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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

COP28: Beginning of the end for fossil fuels?

COP28 in Dubai may eventually be the summit that marks a date with destiny. A date that marks the end of fossil fuels.

East Africa crude oil pipeline
Fossil fuels extraction: A crude oil pipeline under construction

It is highly likely that the final text will include language on a fossil fuel phaseout/ down. The climate talks in Dubai have been marked by an increase in calls for fossil fuel phase outs even as oil rich countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Mauritania and South Africa vowed to continue its exploitation.

Ahead of COP28, more than 106 countries from across Africa, Caribbean, Pacific and Europe jointly announced their support to phase out all fossil fuels, but finding a consensus has proven to be hard. The African Group of Negotiators has failed to reach a consensus after the four nations opposed any language on phase down/ out in the Global Stocktake (GST) text.

OPEC pushback

As talks on fossil fuel phaseout continue to be the central point in Dubai, a few days to COP28 drawing to a close, leaked letters show OPEC warning its 13 member countries – including Nigeria, Congo, Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, South Sudan and Gabon –  to oppose with “utmost urgency” and reject any text or formula that targets a fossil fuel phase out.

Taking stock

There is voiced concern that the current Global Stocktake may not be adequate. This concern arises from the continued increase in climate impacts despite ongoing assessment efforts. More than 800 leaders cutting across business, finance, philanthropy, politics, academia and civil society have signed a letter urging the COP President to deliver a 1.5C aligned outcome.

Three seats for Africa in Loss and Damage Fund Board

The Loss and Damage Fund is taking shape following the big announcement of its establishment at the beginning of COP28. This week, it was announced that the majority of the nine members for its inaugural board will come from developed countries, out of which three seats will be reserved for Africa.

The Africa Group of Negotiators announced this as it reassured civil society that it will protect the continent’s interest in the new fund.

“We have been convinced that the fund will not follow the World Bank rules, it will have its own governance and board where Africa will have three representatives on the board and that softens our hearts,” said Collins Nzovu, Zambia’s Environmental Minister and Chair of the AGN.

Meanwhile, Kenya and Tanzania are the final contenders for the leadership of AGN, following a last-minute decision by Rwanda to pull out. Zambia’s two-year term has come to an end, paving the way for a new Chair from the East African region who is expected to be announced at the end of COP28.

COP opens up space for false solutions

“This COP appears more like a carbon trade fair; people are making deals instead of talking about how to cut emissions at source … we’re seeing a sellout of the African continent,” said Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey as he weighed in on the carbon credits deals.

While Africa is the most affected by the climate crisis yet the least responsible, the continent is grappling with a new fad that is putting millions of people into further agony. With insufficient climate funds, dwindling grants and expensive loans, governments have been forced to contend with carbon deals as major polluters find a way to further take away from needy countries.

Blue Carbon, a UAE based firm, has cut potential deals in Liberia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. In the case of Liberia, the credits would be traded on one million hectares and the company would take 70% of all profits tax free, with the Liberian government and local communities taking the remainder.

Speaking in the plenary meeting of the COP/CMP/CMA, Aderonke Ige of Demand Climate Justice Now, said: “False solutions like offsets and CCS are dangerous distractions that divert public funding, threaten vulnerable communities and prolong deadly pollution. These are unacceptable. We need a way forward that is people driven, party driven, not a big polluter or presidency driven process.”

COP28 must deliver on Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA)

Africa Group of Negotiators are calling for urgent progress in addressing the importance of climate adaptation emphasising the significance of the economic toll on the continent. AGN’s call to action is underscored by the need for qualitative and substantial financing that is easily accessible. They noted that failure to act on adaptation will hinder progress and deem this COP28 as non-successful.

While acknowledging the progress made in getting Loss and Damage on the agenda, AGN points out that the $800 million pledged, falls short of the required amount, calling for billions or even trillions to effectively manage loss and damage.

Still on GGA

African climate experts are also worried that negotiations on the GGA at COP28 may not yield a concrete outcome on this important call. A decision on GGA had been touted as a key deliverable from Dubai, alongside a major win in the form of the establishment of a loss and damage fund. And with more countries pledging money into the L&D fund, the climate experts fear that developed countries may be disinclined to push for a decision on the GGA. In the run-up to COP28, African Civil Society Organisations had released a Common Position Paper on Adaptation and Loss and Damage.

“We cannot talk about adaptation without talking about scaling finance and a strong Global Goal on Adaptation. Both are critical if we are to fast-track action and build the adaptive capacity of communities on the frontline of the climate crisis, especially in Africa,” said Amy G Thorp, the senior adaptation and resilience policy advisor at Power Shift Africa.

Africa Civil Society weigh in on COP28 negotiations

Members of the African Civil Society are calling for urgent and concrete action at COP28, including stronger language on the phaseout of fossil fuels and clear commitments to safeguard the acceleration to a just and equitable transition.

“There is nothing like abated or unabated fossil fuels. We know the source of the climate crisis. We must address emissions from the source. We must also phase out subsidies and other financial support for fossil fuels. It is also important to cease using convenient language such as efficient or inefficient energy forms.” Amos Wemanya, Lead, Just Transitions at Powershift Africa.

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