the Conference of the Parties 28 boondoggle


Talk about letting the fox in the hen-house... the 28th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference wrapped up on December 13th, 2023 in Expo City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As you know, the annual event is intended to facilitate global agreement on governmental policies to limit global temperature rises and adapt to impacts associated with climate change. Having a major oil-producing country organizing the world’s most important climate conference, and appointing an oil company CEO to lead it, kinda tells us all we need to know.

Back in January, the UAE announced Sultan Al Jaber would be the summit president, much to the chagrin and horror of many climate groups. Al Jaber is the UAE’s climate envoy and the founder of a renewable energy company, but he is also CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Appointing a major Big Oil exec to lead the world's premiere climate change conference would be comical if it wasn't so blatant.

To add insult to injury, environmental watchdog researchers raised red flags over allegations of more covert influence campaigns, as members of the COP28 team were found by the Centre for Climate Reporting and the Guardian to have been editing Wikipedia pages about the conference’s chief. Additionally, an army of fake social media accounts mysteriously appeared, promoting the country’s climate record.

In May, members of the COP28 team were accused of attempting to “greenwash” Al Jaber’s image through edits to his Wikipedia page. Wikipedia's log of edits shows that one user, whose identity is unknown (but disclosed being paid by ADNOC), requested references to a major oil deal struck by Al Jaber be removed and that references to critical media coverage be deleted.

Then, in June, researchers started drawing attention to certain Twitt-X activity. Climate Action Against Disinformation Project published research last month flagging more than two dozen Twitter accounts that displayed “unusual quote-tweeting behavior” on tweets from either the UAE’s main COP28 Twitter account or other accounts posting about COP28. “These accounts all quote-tweeted many of the same tweets, using similar (but not identical) language, often adding hashtags associated with sustainability or net zero,” the research said.

In other words, the whole conference was mired in a shadowy, yet transparent disinformation campaign designed to greenwash the UAE in particular, and Big Oil in general. 

The conference wasn't a complete fiasco, however. For the first time in the history of COP summits, the global pact explicitly mentioned the necessity to shift away from all kinds of fossil fuels. Guess that's something. However, the deal was widely criticized for not including a clear commitment to phase out or even phase down fossil fuels... as requested by many participating countries, civil society groups and scientists. The need to “transition away from fossil fuels” may have finally been recognized after three decades of climate talks, but there is no clear obligation or hard timetable to achieve this, and numerous loopholes in the form of “transition fuels,” and allusions to carbon capture technologies and carbon credits.

Despite progress at Cop28 in setting up a “loss and damage” fund, developing nations, which are most affected by the climate crisis but least to blame, say richer, industrialized countries are not paying enough to help them adapt and transition away from fossil fuels. The biggest victims of the climate crisis remain under-represented in decision-making processes. Despite the record heat of 2023, this is still likely to be one of the coolest years in the lives of many young people. The goal of zero global deforestation by 2030 was welcomed by conservation groups, but many ecosystems will continue to be eroded by rising temperatures.

So it is little wonder that many viewed the proceedings as one big boondoggle. Not only ineffective, but essentially a sell-out and coopting of the COP to Big Oil interests. Little wonder that millennials and Gen Zers view such proceedings with cynicism and disdain. They know that Big Oil and oil producing countries like the UAE and the USA are not coming to save us. It appears that the predator/dominator patriarchy was very much alive and kicking at COP 28. And so it goes...

- information gleaned in part from reporting by Ivana Kottasová and Extinction Rebellion


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