UAE reaches for new horizons as it harnesses the power of social media

From Indian housewives turning master chefs and travel enthusiasts to Emirati vloggers finding their niche in tech, travel, gaming or mundane domestic affairs, social media has opened a world of enormous possibilities and revenue in the UAE as elsewhere. Content or content creator is the king/queen and it has led to the evolution of a generation that has found unimaginable success and money in non-traditional careers.

Discerning the enormous power that content creators wield and the dedicated army of followers they breed, Dubai hosted the second edition of the 1 Billion Followers Summit on January 10-11 at the twin Emirates Towers and the emirate’s newest architectural wonder Museum of the Future. Touted the world’s biggest expo for content creators, the summit gathered over 100 speakers, 300-plus companies, 200 CEOs from the creative field, and more than 3000 content creators followed by 1.6 billion people. Representatives from all the social media giants were also in attendance.

The two-day paid summit organised by Dubai’s New Media Academy was an opportunity to learn from inspirational talks, hands-on workshops, and enlightening panel discussions by well-known content creators; connect with industry leaders, fellow creators, and innovators; and find one’s next collaborator or business partner. If Hala Ajil, YouTube Manager for WANA region expatiated on how to find one’s groove on the platform and Mindvalley founder Vishen Lakhiani pointed out it is perfectly okay to venture into the digital realm late in life and turn 3 million views into $10 million, Indian YouTuber Dhruv Rathee engaged audience in a dynamic workshop to master ChatGPT for boosting productivity in work, education, and daily life. The Senegalese-Italian Tiktoker Khaby Lame, British-Nigerian podcaster Steven Bartlett, Egyptian-American satirist and TV host Bassem Youssef were some of the most recognisable faces who weighed the consequences of their choice to be in the digital media. Keeping a healthy mind, when to leave one’s job and how to create viral videos were recurrent topics that experts and new entrants to the creative economy deliberated on.

The summit is set to drive home the notion that Dubai is the best place for content creators. The Golden Visa scheme, the UAE’s new long-term visas rolled out for investors and professionals that offer them exclusive benefits, are set to attract more talent to the emirate with ample sunshine, minimal taxes, and a safe and secure environment.

In an interview to Khaleej Times, mobile journalism (mojo) exponent Yusuf Omar of the digital media platform Seen TV, noted: “I believe that the UAE understands the value of influencers, perhaps, more than any other country in the world. The 1 Billion Summit is a testament to that. They’re trying to incubate this next generation of Arabic-speaking talent and funnel that into things that are already booming, such as their tourism, making this a global destination that it already is. This place is way ahead of the curve.”

For Arjun Sehgal, digital creator of the insta handle Food Talk Dubai (64.3k followers), “the summit helped us enhance our work ethics with new ideas and skills. It was a great opportunity to meet as well as attend seminars of distinguished speakers and content creators from all over the world.”

Popular influencers

Leading the way in the digital realm are the Ruler of Dubai and the Crown Prince who are active on all social media platforms. Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who goes by the name faz3 on Instagram, is the most followed royal in the world with 16.2 million followers.

An Emirati influencer popular amongst Indian audience is Khalid al Ameri, whose infectious goodwill and positivity are relayed through his culturally relevant videos, travelogues and humorous domestic situations. The Stanford University graduate who quit a full-time government job has successfully smashed stereotypes about Arabs and West Asia through his videos. .

Sindhu Biju, popular vlogger and Programme Director of Radio Asia 94.7 FM, stumbled into content creation when she lost her fulltime job as a Radio Jockey in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I realised I could utilise my strength as a news gatherer and presenter and began reaching out to my followers with news updates about rules and regulations in the UAE regarding the pandemic, quarantine, vaccination, as well as provide interviews with officials. The fact that people had faith in the accuracy of the information I provided was beneficial to me.” Ms. Biju, who has verified accounts on various social media platforms and has an influencer licence, provides information on everything that is of interest to the Indian expat community – from visa changes to restaurants and locations they could visit on a weekend.

Last year, Proxyrack, which provides proxies and residential VPN services, named UAE the social media capital of the world with “an almost perfect score of 9.55 out of 10” where people have an average of 8.2 social media platforms and spent 7.29 hours on the Internet daily. The report noted that though the Gulf nation has the most expensive internet at just over $100, it had the highest percentage of population connected to the web and Facebook.

Being part of the UAE’s rapidly growing digital content industry and influencer marketing can be exciting and lucrative provided one plays by the rules. The UAE through its National Media Council regulates media content and its strict laws and decrees ensure that media outlets and individuals abide by the country’s values and cultural standards. There are clearcut guidelines on anti-discrimination, data protection, intellectual property, respecting the privacy of others, and so on. Influencers who promote paid advertisements must obtain a licence for an annual fee, which varies from emirate to emirate. Influencer incomes are subject to 5% VAT, and operating without permits can mean hefty fines and account closure.

A dusty port town in 1971 that had a phenomenal transformation as a glitzy paradise and cosmopolitan hub for trade and tourism, Dubai is today the perfect instagrammable city and a centre for influencer culture. A city that can market its cooler months as the “World’s Coolest Winter” can also act as a magnet aiding influencer relocation to the desert haven. And summits like 1 Billion Followers accentuate the emirate’s push to be ahead in the race.

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COP28 nations adopt first-ever climate deal to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels

The COP28 climate summit on Wednesday approved a deal that would, for the first time, push nations to “transition” from fossil fuels to avert the worst effects of climate change.

  • Biden hails COP28 climate deal as ‘historic milestone’

US President Joe Biden hailed a deal secured on Wednesday at UN climate talks in Dubai as a “historic milestone” in transitioning away from fossil fuels but said there was still work to do.

“Today, at COP28, world leaders reached another historic milestone – committing, for the first time, to transition away from the fossil fuels that jeopardize our planet and our people,” Biden said in a statement. 

“While there is still substantial work ahead of us to keep the 1.5°C goal within reach, today’s outcome puts us one significant step closer.”


THE DEBATE © France 24

 

The deal asks for greater action this decade and recommits to no net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in hopes of meeting the increasingly elusive goal of checking warming at 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels.

The United States is the world’s second biggest greenhouse gas emitter after China.

Biden skipped the Dubai summit and sent Vice President Kamala Harris to attend the start instead.

  • Russia warns against ‘chaotic’ fossil fuels exit

Russia on Wednesday warned against a “chaotic” exit from fossil fuels, while welcoming the “compromise” deal reached at the COP28 summit in Dubai on transitioning away from them.

“We have at every opportunity stressed the consequences of a chaotic exit without the backing of science,” Ruslan Edelgeriyev, Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s special envoy for climate issues, was quoted by TASS news agency as saying.

“We cannot ignore the diverse needs of people around the world, including the need for affordable and reliable energy,” he said.

“The final deal will probably not satisfy everyone but that only shows it is a compromise.”

Russia is one of the main gas, oil and coal producers in the world.

According to many experts, Siberia and the Russian Arctic are some of the regions in the world most affected by climate change.

  • OPEC secretary-general says oil sector in jeopardy without adequate investment

OPEC+‘s Secretary-General Haitham Al Ghais said in a statement on Wednesday that the oil industry is in jeopardy without adequate levels of investment.

He also congratulated the UAE for the positive outcome of COP28.

  • US climate envoy John Kerry addresses COP28 after deal on fossil fuels

US climate envoy John Kerry said that no side can ever achieve everything in negotiations and praised the deal as a sign a war-torn world can come together for the common good.

“I think everyone has to agree this is much stronger and clearer as a call on 1.5(°C) than we have ever heard before, and it clearly reflects what the science says,” Kerry said. “We will continue to press for a more rapid transition.”

“The Paris agreement and the global stock take both stress the importance of developing and updating long-term strategies in order to reduce emissions and enhance resilience,” he added. 

US climate envoy John Kerry at COP28.
US climate envoy John Kerry at COP28. © FRANCE 24

Seeking to avoid the geopolitical tensions that have strained cooperation on other issues, Kerry met ahead of COP28 with his counterpart from China, leading to a joint call by the world’s two largest emitters to step up renewable energy.

  • Almost 200 countries adopt first-ever climate deal on fossil fuels

Nations adopted on Wednesday the first ever UN climate deal that calls for the world to transition away from fossil fuels.

“Together we have set the world in the right direction,” COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber said at the UN climate summit in Dubai, prompting delegates to rise and applaud.

Al-Jaber hailed a the deal approved by almost 200 countries as an “historic package” of measures which offered a “robust plan” to keep the target of 1.5°C within reach.

SCIENCE
SCIENCE © FRANCE 24

 

“We have delivered a paradigm shift that has the potential to redefine our economies,” he said during the closing session of the COP28 summit, shortly after the deal was approved.

He added a note of caution for nations: “An agreement is only as good as its implementation. We are what we do, not what we say.”

UN climate chief Simon Stiell urged countries to turn pledges into action after the agreement was passed.

“Now, all governments and businesses need to turn these pledges into real-economy outcomes without delay,” Stiell told delegates in Dubai.

  • New UN climate draft calls for ‘transitioning away’ from fossil fuels

A draft agreement unveiled early Wednesday in talks in Dubai toughens language by calling for “transitioning away” from fossil fuels, although it does not use the term “phase out”.

The text, released for consideration after another full night of haggling, would also call for “accelerating action” during “this critical decade” – providing more urgency than an earlier proposal widely dismissed by green-minded countries.

The previous draft also drew fire for offering a list of options that “could” be taken to combat the dangerous warming of the planet.


 

The new draft explicitly “calls on” all nations to contribute through a series of actions.

The actions include “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”, the new draft says.

It calls for phase-downs of “unabated coal power” – meaning that coal with carbon capture technology to reduce emissions, panned by many environmentalists as unrealistic, could continue.

It also calls for “phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible”.

But it does not call for a “phase out” of fossil fuels.

Discussions during the 14 days of talks in Dubai, a metropolis built on oil wealth, had revolved around how far to go and whether to make a historic call to wind down oil, gas and coal, the main culprits in the planet’s rapid warming.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)

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IBBC’s Two-Day Conference Success: ‘Building a Sustainable Future for Iraq’ | Iraq Business News

From the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC):

IBBC’s two-day conference success ‘Building a sustainable future for Iraq’.

IBBC held an expanded two- day conference in Dubai to coincide with Cop 28 to focus on ‘a sustainable future for Iraq’, with one day dedicated to Education and Training and one for Business, Investment, and Energy.

IBBC welcomed its largest delegations to date, reflecting both the scope of the discussions and the interest in Iraq.

Of particular note was interest in the Education and Skills day, which not only enjoyed the largest turnout from business members and top UK Education speakers for Iraq anywhere, but also leading figures; UK’s Lord Boateng who made a keynote speech; Wayne David MP, Shadow Minster for Middle East and Dr. Jamal Abdulzahra Mezaal Khoailed, Advisor to the Iraqi President; Professor Hamid Khalaf Ahmed, Iraqi PM Advisor & Executive Director at the Higher Committee for Education Development in Iraq, and the UK’s largest recent contingent of universities operating and engaging with Iraq. The British Ambassador to Iraq, Mr Stephen Hitchen and Professor Alaa Alzwghaibi, of the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education also spoke.

Key topics focused on vocational training, skills, and education relevant for the modernisation and development of Iraq, the new Iraqi Government scholarship fund and academic and business collaboration, a new initiative and advisory board between business and Govt set up to focus university courses to the relevant needs of Iraq’s economy. Leading IBBC businesses also contributed, including Sardar Group, SAP, Hydro-C and a special presentation to Basra Gas Company who are recruiting and developing Iraqi graduates (40% of whom are women) for employment.

The Education day was opened by its main sponsor Dr Amir Sadaati of GEMS. It was chaired throughout in exspert manner by IBBC’s Health and education Advisor, Professor Mohammed Al Uzri.

Full list of speakers also include:

Professor Mary Stiasny, University of London; Dr Mohammed Shukri, Kurdistan Regional Government; H.E. Mr Alan Hama Saeed Salih, Ministry of Education Vocational Training, IRCS Centre for Vocational Training; Dr Yaseen Ahmed Abbas, President of Iraqi Red Crescent Society; Dr Tony Degazon, City and Guilds; H.E Dr Naji Al Mahdi, Chief Qualification and Awards KHDA, Dubai; Dr Ahmed Kanan Al-Jaafari, Supervision and Scientific Research Apparatus; Mr Gavin Busuttil-Reynaud, AQA- Alphaplus; Dr Hazim Al-Zubaidi, MOHESR, Iraq; Mr Peter O`Hara, University of London; Dr Kenan Barut, Cambridge University Press & Assessment; Mr Mahul Shah, Occupational English Test (OET); Mr Muhammad Zohaib, Chief Executive LRN; Dr Stephen Land PhD, University of Dundee; Professor Paul Coulthard, Queen Mary University of London; Professor Paul A. Townsend, University of Surrey; Professor Angela Simpson University of Chester.

Day two saw a deeper focus on business and the conference theme ‘Building a sustainable future for Iraq’. As in previous years the Business Day was chaired by IBBC’s GCC representative and Board Member Mr Vikas Handa.

Sustainability is directly linked to the environmental challenge on going at Cop 28 and affecting Iraq directly. As Dr Fareed Yaseen, Iraq’s Climate Envoy  said –

‘Iraq is in the front line of climate change, and its affecting all areas of the country from desertification of agriculture, to migration and water shortage and the possibility areas of the country may become uninhabitable from heat. Iraq is catching up in its compliance with Cop, having started late in 2009. Key is to adapt and develop a sustainable economy, a resilient private business sector, investment, work force training and agriculture.’

President of IBBC Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, welcomed delegates and ministers:

H.E. Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, UAE, who stated trade with Iraq has increased 12.5% this year and we will collaborate on climate change; Dr. Abdulkareem Al Faisal, Chairman of the Prime Ministers Advisory Commission, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Sudani; Dr Mohammed Shukri, Chairman, Kurdistan Board of Investment, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Barzani;  Ambassador Stephen Hitchen, HM Ambassador to Iraq; Mr Wayne David MP, UK Shadow Minster for the MENA, articulated how Labour would focus their foreign policy if elected in ’24,

Panels included a Finance and Investment panel led by member Mr Raed Hanna of Mutual Finance; Mr Bilal Al-Sugheyer, IFC; Mr Mohammed Al-Delaimy, TBI; Dr Boutros Klink, SCB; Dr Sameer Al-Waely, Central Bank of Iraq, Mr Hani Idris, UAE Barnach Director of the International Development Bank,  at which the formation of a new foreign exchange bank was announced by the CBI.

A vibrant Energy session outlining the dramatic progress the oil and gas companies are undertaking to invest in capturing gas (for conversion into electivity) reduction in Co2 through process engineering, and cleaner air, gas and oil production, speakers included Chairman: Mr Vikas Handa; Mr Laith Al Shaher, IBBC Advisory Council; Ms Dunia Chalabi, TotalEnergies; Mr Zaid Elyaseri, BP; Mr Hassan Heshmat, Hydro – C; Mr Andrew Wiper, Basrah Gas  Company; Mr Muhanad Al-Saffar, Siemens Energy Iraq; Mr Rasheed Janabi, GE Vernova.

The Tech forum focused on how tech and data can help Iraq adapt to climate change and carbon transition, including insightful presentations from SAP, EY, Neom, UK’s Climate business advisor  (new report available here) and UAE’s Hyperloop engineer, to show us the way forward in building and infrastructure tech. (recording video here) Batoul Husseini, SAP MENA; Ahmed Gailani, UK GOV CCC committee; Owais Afridi, Director, Consulting of EY sustainability practice in MENA; Prof. Dr Sabih G. Khisaf, ICE; Mr Hussam Chakouf, NEOM.

IBBC’s MD Mr Christophe Michels hosted a roundtable discussion for 3 KRG Ministers, Dr Mohammed Shukri, Chairman, Kurdistan Board of Investment, Ms Begard Talabani, Minister for Water Resources & Agriculture, and Mr Kamal Muslim, Minister of Trade and Industry. A final panel asked, ‘What constitutes Business Successes?’

We heard passionate family insights about innovation, persistence, hard work, and adaptation from Mr Amar Shubar, Management Partners; Mr Andrew Martin, Al Busttan; Mr Richard Cotton, AAA Holding Group Ltd; Mrs Samar Al Mafraji, Sardar Group; Mr Aziz Khudairi, Khudairi Group.

The conference ended with Mr Christophe Michels thanking everyone involved and looking forward to the Spring Conference at The Mansion House in London on June 27th 2024.

IBBC is grateful to all of its Members for their support and contribution. Special thanks go to conference sponsors: AAA HoldingAl BusttanGEMS, TBISardar Group, Hydro-C and Basrah Gateway Terminal.

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Making water the engine for climate action

Much progress has been made on water security over recent decades, yet for the first time in human history, our collective actions have pushed the global water cycle out of balance. Water is life: it is essential for health, food, energy, socioeconomic development, nature and livable cities. It is hardly surprising that the climate and biodiversity crises are also a water crisis, where one reinforces the other. Already, a staggering four billion people suffer from water scarcity  for at least one month a year and two billion people lack access to safely-managed drinking water. By 2030, global water demand will exceed availability by 40 percent. By 2050, climate-driven water scarcity could impact the economic growth of some regions by up to 6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product per year.

Meike van Ginneken, Water Envoy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Right now, the world’s first Global Stocktake is assessing the progress being made toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and global leaders are convening at COP28 in Dubai to agree on a way forward. We have a critical opportunity to catalyze global ambition and recognize that water is how climate change manifests itself. While wealthier, more resilient nations may be able to manage the devastating impacts of climate change, these same challenges are disastrous for lesser developed, more vulnerable communities.

Rainfall, the source of all freshwater, is becoming more erratic. Changes in precipitation, evaporation and soil moisture are creating severe food insecurity. Droughts trap farmers in poverty, as the majority of cultivated land is rain-fed. Extreme drought reduces growth in developing countries by about 0.85 percentage points. Melting glaciers, sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion jeopardize freshwater supplies. Floods destroy infrastructure, damage homes and disrupt livelihoods. The 2022 Pakistan floods affected 33 million people and more than 1,730 lost their lives, while 2023 saw devastating floods in Libya among other places.  

Now more than ever, it is urgent that we work together to make water the engine of climate action. Already, many countries are investing in technology and climate-resilient water infrastructure. Yet, we need more than technology and engineering to adapt to a changing climate. To advance global water action, we must radically change the way we understand, value and manage water with an emphasis on two necessary measures.

First, we need to make water availability central to our economic planning and decision-making. We need to rethink where and how we grow our food, where we build our cities, and where we plan our industries. We cannot continue to grow thirsty crops in drylands or drain wetlands and cut down forests to raise our cattle. In a changing climate, water availability needs to guide where we undertake economic activity.

In a changing climate, water availability needs to guide where we undertake economic activity.  

Second, we must restore and protect natural freshwater stocks, our buffers against extreme climate events. Natural freshwater storage is how we save water for dry periods and freshwater storage capacity is how we store rainwater to mitigate floods. 99 percent of freshwater storage is in nature. We need to halt the decline of groundwater, wetlands and floodplains. But our challenge is not only about surface and groundwater bodies, or blue water. We also need to preserve and restore our green water stocks, or the water that remains in the soil after rainfall. To reduce the decline of blue water and preserve green water, we need to implement water-friendly crop-management practices and incorporate key stakeholders, such as farmers, into the decision-making process.

Addressing the urgency of the global water crisis goes beyond the water sector. It requires transformative changes at every level of society. National climate plans such as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans are key instruments to make water an organizing principle to spatial, economic and investment planning. Much like the Netherlands did earlier this year when the Dutch parliament adopted a policy that makes water and soil guiding principles in all our spatial planning decisions. Right now, about 90 percent of all countries’ NDCs prioritize action on water for adaptation. NDCs and National Adaptation Plans are drivers of integrated planning and have the potential to unlock vast investments, yet including targets for water is only a first step.

To drive global action, the Netherlands and the Republic of Tajikistan co-hosted the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, bringing the world together for a bold Water Action Agenda to accelerate change across sectors and deliver on the water actions in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. To elevate the agenda’s emphasis on accelerating implementation and improved impact, the Netherlands is contributing an additional €5 million to the NDC Partnership to support countries to mitigate the impacts of climate change, reduce water-related climate vulnerability and increase public and private investments targeting water-nexus opportunities. As a global coalition of over 200 countries and international institutions, the NDC Partnership is uniquely positioned to support countries to enhance the integration of water in formulating, updating, financing and implementing countries’ NDCs.

One example showcasing the importance of incorporating water management into national planning comes from former NDC Partnership co-chair and climate leader, Jamaica. Jamaica’s National Water Commission (NWC), one of the largest electricity consumers in the country, mobilized technical assistance to develop an integrated energy efficiency and renewables program to reduce its energy intensity, building up the resilience of the network, while helping reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. With additional support from the Netherlands, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with Global Water Partnership (GWP)-Caribbean, the government of Jamaica will ensure the National Water Commission is well equipped for the future. Implementation of climate commitments and the requisite financing to do so are key to ensuring targets like these are met.

Water has the power to connect. The Netherlands is reaching out to the world.

Water has the power to connect. The Netherlands is reaching out to the world. We are committed to providing political leadership and deploying our know-how for a more water-secure world. As we look towards the outcomes of the Global Stocktake and COP28, it is essential that we make water the engine of climate action. 



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Climate action or distraction? Sweeping COP pledges won’t touch fossil fuel use

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A torrent of pollution-slashing pledges from governments and major oil companies sparked cries of “greenwashing” on Saturday, even before world leaders had boarded their flights home from this year’s global climate conference.  

After leaders wrapped two days of speeches filled with high-flying rhetoric and impassioned pleas for action, the Emirati presidency of the COP28 climate talks unleashed a series of initiatives aimed at cleaning up the world’s energy sector, the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. 

The announcement, made at an hours-long event Saturday afternoon featuring U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, contained two main planks — a pledge by oil and gas companies to reduce emissions, and a commitment by 118 countries to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity and double energy savings efforts. 

It was, on its face, an impressive and ambitious reveal. 

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, the oil executive helming the talks, crowed that the package “aligns more countries and companies around the North Star of keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach than ever before,” referring to the Paris Agreement target for limiting global warming. 

But many climate-vulnerable countries and non-government groups instantly cast an arched eyebrow toward the whole endeavor.

“The rapid acceleration of clean energy is needed, and we’ve called for the tripling of renewables. But it is only half the solution,” said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands. “The pledge can’t greenwash countries that are simultaneously expanding fossil fuel production.” 

Carroll Muffett, president of the nonprofit Center for International Environmental Law, said: “The only way to ‘decarbonize’ carbon-based oil and gas is to stop producing it. … Anything short of this is just more industry greenwash.”

The divided reaction illustrates the fine line negotiators are trying to walk. The European Union has campaigned for months to win converts to the pledge on renewables and energy efficiency the U.S. and others signed up to on Saturday, even offering €2.3 billion to help. And the COP28 presidency has been on board. 

But Brussels, in theory, also wants these efforts to go hand in hand with a fossil fuel phaseout — a tough proposition for countries pulling in millions from the sector. The EU rhetoric often goes slightly beyond the U.S., even though the two allies officially support the end of “unabated” fossil fuel use, language that leaves the door open for continued oil and gas use as long as the emissions are captured — though such technology remains largely unproven.

Von der Leyen was seen trying to thread that needle on Saturday. She omitted fossil fuels altogether from her speech to leaders before slipping in a mention in a press release published hours later: “We are united by our common belief that to respect the 1.5°C goal … we need to phase out fossil fuels.” 

Harris on Saturday said the world “cannot afford to be incremental. We need transformative change and exponential impact.” 

But she did not mention phasing out fossil fuels in her speech, either. The U.S., the world’s top oil producer, has not made the goal a central pillar of its COP28 strategy. 

Flurry of pledges  

The EU and the UAE said 118 countries had signed up to the global energy goals.

The new fossil fuels agreement has been branded the “Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter” and earned the signatures of 50 companies. The COP28 presidency said it had “launched” the deal with Saudi Arabia — the world’s largest oil exporter and one of the main obstacles to progress on international climate action.

Among the signatories was Saudi state energy company, Aramco, the world’s biggest energy firm — and second-biggest company of any sort, by revenue. Other global giants like ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies also signed.

They have committed to eliminate methane emissions by 2030, to end the routine flaring of gas by the same date, and to achieve net-zero emissions from their production operations by 2050. Adnan Amin, CEO of COP28, singled out the fact that, among the 50 firms, 29 are national oil companies.  

“That in itself is highly significant because you have not seen national oil companies so evident in these discussions before,” he told reporters.

The COP28 presidency could not disguise its glee at the flurry of announcements from the opening weekend of the conference.

“It already feels like an awful lot that we have delivered, but I am proud to say that this is just the beginning,” Majid al-Suwaidi, the COP28 director general, told reporters. 

Fred Krupp, president of the U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund, predicted: “This will be the single most impactful day I’ve seen at any COP in 30 years in terms of slowing the rate of warming.” 

But other observers said the oil and gas commitments did not go far beyond commitments many companies already make. Research firm Zero Carbon Analytics noted the deal is “voluntary and broadly repeats previous pledges.”

Melanie Robinson, global climate program director at the World Resources Institute, said it was “encouraging that some national oil companies have set methane reduction targets for the first time.” 

But she added: “Most global oil and gas companies already have stringent requirements to cut methane emissions. … This charter is proof that voluntary commitments from the oil and gas industry will never foster the level of ambition necessary to tackle the climate crisis.” 

Some critics theorized that the COP28 presidency had deliberately launched the renewables and energy efficiency targets together with the oil and gas pledge. 

The combination, said David Tong, global industry campaign manager at advocacy group Oil Change International, “appears to be a calculated move to distract from the weakness of this industry pledge.”

The charter, he added, “is a trojan horse for Big Oil and Gas greenwash.” 

Beyond voluntary moves 

A push to speed up the phaseout of coal power garnered less attention — with French President Emmanuel Macron separately unveiling a new initiative and the United States joining a growing alliance of countries pledging to zero out coal emissions.

Macron’s “coal transition accelerator” focuses on ending private financing for coal, helping coal-dependent communities and scaling up clean energy. And Washington’s new commitment confirms its path to end all coal-fired power generation unless the emissions are first captured through technology. U.S. use of coal for power generation has already plummeted in the past decade. 

The U.S. pledge will put pressure on China, the world’s largest consumer and producer of coal, as well as countries like Japan, Turkey and Australia to give up on the high-polluting fuel, said Leo Roberts, program lead on fossil fuel transitions at think tank E3G. 

“It’s symbolic, the world’s biggest economy getting behind the shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal. And it’s sending a signal to … others who haven’t made the same commitment,” he said. 

The U.S. also unveiled new restrictions on methane emissions for its oil and gas sector on Saturday — a central plank of the Biden administration’s climate plans — and several leaders called for greater efforts to curb the potent greenhouse gas in their speeches. 

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called for a “global methane agreement” at COP28, warning that voluntary efforts hadn’t worked out. Von der Leyen, meanwhile, urged negotiators to enshrine the renewables and energy efficiency targets in the final summit text. 

Mohamed Adow, director of the think tank Power Shift Africa, warned delegates not to get distracted by nonbinding pledges. 

“We need to remember COP28 is not a trade show and a press conference,” he cautioned. “The talks are why we are here and getting an agreed fossil fuel phaseout date remains the biggest step countries need to take here in Dubai over the remaining days of the summit.”

Sara Schonhardt contributed reporting.



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Kamala Harris at climate summit: World must ‘fight’ those stalling action

DUBAI — The vast, global efforts to arrest rising temperatures are imperiled and must accelerate, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told the world climate summit on Saturday. 

“We must do more,” she implored an audience of world leaders at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai. And the headwinds are only growing, she warned.

“Continued progress will not be possible without a fight,” she told the gathering, which has drawn more than 100,000 people to this Gulf oil metropolis. “Around the world, there are those who seek to slow or stop our progress. Leaders who deny climate science, delay climate action and spread misinformation. Corporations that greenwash their climate inaction and lobby for billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies.” 

Her remarks — less than a year before an election that could return Donald Trump to the White House — challenged leaders to cooperate and spend more to keep the goal of containing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. So far, the planet has warmed about 1.3 degrees since preindustrial times.

“Our action collectively, or worse, our inaction will impact billions of people for decades to come,” Harris said.

The vice president, who frequently warns about climate change threats in speeches and interviews, is the highest-ranking face of the Biden White House at the Dubai negotiations.

She used her conference platform to push that image, announcing several new U.S. climate initiatives, including a record-setting $3 billion pledge for the so-called Green Climate Fund, which aims to help countries adapt to climate change and reduce emissions. The commitment echoes an identical pledge Barack Obama made in 2014 — of which only $1 billion was delivered. The U.S. Treasury Department later specified that the updated commitment was “subject to the availability of funds.”

Meanwhile, back in D.C., the Biden administration strategically timed the release of new rules to crack down on planet-warming methane emissions from the oil and gas sector — a significant milestone in its plan to prevent climate catastrophe.

The trip allows Harris to bolster her credentials on a policy issue critical to the young voters key to President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign — and potentially to a future Harris White House run. 

“Given her knowledge base with the issue, her passion for the issue, it strikes me as a smart move for her to broaden that message out to the international audience,” said Roger Salazar, a California political strategist and former aide to then-Vice President Al Gore, a lifetime climate campaigner. 

Yet sending Harris also presents political peril. 

Biden has taken flak from critics for not attending the talks himself after representing the United States at the last two U.N. climate summits since taking office. And climate advocates have questioned the Biden administration’s embrace of the summit’s leader, Sultan al-Jaber, given he also runs the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned oil giant. John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, has argued the partnership can help bring fossil fuel megaliths to the table.

Harris has been on a climate policy roadshow in recent months, discussing the issue during a series of interviews at universities and other venues packed with young people and environmental advocates. The administration said it views Harris — a former California senator and attorney general — as an effective spokesperson on climate. 

“The vice president’s leadership on climate goes back to when she was the district attorney of San Francisco, as she established one of the first environmental justice units in the nation,” a senior administration official told reporters on a call previewing her trip. 

Joining Harris in Dubai are Kerry, White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi and John Podesta, who’s leading the White House effort to implement Biden’s signature climate law. 

Biden officials are leaning on that climate law — dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act — to prove the U.S. is doing its part to slash global emissions. Yet climate activists remain skeptical, chiding Biden for separately approving a series of fossil fuel projects, including an oil drilling initiative in Alaska and an Appalachian natural gas pipeline.

Similarly, the Biden administration’s opening COP28 pledge of $17.5 million for a new international climate aid fund frustrated advocates for developing nations combating climate threats. The figure lagged well behind other allies, several of whom committed $100 million or more.

Nonetheless, Harris called for aggressive action in her speech, which was followed by a session with other officials on renewable energy. The vice president committed the U.S. to doubling its energy efficiency and tripling its renewable energy capacity by 2030, joining a growing list of countries. The U.S. also said Saturday it was joining a global alliance dedicated to divorcing the world from coal-based energy. 

Like other world leaders, Harris also used her trip to conduct a whirlwind of diplomacy over the war between Israel and Hamas, which has flared back up after a brief truce.

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Harris would be meeting with “regional leaders” to discuss “our desire to see this pause restored, our desire to see aid getting back in, our desire to see hostages get out.”

The war has intruded into the proceedings at the climate summit, with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas both skipping their scheduled speaking slots on Friday. Iran’s delegation also walked out of the summit, objecting to Israel’s presence.

Kirby said Harris will convey “that we believe the Palestinian people need a vote and a voice in their future, and then they need governance in Gaza that will look after their aspirations and their needs.”

Although Biden won’t be going to Dubai, the administration said these climate talks are “especially” vital, given countries will decide how to respond to a U.N. assessment that found the world’s climate efforts are falling short. 

“This is why the president has made climate a keystone of his administration’s foreign policy agenda,” the senior administration official said.

Robin Bravender reported from Washington, D.C. Zia Weise and Charlie Cooper reported from Dubai. 

Sara Schonhardt contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.



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France’s Macron calls on G7 nations to ‘put an end to coal’ by 2030 at COP28 summit

French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the COP28 summit on Friday as world leaders gathered in Dubai for the second day of UN climate talks. Attendees are under pressure to step up efforts to limit global warming even as the Israel-Hamas conflict casts a shadow over the agenda. 

  • Spain to contribute 20 million euros to climate disaster fund

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday his country will increase its contribution to the climate disaster fund by 20 million euros.

Sanchez made the announcement during the United Nations climate conference, dubbed COP28, held in Dubai.

  • France’s Macron urges G7 nations to ‘put an end to coal’ by 2030

French President Emmanuel Macron urged G7 nations at UN climate talks on Friday to set an example to other countries and “commit to putting an end to coal” by 2030.

Speaking at COP28 in Dubai, Macron said investing in coal was “truly an absurdity”.

  • COP28 advisory board member resigns over reports of UAE fossil fuel dealmaking

A member of the main advisory board of the COP28 climate summit has resigned over reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) presidency used the meeting to secure new oil, gas deals, according to her resignation letter seen by Reuters.

Hilda Heine, former president of the low-lying, climate vulnerable Marshall Islands, said reports that the UAE planned to discuss possible natural gas and other commercial deals ahead of UN climate talks were “deeply disappointing” and threatened to undermine the credibility of the multilateral negotiation process.

“These actions undermine the integrity of the COP presidency and the process as a whole,” Heiner wrote in the letter she sent to COP President Sultan al-Jaber.

She added that the only way for Jaber to restore trust in the process was to “deliver an outcome that demonstrates that you are committed to phasing out fossil fuels”.

  • With 80,000 attendees, COP28 is largest UN climate summit ever

COP28 is officially the largest-ever UN climate summit, with 80,000 participants registered on a list that – for the first time – shows who they work for.

Until this year, those taking part were not obliged to say who they worked for, making it tricky to detect lobbyists and identify negotiators’ potential conflicts of interest.

Some 104,000 people, including technical and security staff, have access to the “blue zone” dedicated to the actual climate negotiations and the pavilions of the states and organisations present.

That largely exceeds the previous record at last year’s UN climate summit in Egypt, COP27, which had 49,000 accredited attendees, and where oil and gas lobbyists outnumbered most national delegations, according to NGOs.

This year, there are nearly 23,500 people from official government teams.

Among the host country’s guests are Bill Gates and Antoine Arnault, the son of LVMH boss Bernard Arnault, the second richest man in the world after Elon Musk, according to Forbes magazine.

  • Iran delegates quit COP28 over Israeli presence

Iranian delegates walked out of UN climate talks in the United Arab Emirates on Friday in protest over the presence of Israeli representatives, state media reported.

The Iranian side considered Israel’s presence at COP28 “as contrary to the goals and guidelines of the conference and, in protest, it left the conference venue”, Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian, who headed the Iranian delegation, was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.

  • UAE president announces $30 billion fund to bridge climate finance gap

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed announced the establishment of a $30 billion (€27.5 billion) climate fund for global climate solutions that it hopes will lead to $250 billion in investment by the end of the decade.

Dubbed ALTÉRRA, the fund will allocate $25 billion towards climate strategies and $5 billion specifically to incentivise investment flows into the Global South, according to a statement by the COP28 presidency.

In collaboration with global asset managers BlackRock, Brookfield and TPG, ALTÉRRA has committed $6.5 billion to climate-dedicated funds for global investments, including the Global South, the statement said.

ALTÉRRA was established by Abu Dhabi-based alternate investment manager Lunate, and COP28 Director-General Majid Al Suwaidi will serve as ALTÉRRA’s chief executive officer.

  • Britain’s King Charles III praying that COP28 is ‘turning point’ for climate

King Charles III has told COP28 climate talks in Dubai must be a “critical turning point” in the fight against climate change, with “genuine transformational action”.

“I pray with all my heart that COP28 will be another critical turning point towards genuine transformational action,” Charles told assembled leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth,” said the king, a lifelong environmentalist, who missed last year’s COP27 in Egypt reportedly due to objections by then UK prime minister Liz Truss.

  • UN chief says ending fossil fuel use is only way to save ‘burning planet’

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told world leaders that the burning of fossil fuels must be stopped outright and a reduction or abatement in their use would not be enough to stop global warming.

“We cannot save a burning planet with a fire hose of fossil fuels,” Guterres said in a speech to the COP28 summit in Dubai. “The 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate.”

He urged fossil fuel companies to invest in a transition to renewable energy sources and told governments to help by forcing that change, including through the use of windfall taxes on industry profits.

FRANCE 24’s Valérie Dekimpe from COP28 in Dubai


Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, president of this year’s COP28, makes opening remarks during the opening conference in Dubai on November 30, 2023. © Karim Sahib, AFP

  • COP28 draft calls for fossil fuels to be reduced or eliminated

Negotiators released the first draft of a UN agreement on climate action Friday calling for fossil fuels to be reduced or eliminated, setting up a fierce fight at the COP28 talks in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

Divisions over the future of fossil fuels have already surfaced at the COP28 talks and proposals for their “phase-down/out” contained in the draft prepared by the UK and Singapore will be highly contentious.

Calls for the inclusion of explicit curbs on coal, oil and gas in a final agreement have gained momentum, but any effort to limit fossil fuel use will encounter strong opposition.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters, AP)

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The oil boss, the islander, the ‘ecofeminist’: Five people to watch at COP28

World leaders, scientists and activists gather in Dubai this week for the latest UN-sponsored COP summit aimed at forging a global response to the climate emergency. From the controversial Emirati host Sultan al-Jaber to climate leader and Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, FRANCE 24 takes a look at some of the likely protagonists of the high-stakes gathering.  

The COP28 climate summit kicks off in the desert metropolis on Thursday, November 30, drawing representatives of almost 200 countries as well as a host of climate experts, activists and lobbyists. Some 70,000 delegates are expected to attend the 13-day gathering, which will be the largest – and, arguably, most controversial – COP to date.  

The high-stakes summit in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates will be closely scrutinised, with tough negotiations on fossil fuels and climate financing on the agenda. A number of high-profile figures will be in the spotlight, none more so than the event’s Emirati president and host, Sultan al-Jaber.   

  • Sultan Al-Jaber, a Trojan horse at the helm?  

Sultan al-Jaber attends a gathering of oil and gas industry workers in Abu Dhabi in 2019. © AFP file photo

News that COP28 would be headed by the host country’s oil supremo immediately sparked a firestorm of criticism. At 50, the Emirati industry minister is an habitué of climate negotiations, having already led his country’s delegations at COP26 in Glasgow and the following gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh. The founder of renewable energies firm Masdar, he likes to tout his credentials as the face of clean energy in the UAE.  

But al-Jaber is also the chief executive of Adnoc, the country’s state oil company – a title many climate activists say disqualifies him from chairing a summit aimed at combating the global warming caused in large part by fossil fuels.   

The COP28 president bristles at accusations that he has a conflict of interest. “I’m someone who spent the majority of his career in sustainability, in sustainable economic development and project management, and renewable energy,” he told AFP in July.  

He has managed to soothe a number of sceptics in the build-up to the summit, including Harjeet Singh of the influential coalition Climate Action Network International, which brings together some 1,900 NGOs.  

“He’s very straightforward, he’s open to listening,” Singh told AFP this week, though cautioning that the pair “agree to disagree” on several issues.  


A first turning point came at a June conference in Bonn, Germany, when al-Jaber described the reduction of fossil fuels as “inevitable” – an unprecedented step for a Gulf official. The next month, the Adnoc CEO reiterated in a letter to COP28 parties that “phasing down demand for, and supply of, all fossil fuels is inevitable and essential”, setting out ambitious targets for renewable energies and climate financing.  

Just days before the summit’s opening, however, al-Jaber’s position was weakened by a BBC report revealing that the UAE planned to use its role as the host of UN climate talks as an opportunity to strike oil and gas deals – allegations he promptly denied.  

“This is exactly the kind of conflict of interest we feared when the CEO of an oil company was appointed to the role,” Greenpeace’s climate policy head Kaisa Kosonen wrote in a post on the social media network X.  

It remains to be seen whether al-Jaber will be able to influence/guide/lead the nearly 200 states taking part in the summit to broker an agreement on an ambitious text. Dozens of countries have already announced their intention to include an explicit call to reduce fossil fuels, something no COP has ever achieved.  

  • Mia Mottley, standing up for the most vulnerable  

La Première ministre de la Barbade, Mia Amor Mottley, s'exprime lors de la cérémonie d'ouverture du Forum de Paris sur la paix au Palais Brongniart à Paris, le 10 novembre 2023.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley speaks during the opening ceremony of the Paris Peace Forum on November 10, 2023. © Stephane Lecocq, AFP

Mia Mottley’s bold oratory and climate advocacy have catapulted the charismatic leader of tiny Barbados to the forefront of the battle against climate change, making her a champion of the ‘Global South’ nations most vulnerable to the effects of rising seas and global warming.  

A lawyer by training, the Caribbean island’s prime minister shot to prominence in 2021 with an impassioned speech to the UN General Assembly, in which she cited the Bob Marley hit “Get Up, Stand Up” to spur concrete action on climate change.  

“In the words of Robert Nesta Marley … who will get up and stand up for the rights of our people?” she asked.

“Who will stand up in the name of all those who have died because of the climate crisis or will stand up for the small island developing states who need [to keep global warming below] 1.5° Celsius to survive?”  


Her role at COP27 in Glasgow the following year cemented her standing as a world leader on climate change. She notably spearheaded successful efforts to establish a Loss and Damage Fund, designed to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change.   

Mottley, 58, also played a key part in a summit held in Paris last June for a new global financial pact. The gathering hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron aimed to achieve greater climate justice by writing off the debt of less-developed countries, setting up a guarantee fund backed by development banks and the International Monetary Fund and taxing the profits of fossil fuel companies.  

Her inspirational advocacy earned her a place on TIME magazine’s list of The 100 Most Influential People of 2022. Writing in the magazine, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, said Mia Mottley “is an embodiment of our conscience, reminding us all to treat our planet and therefore one another with love, dignity, and care”.

Such is Mottley’s rising fame and prestige that her name has reportedly been floated among possible candidates to head the United Nations after Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, whose mandate will come to an end in 2026.  

  • Xie Zhenhua, China’s veteran climate negotiator  

L'envoyé spécial de la Chine pour le climat, Xie Zhenhua, prononce un discours lors de la conférence sur le climat COP27 au Centre international de conventions de Charm el-Cheikh, le 8 novembre 2022.
Veteran climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua represents China at the COP27 summit in Egypt in November 2022. © Ahmad Gharabli, AFP

Known as China’s “Mr Climate”, Xie Zhenhua has represented the world’s top CO2 emitter at every COP since 2007, making him a centrepiece of all recent climate negotiations. He was notably involved in hammering out the landmark Paris climate agreement in 2015.  

An engineer by training, the 74-year-old official has been at the head of the State Environmental Protection Administration since 1993 and is known for his diplomatic skills. In recent years, he has succeeded in forging a close relationship with his American counterpart John Kerry, the US climate envoy, despite the wider context of tense relations between the two superpowers.  

The personal rapport between Xie and Kerry will be all the more important in the absence of the two countries’ presidents, the White House having confirmed on Monday that President Joe Biden will not attend COP28.  

“Xie Zhenhua is a model for future climate diplomats,” former Greenpeace activist Li Shuo, now a researcher at the Asia Society Policy Institute, told AFP. “He is deeply committed to climate action and shows a willingness and ability to bridge the gap between China and the global community.”  

  • Brazil’s Marina Silva, guardian of the Amazon  

La ministre brésilienne de l'environnement, Marina Silva, s'exprime lors d'un séminaire sur l'Amazonie à Belem, dans l'État de Para, au Brésil, le 5 août 2023.
Brazil’s Environment Minister Marina Silva has long been a fierce critic of deforestation in the Amazon. © Evaristo Sa, AFP

A former presidential candidate, Brazil’s Environment Minister Marina Silva is an emblematic figure of the fight against deforestation in the Amazon. After four years of unprecedented destruction of the world’s largest rainforest under former president Jair Bolsonaro, she has made it her mission to save the so-called “lungs of the planet”.  

Silva served as environment minister during President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s first term in office, between 2003 and 2008. She was reappointed to the job in January, following Lula’s defeat of his right-wing predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. Since then, she has secured a European Union commitment to invest €260 million in an Amazon Fund that Bolsonaro’s government had suspended.   

She is expected to push further at COP28, accompanied by Lula, with a proposal to set up a new fund to preserve tropical rainforests in some 80 countries. Speaking at a seminar in the run-up to the summit, Silva said the initiative would involve “a mechanism of payment per standing tree and per hectare of land” to help countries preserve their forests.  

  • Inez Umuhoza Grace, the voice of ‘ecofeminism’ 

Ineza Umuhoza Grace s'exprime lors du sommet Global Citizen NOW au Glasshouse le 28 avril 2023 à New York.
Ineza Umuhoza Grace speaks at the Global Citizen NOW Summit in New York on April 28, 2023. © Noam Galai AFP

Aside from the official country delegations, COP28 will draw a host of civil-society activists determined to weigh on the discussions. They include Ineza Umuhoza Grace, founder of Rwandan NGO The Green Protector, a women-led non-profit that aims to foster environmental awareness among youths. 

Umuhoza Grace, 27, is global coordinator for the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition, which brings together young people from the global South and North to demand action on helping countries most vulnerable to climate change.   

In an interview with the NGO Global Impact, Umuhoza Grace recalled how she first experienced the effects of the climate crisis at an early age when her family home in Rwanda was destroyed due to intensive rainfall and wind. It was only years later that she was able to link this formative experience to the changing climate. 

“I was watching the news one evening and then I saw on the television a particular area in my country where the community was being forced to move because of flooding and erosion,” she said. “On the television you could see that most of the people who were being displaced were women and children. And that reminded me of the powerless feeling that I had back then.”  

Umuhoza Grace studied environmental engineering at the University of Rwanda and describes herself as an “ecofeminist”. Her work focuses on advocacy and training, both petitioning global leaders at international events and sharing the science of climate change at the grassroots level.

“Everyone, everywhere is exposed (to the climate crisis),” she told Global Impact. “Everyone is vulnerable, but the level of vulnerability depends on the level of infrastructure already in place, the educational system, the funds and finance.” 

Her youth coalition plans to present 10 demands at COP28, including the full implementation of the Loss and Damage Fund that Barbados PM Mia Mottley successful pushed for at the COP27 gathering last year. 

This article has been translated from the original in French.

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The state of the planet in 10 numbers

This article is part of the Road to COP special report, presented by SQM.

The COP28 climate summit comes at a critical moment for the planet. 

A summer that toppled heat records left a trail of disasters around the globe. The world may be just six years away from breaching the Paris Agreement’s temperature target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, setting the stage for much worse calamities to come. And governments are cutting their greenhouse gas pollution far too slowly to head off the problem — and haven’t coughed up the billions of dollars they promised to help poorer countries cope with the damage.

This year’s summit, which starts on Nov. 30 in Dubai, will conclude the first assessment of what countries have achieved since signing the Paris accord in 2015. 

The forgone conclusion: They’ve made some progress. But not enough. The real question is what they do in response.

To help understand the stakes, here’s a snapshot of the state of the planet — and global climate efforts — in 10 numbers. 

1.3 degrees Celsius

Global warming since the preindustrial era  

Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have been driving global temperatures skyward since the 19th century, when the industrial revolution and the mass burning of fossil fuels began to affect the Earth’s climate. The world has already warmed by about 1.3 degrees Celsius, or 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and most of that warming has occurred since the 1970s. In the last 50 years, research suggests, global temperatures have risen at their fastest rate in at least 2,000 years.  

This past October concluded the Earth’s hottest 12-month span on record, a recent analysis found. And 2023 is virtually certain to be the hottest calendar year ever observed. It’s continuing a string of recent record-breakers — the world’s five hottest years on record have all occurred since 2015. 

Allowing warming to pass 2 degrees Celsius would tip the world into catastrophic changes, scientists have warned, including life-threatening heat extremes, worsening storms and wildfires, crop failures, accelerating sea level rise and existential threats to some coastal communities and small island nations. Eight years ago in Paris, nearly every nation on Earth agreed to strive to keep temperatures well below that threshold, and under a more ambitious 1.5-degree threshold if at all possible. 

But with just fractions of a degree to go, that target is swiftly approaching — and many experts say it’s already all but out of reach.

$4.3 trillion  

Global economic losses from climate disasters since 1970  

Climate-related disasters are worsening as temperatures rise. Heat waves are intensifying, tropical cyclones are strengthening, floods and droughts are growing more severe and wildfires are blazing bigger. Record-setting events struck all over the planet this year, a harbinger of new extremes to come. Scientists say such events will only accelerate as the world warms. 

Nearly 12,000 weather, climate and water-related disasters struck worldwide over the last five decades, the World Meteorological Organization reports. They’ve caused trillions of dollars in damage, and they’ve killed more than 2 million people.  

Ninety percent of these deaths have occurred in developing countries. Compared with wealthier nations, these countries have historically contributed little to the greenhouse gas emissions driving global warming – yet they disproportionately suffer the impacts of climate change.  

4.4 millimeters  

Annual rate of sea level rise

Global sea levels are rapidly rising as the ice sheets melt and the oceans warm and expand. Scientists estimate that they’re now rising by about 4.4 millimeters, or about 0.17 inches, each year – and that rate is accelerating, increasing by about 1 millimeter every decade.

Those sound like small numbers. They’re not.  

The world’s ice sheets and glaciers are losing a whopping 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. Those losses are also speeding up, accelerating by at least 57 percent since the 1990s. Future sea level rise mainly depends on future ice melt, which depends on future greenhouse gas emissions. With extreme warming, global sea levels will likely rise as much as 3 feet by the end of this century, enough to swamp many coastal communities, threaten freshwater supplies and submerge some small island nations.  

Some places are more vulnerable than others. 

“Low-lying islands in the Pacific are on the frontlines of the fight against sea level rise,” said NASA sea level expert Benjamin Hamlington. “In the U.S., the Southeast and Gulf Coasts are experiencing some of the highest rates of sea level rise in the world and have very high future projections of sea level.”  

But in the long run, he added, “almost every coastline around the world is going to experience sea level rise and will feel impacts.”

Less than 6 years

When the world could breach the 1.5-degree threshold

The world is swiftly running out of time to meet its most ambitious international climate target: keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Humans can emit only another 250 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and maintain at least even odds of meeting that goal, scientists say. 

That pollution threshold could arrive in as little as six years.

That’s the bottom line from at least two recent studies, one published in June and one in October. Humans are pouring about 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, with each ton eating into the margin of error.  

The size of that carbon buffer is smaller than previous estimates have suggested, indicating that time is running out even faster than expected.  

“While our research shows it is still physically possible for the world to remain below 1.5C, it’s difficult to see how that will stay the case for long,” said Robin Lamboll, a scientist at Imperial College London and lead author of the most recent study. “Unfortunately, net-zero dates for this target are rapidly approaching, without any sign that we are meeting them.”

43 percent 

How much greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 2030 to hit the temperature target

The world would have to undergo a stark transformation during this decade to have any hope of meeting the Paris Agreement’s ambitious 1.5-degree cap. 

In a nutshell, global greenhouse gas emissions have to fall 43 percent by 2030, and 60 percent by 2035, before reaching net-zero by mid-century, according to a U.N. report published in September on the progress the world has made since signing the Paris Agreement. That would give the world a 50 percent chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. 

But based on the climate pledges that countries have made to date, greenhouse gas emissions are likely to fall by just 2 percent this decade, according to a U.N. assessment published this month

Governments are “taking baby steps to avert the climate crisis,” U.N. climate chief Simon Stiell said in a statement this month. “This means COP28 must be a clear turning point.” 

$1 trillion a year 

Climate funding needs of developing countries

In many ways, U.N. climate summits are all about finance. Cutting industries’ carbon pollution, protecting communities from extreme weather, rebuilding after climate disasters — it all costs money. And developing countries, in particular, don’t have enough of it. 

As financing needs grow, pressure is mounting on richer nations such as the U.S. that have produced the bulk of planet-warming emissions to help developing countries cut their own pollution and adapt to a warmer world. They also face growing calls to pay for the destruction wrought by climate change, known as loss and damage in U.N.-speak. 

But the flow of money from rich to poor countries has slowed. In October, a pledging conference to replenish the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund raised only $9.3 billion, even less than the $10 billion that countries had promised last time. An overdue promise by developed countries to deliver $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to rising temperatures was “likely” met last year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said this month, while warning that adaptation finance had fallen by 14 percent in 2021. 

As a result, the gap between what developing countries need and how much money is flowing in their direction is growing. The OECD report said developing countries will need around $1 trillion a year for climate investments by 2025, “rising to roughly $2.4 trillion each year between 2026 and 2030.”

$7 trillion 

Worldwide fossil fuel subsidies in 2022

In stark contrast to the trickle of climate finance, fossil fuel subsidies have surged in recent years. In 2022, total spending on subsidies for oil, natural gas and coal reached a record $7 trillion, the International Monetary Fund said in August. That’s $2 trillion more than in 2020. 

Explicit subsidies — direct government support to reduce energy prices — more than doubled since 2020, to $1.3 trillion. But the majority of subsidies are implicit, representing the fact that governments don’t require fossil fuel companies to pay for the health and environmental damage that their products inflict on society. 

At the same time, countries continue pumping public and private money into fossil fuel production. This month, a U.N. report found that governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with the 1.5-degree target. 

66,000 square kilometers

Gross deforestation worldwide in 2022

At the COP26 climate summit two years ago in Glasgow, Scotland, nations committed to halting global deforestation by 2030. A total of 145 countries have signed the Glasgow Forest Declaration, representing more than 90 percent of global forest cover. 

Yet global action is still falling short of that target. The annual Forest Declaration Assessment, produced by a collection of research and civil society organizations, estimated that the world lost 66,000 square kilometers of forest last year, or about 25,000 square miles — a swath of territory slightly larger than West Virginia or Lithuania. Most of that loss came from tropical forests. 

Halting deforestation is a critical component of global climate action. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that collective contributions from agriculture, forestry and land use compose as much as 21 percent of global human-caused carbon emissions. Deforestation releases large volumes of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, and recent research suggests that carbon losses from tropical forests may have doubled since the early 2000s.  

Almost 1 billion tons

The annual carbon dioxide removal gap 

Given the world’s slow pace in reducing greenhouse gas pollution, scientists say a second approach is essential for slowing the Earth’s warming — removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The technology for doing this is largely untested at scale, and won’t be cheap.  

A landmark report on carbon dioxide removals led by the University of Oxford earlier this year found that keeping warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less would require countries to collectively remove an additional 0.96 billion tons of CO2-equivalent a year by 2030.

About 2 billion tons are now removed every year, but that is largely achieved through the natural absorption capacity of forests. 

Removing even more carbon will require countries to massively scale up carbon removal technologies, given the limited capacity of forests to absorb more carbon dioxide. 

Carbon removal technologies are in the spotlight at COP28, though some countries and companies want to use them to meet net-zero while continuing to burn fossil fuels. Scientists have been clear that carbon removal cannot be a substitute for steep emissions cuts. 

1,000 gigawatts 

Annual growth in renewable power capacity needed to keep 1.5 degrees in reach  

The shift from fossil fuels to renewables is underway, but the transition is still far too slow to meet the Paris Agreement targets. 

To keep 1.5 degrees within reach, the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that the world needs to add 1,000 gigawatts in renewable energy capacity every year through 2030. By comparison, the United States’ entire utility-scale electricity-generation capacity was about 1,160 gigawatts last year, according to the Department of Energy.

Last year, countries added about 300 gigawatts, according to the agency’s latest World Energy Transitions Outlook published in June. 

That shortfall has prompted the EU and the climate summit’s host nation, the United Arab Emirates, to campaign for nations to sign up to a target to triple the world’s renewable capacity by 2030 at COP28, a goal also supported by the U.S. and China.

“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable,” International Energy Agency boss Fatih Birol said last month. “It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ – and the sooner the better for all of us.”

This article is part of the Road to COP special report, presented by SQM. The article is produced with full editorial independence by POLITICO reporters and editors. Learn more about editorial content presented by outside advertisers.



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Wonkette Book Club Part 6: A Future Up In The Air

This week we finish up our reading of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate change epic The Ministry for the Future, and we close out our visit to a possible world where humanity manages, just barely, to save itself from the climate change disaster it created. Or at least that’s the case, as the song says, for the people who are still alive.

Since the start of the novel, with Chapter 1’s horrific heat wave in India, untold hundreds of millions of humans have died in the climate-related disasters and economic shocks resulting from 40 to 50 years of continued warming, although near the end of the novel atmospheric carbon has not only stopped increasing, but is finally beginning to decline. Of course, there’s still no guarantee that humanity still won’t find wonderful new ways to wipe itself out.


Cagey bastard writer that he is, Robinson begins Chapter 89 with the confirmation that yes, CO2 in the atmosphere is really declining, and has been for several years, so it’s clearly not a seasonal or economic blip. He immediately follows that with the assassination of Tatiana, the tough Russian member of the Ministry team, whose death (we never find out who did it) is devastating to Mary Murphy, who throws herself into work, as she does.

That all leads up to the international COP (Committee of the Parties) meeting in Zurich in Chapter 94, which includes a “global stocktake” of progress on climate, and what still needs to be done. Fun fact: Out here in reality, this year’s COP28, to be held in December in Dubai, will include the conclusion of the first global stocktake, a two-year process that started at 2021’s COP26 in Glasgow.

In a turn that should only happen in fiction, COP28 will be presided over by the head of an oil company. Sigh.

Unlike the mostly-celebratory COP58 in the novel, this year’s delegates will be reporting that we’re far behind where we should be to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting warming since 1880 to below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), let alone the goal of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), which will still be quite bad enough. On average, the world is already at 1.1 degrees (1.9 degrees F) above 1880, and carbon emissions keep rising. That said, the rate of increase appears to finally be slowing as methane (“natural”) gas power generation increasingly replaces coal and as more renewables come online, so as David Wallace-Wells wrote last fall (NYT gift link), the worst-case scenarios projected just a few years ago are actually looking less likely.

But back to the novel: At COP58 (it’s an annual meeting, so the book is now up to 2053), there’s lots of good news to report, particularly that big banner showing a leveling off and decline in the Keeling Curve, the zigzag measurement of atmospheric carbon that today is still only going up, from preindustrial levels of 280 to 300 parts per million.

In case you were wondering, today’s reading is 422.97 ppm. The year I was born, it was 318.43 ppm. You can look up your birth year up here. The highest level mentioned in Ministry for the Future is 475.

In the closing chapters we read this week, Frank is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Mary visits him as often as possible in hospice, even working from his hospital room as he quickly declines and eventually dies. (I’m listening to Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” while writing this, because it’s always good to write to. Mary is right.) Climate refugees are released from camps and given the opportunity to relocate anywhere, with the costs being shared by the rich nations, and that’s some real science fiction there, I fear. But then, the world’s economy has been rearranged to make that more possible.

Mary eventually retires, nominating Badim as acting head of the Ministry, and she travels around the world with Captain Art Nolan, an airship pilot who ushers tour groups around to see the animals that are returning to newly depopulated parts of the world. Mary is ready for romance, but they don’t quite take the plunge.

Semi-spontaneously, the world Zeitgeists a new holiday, Gaia Day, into existence, so Badim’s dream of an environmentalism-based religion may have seen its first spark. Mary and Badim have a guarded conversation about the things his “black wing” of the Ministry did, and didn’t do. And Sky Captain Art returns for the last chapter, a literally carnivalesque Zurich festival celebrating the end of winter.

And in contrast to the novel’s first words, “It was getting hotter,” that’s no longer the case, except seasonally — there is no such thing as fate.

So let’s talk about this sucker! As always, these discussion questions are just a few of the things that occurred to me, but don’t feel limited to these. The other usual disclaimer: If you’re behind on the reading, or haven’t read the book at all, no problem, we’re not grading any of this. The conversation about climate is every bit as important. Also, no worries about spoilers, because hey, this is our last meeting!

1) How has the dynamic between Mary and Frank evolved over the course of the novel (if it has), and how does it relate to the book’s overall themes? Is Frank Mary’s Greek chorus or Jiminy Cricket, or something else?

2) After Badim meets with representatives of the Children of Kali to tell them that it’s time for the violence to stop (Chapter 78), terrorism does seem to largely vanish, at least from the plot of the novel, apart from reminders that the threat of being torpedoed has led shipping companies to retrofit container ships to run on solar, figuring the slower speed into their business model; by the time Mary takes her airship tour, most cargo ships are fully robotic, too. Again, I’m not sure that even effective, coordinated terrorism would have that effect, and the disappearance of the Kali groups from the final 30 or so chapters seems like a loose thread. Your thoughts?

3) Remember that terrific Wired profile of Jamie Beard, who’s doing everything she possibly can to get oil drilling companies to shift their expertise to enhanced geothermal? (We linked to it in Part 4 of the book club) My favorite climate-n-energy nerd David Roberts recently interviewed her on his Volts podcast, and she is exactly as brilliant, witty, and OMG even optimistic about the energy potential of geothermal as you’d expect from the profile. (If you’re not a podcast person, there’s also a transcript)

Why yes, this was more of a comment than a question. But it says a hell of a lot that Ministry doesn’t say much at all about using Earth’s own heat as an energy source, not because Robinson dropped the ball while researching the book, but because in the two and a half years since it was published, interest and investment in geothermal has accelerated to the point that it’s likely to be a huge part of the clean energy transition. As it happens, the very same month Ministry was published, October 2020, Roberts wrote that geothermal was “poised for a big breakout.” (He and Beard talk about that piece in the podcast, since it really did help shape much of the interest in geothermal.) The technology’s prospects are even more exciting now, with pilot projects in the works — another area Beard is helping with via a newly launched nonprofit, Project InnerSpace.

OK, fine, I’ll just embed Beard’s TED Talk too. It’s Saturday, so we can be a bit sprawling.

youtu.be

4) I really want to talk about how we can be optimistic about climate. Not in any Pollyannaish “Oh, they’ll figure it out” sense, but in the way I think Ministry for the Future encourages: very much aware of the challenges, and always on the lookout for ways to leverage existing systems to make significant advances. (One obvious example: the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which is already remaking American industrial and energy policy. We need a lot more like it, but combined with other Biden policies, it’s really very freaking impressive! How did Ministry for the Future — or our discussions of it here — affect your overall sense of what we can do about climate?

That’s plenty to start with, and please, add other questions and ideas as we discuss! I plan to come back to the discussion all weekend, too.

The one rule I am going to enforce strictly for this post is that, to keep the conversation focused, I will remove any off topic comments and ask you to move ’em to the open threads, either the Top Ten from this morning, or the late-afternoon Open thread later. I’d honestly like to keep the book & climate conversation going all weekend, and if you wanna come back and say more, please do so!

Here are our previous installments:

Book Club Part 1

Book Club Part 2

Book Club Part 3

Book Club Part 4

Book Club Part 5

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