As leaders from nearly every nation on the planet gather Thursday in the United Arab Emirates to confront global warming, many bring a sense of disillusionment to the annual climate summit convened by the United Nations.

Countries are talking about the need to reduce the pollution that is dangerously warming the planet, but emissions are reaching record levels this year. Rich countries have pledged to help poor countries transition away from coal, oil and gas, but they have largely failed to deliver on their financial aid promises. After 27 years of meetings, countries still cannot agree to stop burning fossil fuels, which scientists say is the main driver of climate change.

And this year, the hottest in history, the talks known as COP28 are hosted by a country that is increasing its oil production and has been accused of using its position as a summit facilitator to close oil and gas deals. the margins.

“There is skepticism about this COP: where it is and who is running it,” said Ani Dasgupta, president of the World Resources Institute, a research organization.

Certainly, progress has been made since 2015, when nations signed a decisive agreement in Paris to work to limit global warming to relatively safe levels. The United States, European Union countries and other nations have reduced their emissions while increasing renewable energy, particularly for transportation and electricity. Global investment in new solar and wind energy projects soared to record levels in 2023.

But the United States is also producing a record amount of crude oil and was the world’s top exporter of natural gas in the first six months of 2023. And while China has led the world in adopting electric vehicles and is investing heavily in renewable electricity It is also building new coal-fired power plants as its emissions continue to rise.

The science is clear, researchers say: Nations must dramatically reduce greenhouse gases this decade to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. The warning signs are everywhere. Extreme weather is devastating all continents. Biodiversity is collapsing and glaciers are melting. Disasters worth billions of dollars occur regularly.

“The world is watching,” wrote a group of more than 650 scientists. in a letter dated November 14 sent to President Biden by the Union of Concerned Scientists. “This is a crucial moment for the United States to join other world leaders and demonstrate genuine progress toward solving a crisis that is rapidly spiraling out of control.”

Part of the challenge is the design of UN climate summits, where every country must sign an agreement, only one nation can sign an agreement, and none of it is legally binding.

“How many years have we had COP?” said Avinash Persaud, climate advisor to Barbados. “If people had been forced to act at COP1, COP2 or COP15, we would have had a different world.”

Much of the progress in the fight against climate change has occurred outside of United Nations summits. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the largest climate law ever enacted in the United States, was the product of domestic politics, not a UN agreement. The rapid development of wind and solar energy in Europe is being driven by the war in Ukraine and efforts to abandon Russian oil and gas.

Still, the COP process is the only vehicle in which diplomats, corporate bosses, princes and presidents come together to focus on a planetary crisis.

“This is probably the best format to discuss these types of global issues. said John Miller, an analyst who covers environmental policy for TD Cowen, the investment bank. “There is progress in these events, but at a pace that is likely to disappoint.”. That doesn’t mean it’s all a farce..”

This year, tensions are especially acute between the slow pace of progress and the need to move more quickly away from fossil fuels.

The United Arab Emirates, the host country, is one of the world’s largest oil producers. And the man presiding over the event, Sultan Al Jaber, turns out to be the director of Adnoc, the state-owned company that supplies 3 percent of the world’s oil. He also runs Masdar, a much smaller state-owned renewable energy company.

Some activists argue that the UAE’s role as host and Al Jaber’s dual role as oil executive and president of COP28 compromise the credibility of the conference. In the spring, more than 100 members of the US Congress and the European Parliament called for Al Jaber to be removed from the COP presidency, a position that rotates between countries each year.

“They went too far by appointing the CEO of one of the largest (and in many ways one of the dirtiest) oil companies on the planet as president of this year’s United Nations Climate Conference,” said the former Vice President Al Gore. said in an interview.

An internal document obtained by the Climate Reporting Center and BBC and made public this week showed that UAE climate negotiators were given guidance to discuss the country’s oil projects with representatives of other nations during COP28 meetings.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Al Jaber dismissed the allegations as “false, untrue, incorrect and not accurate.” I promise you that I have never seen these talking points you are referring to or ever used them in my discussions.”

Adding to the grievances are the unfulfilled promises made last year at COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Rich countries agreed to create a fund to compensate poor countries for the destruction caused by climate disasters. But progress has been painfully slow. There has also been little progress in efforts to reform the lending practices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which critics say can trap poor countries in a cycle of debt and disaster.

This has made many developing countries distrustful of the COP talks.

“They are bearing the consequences of climate change, which they did not create,” said Mariana Mazzucato, an economist at University College London who works to reform climate finance.

In Dubai, leaders are expected to discuss their progress, or lack thereof, in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say humans will have trouble adapting to intensifying wildfires, heat waves, droughts and storms. At the 2015 Paris summit, countries agreed to reduce emissions from burning coal, oil and gas to keep global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The planet has already warmed by an average of 1.2 degrees Celsius.

Negotiators hope to ratify details of the loss and damage fund for poor countries, set new targets to reduce emissions and agree to better limit methane, a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent in the short term than carbon dioxide. .

Recent events offer a glimmer of hope. Two weeks ago, the United States and China, the world’s two biggest polluters, agreed to accelerate efforts to increase renewable energy to displace fossil fuels, although they did not provide a timeline or other details. And rich countries may have finally kept their promise to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries adapt to climate change, albeit four years late, the Organization for Cooperation and Development said this month. Economic Development.

Saleemul Huq was a Bangladeshi scientist who had attended every COP since the inaugural event in Berlin in 1995. Mr. Huq had helped push the idea that rich countries should help poor countries recover from the climate disasters of a moral concept to a political reality.

But Huq was still waiting for progress on that front when he died in October at age 71.

in a publishing house published posthumouslyHuq called on world leaders to redouble their efforts in Dubai.

“As the world prepares for COP28, it is up to world leaders, corporations and individuals to rise to the occasion and champion the cause of climate justice,” he wrote, along with co-author Farhana Sultana. “Wealthy nations must start allocating real funds to loss and damage, while stepping up their mitigation and adaptation efforts and reining in the influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate policies. The future of our planet depends on it.”

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