export.

Target Arab area: Corporate houses’ use of COP28: For the most part, the backdrop is Arab in nature, emphasizing challenges and worries about the shift to renewable energy and the effects of large-scale renewable energy projects in Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia, and other occupied regions like the Western Sahara.

However, regarding the Arab region, the concerns about the current implementation of the transition to renewable energy include:

Green colonialism: The transition to renewable energy is criticized for perpetuating “green colonialism” and “green neocolonialism,” replicating extractive and exploitative practices of conventional power.

Privatization and public-private partnerships: There is concern that capitalist and corporate interests are driving the transition and prioritizing private profit through further privatization and public-private partnerships rather than the needs of the local population.

Export-oriented projects: Large-scale renewable energy projects in Morocco, Tunisia, and Palestine are criticised for serving European energy security but doing little for local populations, raising concerns about the unequal distribution of benefits.

Lack of local energy production: The focus on export-oriented projects raises concerns about the need for more emphasis on producing energy for domestic use, leaving the local population needing more self-sufficiency in energy.

Maintaining extractive practices: Despite the good intentions proclaimed by large renewable projects, there are concerns that they end up sugarcoating brutal exploitation and robbery, maintaining the same relations of extraction and land-grabbing.

Thus, these concerns highlight the need for a just transition to renewable energy that prioritizes local communities, addresses colonial legacies, and ensures an equitable distribution of benefits.

Conclusion

However, given the prospects in the Arab world and the fact that these initiatives are mostly restricted to four countries while being absent from the great majority of other Arab countries in the area, the conversation around these projects is still somewhat limited.This results from the restricted financial resources that most Arab nations must work with regarding renewable energy. Furthermore, several projects outlined in the official plans are not being implemented as quickly as they should be, even in the four Arab nations spearheading the region’s shift to renewable energy. They will most likely need more time to reach their goals.As things stand, the Arab nations can now use most of their potential in renewable energy by exploring joint ventures with the private sector, which can draw in foreign capital to the energy industry and help produce clean energy at affordable prices. Besides, building an intraregional electrical grid is also necessary for the countries already investing in renewable energy to export excess electricity to other countries facing power outages.Finally, a workable solution would be to create joint investment funds, allowing wealthy nations to contribute to sustainable energy initiatives in other countries, benefiting both nations simultaneously.

References:
1. “About COP 28.” United Nations Climate Change , n.d. https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/conferences/un-climate-change-conference-united-arab-emirates-nov/dec-2023/about-cop-28. 
2. “Actions for a Healthy Planet: Act Now .” United Nations Climate Change , n.d. https://www.un.org/en/actnow/ten-actions. 
3. “COP28 Agreement to Move Away from Fossil Fuels Sets Precedent but Falls Short of Safeguarding Human Rights.” Amnesty International, December 14, 2023. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/12/global-cop28-agreement-to-move-away-from-fossil-fuels-sets-precedent-but-falls-short-of-safeguarding-human-rights/. 
4. “History of the Convention.” United Nations Climate Change , n.d. https://unfccc.int/process/the-convention/history-of-the-convention#Essential-background. 
5. “How COPs Are Organized - Questions and Answers.” United Nations Climate Change , n.d. https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/conferences/the-big-picture/what-are-united-nations-climate-change-conferences/how-cops-are-organized-questions-and-answers. 
6. “UN Climate Change Conference - United Arab Emirates.” n.d. UNCC. https://unfccc.int/cop28. 
7. Al Jazeera. “COP28 Draft Deal Slammed for Dropping Call to Phase out Fossil Fuels.” Al Jazeera, December 11, 2023. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/12/11/cop28-draft-deal-slammed-for-dropping-call-to-phase-out-fossil-fuels. 
8. COP 28: What Was Achieved and What Happens Next? https://unfccc.int/cop28/5-key-takeaways.
9. Dima, Desk Reporter. “The Drawbacks of Solely Relying on Fossil Fuels: Fact Arab Region.” Fanack: CHRONICLE OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA, May 1, 2023. https://fanack.com/climate/features-insights/mena-region-falls-short-of-reaping-benefits-of-renewable-energy~241231/.
10. Hamouchene, Hamza. “The Struggle for Climate Justice in the Arab Region.”السفير العربي, January 21, 2023. https://assafirarabi.com/en/50183/2023/01/21/the-struggle-for-climate-justice-in-the-arab-region/. 
11. Jackson, Peter. “From Stockholm to Kyoto: A Brief History of Climate Change.” UN Chronicle, June 2007. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/stockholm-kyoto-brief-history-climate-change. 
12. Tenkir , Eyob. “Expectation on Cop 28 Negotiation on Carbon Marketing and Loss and Damage.” CVF: Climate Vulnerable Forum , January 11, 2024. https://thecvf.org/featured-blog/expectation-on-cop-28-negotiation-on-carbon-marketing-and-loss-and-damage/. 
13. The Associated Press. “As COP28 Nears Finish, Critics Say Proposal ‘doesn’t Even Come Close’ to What’s Needed on Climate.” The Denver Post, December 11, 2023. https://www.denverpost.com/2023/12/10/as-cop28-nears-finish-critics-say-proposal-doesnt-even-come-close-to-whats-needed-on-climate/.
14. The first Conference of the Parties (COP) was held in Berlin, Germany, in 1995. Please see “UN Climate Change Conferences.” United Nations, n.d. https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/un-climate-conferences.
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Asif Mohammad Junaid
The author of this article is an advocate, pursuing his PhD at IIUM, Malaysia
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