Why Cop Matters – a delegate’s diary direct from Dubai

Addressing Climate Change is the fundamental Green issue and COP28 is key to achieving progress at a global level. Here is the latest from our delegate in Dubai, Frank Sheridan..


COP28 is firmly underway. These events can seem far off and irrelevant but COPs are critical. Greens know global problems need global solutions and we need spaces where governments can come together, and civil society has a presence and voice, to build consensus, secure finance, and drive climate action to create a sustainable planet for all.

What’s more, the science tells us time is running out to maintain a safe climate of 1.5 degrees. Analysis shows that fossil fuel demand, the main driver of climate change, will peak in the next two years, and emissions must halve by 2030 to keep 1.5 alive. This might seem like a huge challenge. However, it is possible. What is lacking is the political will.

For a COP veteran like me, the global summit whilst frustrating is also affirming and inspiring. Alongside the negotiations and government PR stands are inspiring and progressive talks and presentations. Global Greens co-hosted one with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and Stop Ecocide, with Ugandan climate justice campaigner Vanessa Nakate. GPEW delegates, as part of the Global Greens delegation, are also working hard here by speaking on panels, writing statements and socials, petitioning ministers, and networking to push for the strongest climate outcomes.

COP28 - Frank Sheridan (left) with other delegates including Amelia Womack in Dubai
Frank Sheridan (left) with other delegates including Amelia Womack in Dubai

The negotiations can seem bewildering and complex, so here’s some key themes from week one.

Phase Out Fossil Fuels: Remember Alok Sharma close to tears at COP26 as last minute negotiations watered down ‘phase out coal’ to ‘phase down’? Phase down means a steady reduction, phase out would mean ultimate removal. That’s why current COP President Sultan Al Jaber caused an uproar earlier this week in claiming there was no science behind ‘phase out’. At COP28, Global Greens are keeping ‘Phase out fossil fuels’ high on the agenda and working with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop cross-partnership actions to keep this goal in the spotlight.

Renewables: On a more positive note is the commitment of the COP Presidency to renewables. In the first days of the summit, one hundred and eighteen countries committed to tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030. This came amidst other pledges to reduce methane - the most potent greenhouse gas - and restrict private finance for coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Reminiscent of COP26, however, China and India agreed to the renewable energy target, but not the overall pledge which coupled it with a reduction in fossil fuel use.

Conflicts of interest: An issue which has always been present, but long hidden is the power of the fossil fuel sector and its well-tooled lobbyists, clearly present in the Rosebank decision in the UK. Tellingly it took 26 years of negotiation to get a mention of fossil fuels in a final text - not even Paris managed that - and then it was watered down. Now we are in the heartlands of the newly-emerged petro-state economies where the lines between the fossil fuel sector are not just blurred, they don’t actually exist. It’s our job here in Dubai, and your job back home to keep the message loud and clear, we demand a ‘phase out of fossil fuels’.

Global Stocktake: COP28 sees the first of 5 yearly global stocktakes - an inventory identifying what progress has been made in terms of tackling climate change and where the gaps are. It is probable the report card will not present a good picture right now, but we need it to assess our position and accelerate progress towards meeting targets both internationally and at home. Rishi Sunak is claiming the UK is a world leader, but we all know he is fudging his figures to meet his own targets. It’s simply not good enough. Developing country ministers I talk to are looking for countries like the UK to step up and lead the way.

Finance : Finance has long been the sticking point of climate negotiations with the global south who are at the forefront of climate change contending that the north who are responsible should pay for the damage. Notably, one of the early announcements at `COP28 is the first round of loss and damage funding with over $700 million now pledged. This however is still some way off the estimated $2.4 trillion investment needed for developing countries to adapt and mitigate to climate change. Compare it to the record $7 trillion a year the fossil fuel industry receives in subsidies. All the money needed is available. It just needs to be redirected. It is a climate justice issue.

So, as the second week of the summit gets underway, it is clear to me that COPs should be Green home turf. Political leaders and lobbyists aside, the summit is full of thousands of people from all over the world, committed and passionate about a fairer, safer and more sustainable world. By standing with Greens from Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and elsewhere we show what good politics looks like and stand united on the world stage with a global vision of a better world.

We must have a full, fast, fair, and funded phase out of fossil fuels.

Frank Sheridan is joint International coordinator of GPEW and executive secretary of the Global Greens. For more information go to Home - Global Greens


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