Tomorrow, November 30, marks the beginning of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2023, known as COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Colombia brings its proposal of debt-for-climate-action exchange to this significant global meeting, following its presentation by Colombian President Gustavo Petro in various international forums in Europe and the United States, where it has been well-received.
The summit will commence this Thursday and conclude on December 12, making it the 28th meeting of its kind since the UN initiated annual climate summits in 1992. This time, more than 70,000 people from 198 countries will participate in meetings where environmental organizations hope, in broad strokes, to achieve agreements to limit the temperature increase to a maximum of 1.5°C.
However, controversy has emerged ahead of the event, as it is held in an oil-producing country led by the president of the national oil company of Abu Dhabi, ADNOC, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber. According to Greenpeace, ADNOC ranks 12th globally in oil production and 14th among companies responsible for a third of carbon emissions.
Colombia leads the proposal of developing countries
Beyond the idea of a progressive phase-out of fossil fuels, Colombia presents concrete and bold actions. Since President Gustavo Petro took office in Colombia, the country has launched an international campaign to champion an innovative proposal: exchanging the external debt of developing countries for climate action. This proposal aligns with the agreements reached at the XXIII Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, a preparatory meeting for COP28 held in Panama at the end of last October.
In this way, Colombia has led states willing to demonstrate their commitment to the planet and the fight against climate change with tangible actions, even if these countries are not among the most polluting. In this regard, Colombia proposes that these efforts, which come with high costs in emerging economies, be rewarded by countries with more developed economies and a much greater impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The data is clear: the richest 1% of the planet emitted the same amount of CO2 in 2019 as 66% of the world’s population, according to an Oxfam report.
“The Change Government led by President Gustavo Petro will meet in Dubai with over 70,000 participants at COP28, the world’s most important environmental gathering. We will propose to world leaders the debt-for-climate-action exchange and the need to establish an early warning system to address the climate crisis,” announced the Presidency of Colombia on the X network.
Paris Agreement compliance
Colombia’s Minister of Environment, Susana Muhammad, highlighted the importance of evaluating the goals set in the Paris Agreement signed in 2015 and verifying their compliance at this year’s conference. The legally binding international treaty on climate change was adopted by 196 participating countries in the COP21 in December 2015 in the French capital. The agreement came into force on November 4, 2016.
“The assessment has been ongoing since last year, and the result is quite negative. Instead of following a trajectory of emission reduction, we’re on a path of increasing emissions,” noted Muhammad.
The minister pointed out the lack of consensus among different countries regarding the speed of emission reduction and the transition to renewable energy. “The plans of some governments aim to expand the exploitation of fossil fuels even further. The negotiation will revolve around whether we phase them out progressively or reduce their use, which is what developing countries can do. Colombia’s position is that we need a plan to progressively eliminate them,” emphasized Susana Muhammad.
Oil industry at COP
The influence of the oil industry in climate summits is not new. In the last COP27 in Sharm al-Sheij (Egypt), there were over 636 delegates associated with the fossil fuel industry. This was 25% more than the previous year, when they already outnumbered the delegation of any country.
In this regard, various voices have questioned the Dubai scenario, seeing the event’s organization as a public relations campaign for Sultan Al-Jaber, who has hired public relations and advertising consultants to downplay the expansion projects of his oil exploration company in the emirate.
The latest development in this controversy comes from the BBC, in a report stating that the United Arab Emirates intended to leverage its role as the summit’s host to strike deals on oil and gas. Documents leaked by the British television reveal plans to discuss fossil fuel agreements with 15 countries present at the meeting.