Airstrikes are unlikely to deter the Houthis

Jamie Dettmer is opinion editor at POLITICO Europe.

TEL AVIV — In a preemptive bid to warn off Iran and its proxies in the wake of Hamas’ October attacks on southern Israel, United States President Joe Biden had succinctly said: “Don’t.” But his clipped admonition continues to fall on deaf ears.

As Shakespeare’s rueful King Claudius notes, “when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” And while exasperated Western powers now try to halt escalation in the Middle East, it is the Iran-directed battalions that are bringing them sorrows.

Raising the stakes at every turn, Tehran is carefully calibrating the aggression of its partners — Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthis in the Red Sea —ratcheting up to save Hamas from being destroyed by a vengeful Israel. And out of all this needling, it is the Houthis’ more then two dozen attacks in the Red Sea that crossed the line for Western powers — enough to goad the U.S. and the United Kingdom into switching from a defensive posture to launching strikes on dozens of Houthi targets.

As far as Washington and London are concerned, Western retaliation is meant to give teeth to Biden’s October warning, conveying a clear message to Iran: Stop. But why would it?

Privately, the U.S. has reinforced its warning through diplomatic channels. And U.K. Defense Minister Grant Shapps underscored the message publicly, saying the West is “running out of patience,” and the Iranian regime must tell the Houthis and its regional proxies to “cease and desist.”

Nonetheless, it’s highly questionable whether Tehran will heed this advice. There’s nothing in the regime’s DNA to suggest it would back off. Plus, there would be no pain for Iran at the end of it all — the Houthis would be on the receiving end. In fact, Iran has every reason to persist, as it can’t afford to leave Hamas in the lurch. To do so would undermine the confidence of other Iran-backed groups, weakening its disruptive clout in the region.

Also, from Iran’s perspective, its needling strategy of fatiguing and frightening Western powers with the prospect of escalation is working. The specter of a broadening war in the Middle East is terrifying for Washington and European governments, which are beset by other problems. Better for them to press Israel to halt its military campaign in Gaza and preserve the power of Hamas — that’s what Tehran is trying to engineer.

And Iranian mullahs have every reason to think this wager will pay off. Ukraine is becoming a cautionary tale; Western resolve seems to be waning; and the U.S. Congress is mired in partisan squabbling, delaying a crucial aid package for Ukraine — one the Europeans won’t be able to make good on.

So, whose patience will run out first — the West or Iran and its proxies?

Wearing down the Houthis would be no mean feat for the U.S. and the U.K. In 2015, after the resilient Houthis had seized the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, Saudi Arabia thought it could quickly dislodge them with a bombing campaign in northern Yemen. But nearly a decade on, Riyadh is trying to extricate itself, ready to walk away if the Houthis just leave them alone.

The United Arab Emirates was more successful in the country’s south, putting boots on the ground and training local militias in places where the Houthis were already unpopular. But the U.S. and the U.K. aren’t proposing to follow the UAE model — they’ll be following the Saudi one, albeit with the much more limited goal of getting the Houthis to stop harassing commercial traffic in the Red Sea.

Moreover, Western faith in the efficacy of bombing campaigns — especially fitful ones — has proven misplaced before. Bombing campaigns failed to bring Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to heel on their own. And Iran-aligned militias in Iraq and Syria have shrugged off Western airstrikes, seeing them as badges of honor — much like the Houthis, who, ironically, were removed from the U.S. terror list by Biden in 2021. They seem to be relishing their moment in the big leagues.

War-tested, battle-hardened and agile, the Houthis are well-equipped thanks to Iran, and they can expect military replenishment from Tehran. They also have a firm grip on their territory. Like Hamas, the Houthis aren’t bothered by the death and destruction they may bring down on their people, making them particularly difficult to cajole into anything. And if the U.S. is to force the pace, it may well be dragged in deeper, as the only way to stop Iran replenishing the Houthis would be to mount a naval blockade of Yemen.

Few seasoned analysts think the Houthis will cave easily. Tom Sharpe, a former Royal Navy captain and specialist anti-air warfare officer, said he’d suggest “just walk[ing] away.”

“Make going round the Cape the new normal,” he wrote last week, albeit acknowledging he’d expect his advice to be overruled due to the global economic implications. But degrading the Houthis enough to make the Red Sea safe again, he noted, would be “difficult to do without risking a wider regional conflict in which the U.S., U.K. and friends would be seen as fighting on the Israeli side.”

And that is half the problem. Now ensnared in the raging conflict, in the eyes of many in the region, Western powers are seen as enabling the death and destruction being visited on Gaza. And as the civilian death toll in the Palestinian enclave mounts, Israel’s Western supporters are increasingly being criticized for not doing enough to restrain the country, which is determined to ensure Hamas can never repeat what it did on October 7.

Admittedly, Israel is combating a merciless foe that is heedless of the Gazan deaths caused by its actions. The more Palestinians killed, the greater the international outrage Hamas can foment, presenting itself as victim rather than aggressor. But Israel has arguably fallen into Hamas’ trap, with the mounting deaths and burgeoning humanitarian crisis now impacting opinion in the region and more widely.

A recent poll conducted for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that 96 percent of the broader Arab world believe Arab nations should now sever ties with Israel. And in Britain, Foreign Secretary David Cameron told a parliamentary panel he feared Israel has “taken action that might be in breach of international law.”

Meanwhile, in addition to issuing warnings to Iran, Hezbollah, and others in the Axis of Resistance to stay out of it, Biden has also cautioned Israeli leaders about wrath — urging the Israeli war Cabinet not to “repeat mistakes” made by the U.S. after 9/11.

However, according to a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, 75 percent of Jewish Israelis think the country should ignore U.S. demands to shift to a phase of war with reduced heavy bombing in populous areas, and 57 percent support opening a second front in the north and taking the fight to Hezbollah. Additionally, Gallup has found Israelis have lost faith in a two-state solution, with 65 percent of Jewish Israelis opposing an independent Palestinian state.

So, it looks as though Israel is in no mood to relent — and doesn’t believe it can afford to.



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Smog obscures Dubai skyline on ‘Health’ day at COP28 climate summit

Dubai’s glitzy skyline was obscured by a blanket of smog rated as “unhealthy” on Sunday as thousands of delegates attended the fourth day of the COP28 summit, which was designated as “health” day and where topics of discussion include air quality and the unhealthy affects of climate change. 

  • ​​​​​Hillary Clinton calls for insurance reform at COP28 UN climate talks 

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Sunday for reform of the insurance sector, where companies are increasingly withdrawing assistance against climate shocks.

Lower-income countries and workers in nations most affected by climate change are struggling to access insurance to help protect them from economic shocks.

“We need to rethink the insurance industry,” Clinton said during a panel on women and climate resiliency at the summit in Dubai. “Insurance companies are pulling out of so many places. They’re not insuring homes. They’re not insuring businesses.”

  • COP28 delegates urge greater action on climate-linked health risks

Physicians, activists and country representatives at this year’s COP28 summit have called for greater global efforts to protect people from the increasing health and safety risks posed by climate change.

With global temperatures set to continue climbing for decades, experts say countries will need to boost funding for healthcare as heatwaves become more dangerous and diseases like malaria and cholera spread.

Climate-related impacts “have become one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century”, COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber said in a statement.

  • Former US vice president Gore takes aim at host UAE’s emissions

Armed with satellite images of pipelines, former US vice president and climate champion Al Gore singled out the emissions of the United Arab Emirates at the COP28 talks in the oil-rich monarchy on Sunday.

Gore and Climate TRACE, an independent emissions tracker, had a message in Dubai to countries and industries around the world: no one can hide their emissions anymore.

Using a network of 300 satellites and artificial intelligence, Climate TRACE can now monitor emissions from more than 352 million sites from 10 industries.

Its data showed the UAE’s greenhouse gas emissions rose by 7.5 percent in 2022 from the previous year, compared to a 1.5 percent increase for the entire world.

“In large regions of the world, it’s very uncommon to have any self-reporting” of emissions, Gore said.

Speaking in the main plenary room of the COP 28 site, Gore pointed to huge monitors showing satellite images of the major emitting sites in the UAE.

Another map showed leaks from pipelines.

  • Air pollution soars in Dubai on ‘Health’ day at COP28

Dubai‘s skyline was obscured by a blanket of smog rated as “unhealthy” on Sunday as thousands of delegates attended the fourth day of the COP28 summit.

The air quality index reached 155 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5 pollution — the fine particulate matter that is most harmful, as it can enter the bloodstream — according to WAQI.info, a real-time pollution tracker.

In “unhealthy” air quality, “everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects,” the website warns.

Hazy conditions have been noticeable over the first few days of COP28, where negotiators are trying to hammer out a global agreement to reduce emissions and curb climate change.

Sunday is designated as “health” day at COP28, where topics under discussion include air quality and the unhealthy effects of climate change.

Outdoor air pollution driven by fossil fuel emissions kills more than four million people a year, according to the World Health Organization, as it increases the risk of respiratory diseases, strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and other problems.

The damage is caused partly by PM2.5 microparticles, which mostly come from fossil fuels burned in transportation and industry.

COP28 is unfolding about 11 kilometres (seven miles) from the Jebel Ali Power and Desalination Complex, the world’s biggest gas-fuelled power station.

  • Suez Canal and Scatec sign $1.1 billion green methanol MoU

Egypt‘s Suez Canal economic zone and Scatec ASA have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) worth $1.1 billion to supply ships with green fuel, a Suez Canal statement said on Sunday.

The MoU, agreed on the sidelines of COP28, envisages production of 100,000 tonnes of green methanol per year by 2027, the statement said.

  • Global regulators propose tougher scrutiny of voluntary carbon markets

A global securities watchdog proposed 21 safety measures on Sunday to improve integrity, transparency and enforcement in voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) in a sector of growing importance to efforts to combat climate change.

IOSCO, which groups market watchdogs from Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States, launched a 90-day public consultation on a set of good practices for national regulators to apply.

“VCMs have gained significant importance in recent years. But for these markets to succeed, they need integrity – both environmental and financial,” Rodrigo Buenaventura, chair of IOSCO’s sustainable finance taskforce, told an event at COP 28 on Sunday.

VCMs cover pollution-reducing projects, such as reforestation, renewable energy, biogas and solar power, that generate carbon credits companies buy to offset their emissions and meet net-zero targets.

  • Indonesia and the Asian Development Bank agree to deal to shutter coal-fired power plant early

 

Indonesia and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have agreed to a provisional deal with the owners of the Cirebon-1 coal-fired power plant to shutter it almost seven years earlier than planned, the ADB’s senior climate change energy specialist told Reuters.

The deal, announced during the COP28 talks in Dubai, is the first under the ADB’s Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM) programme, which aims to help countries cut their climate-damaging carbon emissions.

Supporting a $20 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership agreed last year that aims to bring forward the sector’s peak emissions date to 2030, the ADB hopes to replicate it across other countries in the region.

“If we don’t address these coal plants, we’re not going to meet our climate goals,” ADB’s David Elzinga said on the sidelines of the conference.

“By doing this pilot transaction, we are learning what it takes to make this happen,” Elzinga said. “We’re very much shaping this as something we want to take to other countries.”

ADB also has active ETM programmes in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, and is considering transactions in two other countries, it said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)

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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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Could exiled former Palestinian leader Mohammed Dahlan lead Gaza after the Israel-Hamas war?

The former leader of Fatah in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, has been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates for the past 10 years, where he has become a successful businessman. Born in the Palestinian coastal enclave, Dahlan is a powerful financial force in Gaza and an influential figure in the wider region – if Hamas fell, could he return to power?

Gaza’s former strongman Mohammed Dahlan has now spent more than a decade in exile in the UAE but rather than fade from the spotlight, he has amassed a new kind of power as a businessman and adviser to President Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.  

Despite his long absence from the Palestinian Territories, Dahlan is still thought of as a potential leader in Gaza – if Hamas were removed from power. 

“Mohammed Dahlan is from Gaza and is one of the heroes of the first intifada [the Palestinian uprising aimed at ending Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank in 1987 to 1993],” said FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Israel, Stéphane Amar. 

“He has support from Israel and support from the United States – but the question is whether he will be able to impose his power. There are multiple options on the table if Israel were to succeed in ousting Hamas from the Gaza Strip.” 

“Dahlan is compatible with Israel,” added Frédéric Encel, professor at Sciences Po in Paris and specialist in the geopolitics of the Middle East. “He was one of the first [Palestinian leaders] to accept the two-state solution and to stop calls for violence.” 

Dahlan was involved in negotiating the Oslo Accords in 1993 – an aborted peace settlement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization – and attended talks with Israel while he held positions in the security services. 

But his relationship with Israel did not please all Palestinians, Encel said, and the former leader never attained the popularity of figureheads such as Marwan Barghouti – dubbed “the Mandela of Palestine”. 

Barghouti (ex-leader of Tanzim, the paramilitary faction of Fatah founded by Yasser Arafat in 1995) has been imprisoned in Israel for more than 20 years, serving several life sentences after being convicted of masterminding suicide bombings in Israel. 

Read moreCan Marwan Barghouti, the ‘Palestinian Mandela’, bring peace to Gaza?

Allies and enemies 

Dahlan also spent a large part of the 1980s in Israeli prisons, being arrested 11 times for his leading role in a Palestinian political party, Fatah. While in prison in Israel, he learned to speak fluent Hebrew, according to The Economist, which ran an interview with the former leader in October.  

Even if Dahlan does not have the public profile of Barghouti, he possesses other tactical assets, notably his contacts on all sides of the conflict. 

Born in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, he grew up alongside many current Hamas leaders before becoming a fierce opponent of the Palestinian Islamist movement. As head of Gaza’s preventive security force (1994-2002), he was accused of torturing Hamas members. 

He has a similarly complex relationship with Fatah. Dahlan was the Palestinian Authority’s security adviser when it lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas in 2007. Formerly a leading figure in the movement, he faced opposition from within the party, especially from the inner circle of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas ordered Dahlan into exile in 2011 after making various accusations against the Gazan politician including embezzlement and plotting an internal coup against Abbas, which Dahlan denied.  

Dahlan was convicted in absentia on corruption charges by a Palestinian court in 2016. 

Read moreCan the Palestinian Authority lead a post-Hamas Gaza Strip?

An influential network 

In exile in the United Arab Emirates, Dahlan reinvented himself as a successful businessman, building an impressive international network of friends in high places. He has found a role as the protégé of the ruler of Abu Dhabi, whom he has known since 1993, and who has presented Dahlan in public as his “brother”.   

During his time in the UAE, Dahlan has also forged a relationship with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over a shared enemy: the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group of which Hamas is the outgrowth and Palestinian branch. 

“The Emirates turned Dahlan into their sub-contractor in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood,” an anonymous source told a Palestinian journalist for Le Monde in 2017. “Of all the second-generation Palestinian leaders, [Dahlan] is the one that has the most contacts in high places in the region. He has built a far-reaching network.”

The French newspaper revealed in its article that the Palestinian politician has become the holder of a Serbian passport gifted by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for Dahlan’s “good services” after the UAE landed lucrative contracts in the Balkan country.  

Le Monde suggested than Dahlan may also have played a role in the possible delivery of Emirati arms acquired in the Balkans for military strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose forces dominate eastern Libya. 

$50 million per year for Gaza 

Thanks to the patronage he has received in the UAE, Dahlan has also developed a business portfolio that allows him to distribute extensive aid within Gaza.  

He claimed to have sent around $50 million annually from the UAE to Gaza in his interview with The Economist, and to have set up a support network for refugee camps in the West Bank. 

Dahlan’s good relations with Egypt have enabled significant crossings at the Rafah border, such as in 2015 when Egyptian authorities allowed his wife Jalila to enter Gaza with suitcases filled with cash for a UAE-funded mass wedding for couples in financial need. 

In recent years, Dahlan has used UAE funds to distribute food, student loans and unemployment support in Gaza, as well as delivering thousands of Covid vaccines in 2021 – more than the Palestinian Authority itself. 

New Palestinian leadership 

Even though he lives overseas, Dahlan remains a powerful figure in Gaza. The UAE is also influential and will have a significant role to play when the time comes to rebuild Gaza, Encel said. 

“If Hamas is defeated, it is not Qatar – which has close ties to the Islamist group – that will rebuild Gaza. Abu Dhabi holds one of the keys, and if Hamas is destroyed it will have a say in who the successor is,” Encel said. 

Despite hinting in the past that he could run for Palestinian leadership, Dahlan denied he wanted the role when asked by The Economist in October. 

Instead, he advised “a two-year transitional period with an administration run by technocrats in Gaza and the West Bank” to reunify Palestine, followed by parliamentary elections open to all parties including Hamas. 

“Hamas will not disappear,” he said, adding that even after the war governance in Gaza would require working with the militant group. 

A newly elected government could be supported by Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but would also need to be supported by the wider international community, including Israel, he said. 

Dahlan remained optimistic such a solution was possible, saying the past month of fighting had reignited discussion around the Palestinian cause, ending a period of “zero hope”. 

Even so, his vision for the Palestinian Territories clashes directly with that put forward by Israel. 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US network ABC on November 6 that Israel planned to maintain security responsibility in Gaza “for an indefinite period”. 

“We’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it,” Netanyahu said. “When we don’t have that security responsibility what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine.” 

This article is an adaptation of the original in French.



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We have to back COP28. It’s the most ambitious climate plan in history

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

If COP28 brokers a global climate deal on these proposals, it would help fast-track a just transition away from fossil fuels. If it fails, the chances of such a transition will be dangerously diminished, Prof İbrahim Özdemir writes.

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Climate change dominated this month’s United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, which set the agenda for the major UN COP28 climate talks later this year hosted by the UAE. 

Those talks will be humanity’s last chance to get a global agreement to avoid dangerous climate change.

Yet confidence in COP28 has been tarnished by reports of greenwashing and fossil fuel lobbying. Many feel apathetic about the world’s seventh-largest oil producer hosting the UN climate negotiations.

Yet, research published by Uskudar University and the UN-accredited Caribbean-ASEAN Council shows that this thinking is downright dangerous — because it could fatally derail the most ambitious climate action agenda in history.

Dr Al Jaber is no ‘oil man’

Seven colleagues from across the Global South and I teamed up to conduct a detailed comparative analysis of the goals and actions of the five most recent COP presidencies.

After comparing COP28’s proposals and actual actions to the agenda and behaviour of previous COP presidencies, we discovered that the widespread belief that this COP28 represents the worst climate conference of all time is completely unfounded.

For instance, the characterisation of Dr Sultan Al Jaber as an “oil man” by the Western press is misleading. 

Al Jaber in fact founded and ran the UAE state-owned renewable energy company in 2006. About a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed vowed at a UAE government summit that the country would celebrate the shipment of “the last barrel of oil” by the mid-21st century.

Then in January 2016, the UAE’s Cabinet Ministry held a “Post-Oil” strategy retreat to end dependence on fossil fuel production. 

The next month, the UAE formally launched and adopted a national strategy for life after oil, and only in this context was Al Jaber moved from his role at Masdar to become CEO of the state-owned oil company Adnoc.

Stuck between fossil fuel and a hard place

Since then, Adnoc has made huge strides, with 100% of its power coming from clean electricity produced from nuclear and solar. 

Although criticised for planning to invest $150 billion (€141bn) in oil and gas expansion, our analysis reveals that the total value of the renewable energy projects planned by the UAE with various partners this decade, both domestically and globally, is far higher and amounts to over $300bn (€282bn).

This is not only larger than the UAE’s planned fossil fuel investments, it is considerably bigger than investments mobilised by previous COP presidencies into clean energy. 

Our conclusion is that the COP28 presidency is attempting to strike a difficult balance confronting developing nations: protecting their prosperity while safeguarding the planet.

As Dr Sultan Al Jaber stated in his speech to the UN Climate Ambition Summit at the General Assembly meeting in New York, the “phasedown” of fossil fuels is both “inevitable” and “essential”. 

But we cannot simply eliminate fossil fuels when the new energy system has not yet been built, which is why he urged a “rapid phase up of zero carbon alternatives” and efforts to “rapidly and comprehensively decarbonise the energies we use today.”

Indeed, emerging markets and population growth will drive growth in electricity demand of up to 185% by 2050. 

Yet as Al Jaber also warned, within the next seven years we have to simultaneously grow our energy supply while slashing 22 gigatonnes of carbon emissions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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We cannot afford to do this by suddenly eliminating fossil fuel production — the Russian gas crisis showed that even a modest deficit in global energy will spark an intolerable global economic catastrophe. 

That’s why we need to simultaneously increase and decarbonise the global energy supply.

There is a promising road we could take

Our investigation of the key components of the COP28 agenda suggests it offers a promising pathway to achieve this.

Tripling renewable energy capacity in the next seven years will reduce its costs to around a quarter of the current cost of fossil fuels, a prospect that would drive them to rapidly outcompete fossil fuels well within the next 20 years.

While scaling up renewables, a commitment to both “phasedown” fossil fuels, and “phaseout” fossil fuel production where carbon emissions are not captured, will incentivise governments to avoid fossil fuel companies that ignore this commitment. 

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As we cannot simply end fossil fuel production in seven years, ramping up carbon capture as quickly as possible is the only way to reduce emissions in this time frame. 

Although carbon capture is not yet commercially viable, our report points out how partnering with renewable energy could make it commercial in the late 2020s.

Governments need to use both sticks and carrots to get fossil fuel industries to move as rapidly as possible.

Restructuring climate financing to make it low-cost and reduce debt burdens could finally unlock the trillions of dollars the developing world desperately needs to fast-track its energy transitions while simultaneously industrialising.

It’s all about fast-tracking a just transition

The climate action plan proposed by the UAE’s presidency of this year’s COP climate summit offers the most ambitious agenda ever put forward by a COP presidency in 28 years.

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If COP28 brokers a global climate deal on these proposals, it would help fast-track a just transition away from fossil fuels. If it fails, the chances of such a transition will be dangerously diminished.

That’s why we believe it’s time for governments and civil society to seize this groundbreaking opportunity for the world to unite on robust climate action.

Professor İbrahim Özdemir is a UN advisor and an ecologist teaching at Üsküdar University. He has served as Director-General at the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Ministry of Education and was a leading member in drafting the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change endorsed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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BRICS hypocrisy on offshore reform

Andrea Binder is a Freigeist fellow and research group leader at the Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin and the author of “Offshore Finance and State Power.” Ricardo Soares de Oliveira is professor of the International Politics of Africa at Oxford University and is currently writing a monograph titled “Africa Offshore.”

Of all the challenges in global governance discussed at the latest BRICS summit in Johannesburg, the role of offshore financial centers should have loomed large. Instead, the issue barely got a noncommittal half paragraph on page eight of the summit’s 26-page declaration.

In an example of breathtaking hypocrisy, BRICS countries rail against the global financial architecture but offer no collective action on offshore banking, and they also continue to be among its major users themselves.

Data leaks such as the Pandora Papers and Panama Papers have shown just how vast amounts of cash end up in jurisdictions that cater to wealthy nonresidents by offering secrecy, asset protection and tax exemption. And according to economist Gabriel Zucman $7.8 trillion — or about 8 percent of global wealth (and 40 percent of corporate profits) — are currently hidden in such tax havens.

What’s interesting is that a considerable share of this originates from BRICS and other developing countries. The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, for instance, estimates that $88.6 billion leave Africa every year in the form of illicit capital flight, much of it ending up offshore.

The fact that this offshore world is underpinned by the interests of the rich world and also a majorly exacerbates global inequality should fire up BRICS countries.

And certainly, they are quite vocal in denouncing the role of offshore finance: In the 2020 Moscow Summit declaration, for instance, BRICS member countries reiterated their “commitment to combating illicit financial flows, money laundering and financing of terrorism and to closely cooperating within the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the FATF-style regional bodies […], as well as other multilateral, regional and bilateral fora.” They have also rightly called out the West for setting up these mechanisms decades ago.

In practice, however, whatever global multilateral action is currently being taken is at the level of the G7 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — even if these ambivalent reforms are often protective of the West’s offshore interests. BRICS countries, meanwhile, do almost nothing, despite being the largest global source of capital flight, according to a 2014 report by Global Financial Integrity.

And this lack of multilateral action perfectly aligns with the way individual BRICS countries have engaged with the offshore world thus far.

Brazil currently stands as the world’s second largest borrower from offshore financial markets. India long accepted a double-taxation agreement with Mauritius, which enabled significant foreign direct investment and tax avoidance by the wealthy until 2016. The country also created of an offshore financial center in Gujarat. Meanwhile, Russia’s hydrocarbons are traded through opaque offshore jurisdictions, and its elites have notoriously thrived in such systems. Then, there’s perhaps the most significant — and counterintuitive — stakeholder in the offshore world, which is China. Its state-owned enterprises are major users of jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands, where they register secretive subsidiaries.

In short, BRICS countries are just as implicated in the offshore world as the Western economies they lambast. The reality is that their governments and political elites both benefit from and need the offshore financial world — and there are four reasons for this:

First, these countries engage in institutional arbitrage by accessing more efficient institutions — and, sometimes, institutions that don’t exist domestically, like credible contracts or a non-political judiciary — offshore.

They also seek access to cheaper and less constrained financing in offshore money markets, where they get access to the U.S. dollar and international investors that are unavailable onshore.

Heavily hit by sanctions — as in the case of Russia since 2022 — the offshore world is also a lifeline for BRICS countries, allowing for the circumvention of punitive measures.

And finally, BRICS elites frequently use such facilities for their own personal purposes, including hiding illicit money and assets.

Thus, closing these discretionary offshore avenues may well have implications for their personal survival — or the survival of their regimes.

This is why multilateral action from BRICS members remains rhetorical at best. And unilaterally, they either do nothing, or selectively implement anti-offshore measures as political tools of regime consolidation and to punish rivals. While continuing to criticize the West, they also voice few qualms regarding the thriving offshore roles of Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates or Singapore.

The latest summit declaration’s vague language of “international cooperation” and “mutual legal assistance” simply highlighted all this once more, and it even eschewed the previous declaration’s references to the FATF or anything smacking of coordination with the West.

And while de-dollarization was again bandied about, BRICS countries remain keen on access to offshore dollars. Moreover, several of the bloc’s newly admitted states have deeply problematic records when it comes to money laundering and illicit financial flows. This is especially true of the UAE — an aggressively growing offshore financial center with dense layers of secrecy, and which the FATF placed on its “grey list” due to “strategic deficiencies” in its efforts to counter money laundering.

Given all this, what are the chances of BRICS-initiated reform in this area? Realistically, the only reason they would take action is because they care about their own regime stability. Though offshore mechanisms may seem like useful short-term levers, their long-term impact is likely to have troubling consequences for their economies. In time, offshore finance supercharges inequality and begets financial instability, which can lead to the toppling of regimes. Brazil experienced this first-hand in the 1982 financial crisis, which had a significant offshore component.

Of course, Russia’s dependence on offshore financial facilities to circumvent sanctions means it can be written off as reformer. But one would hope that some of the others might belatedly come to see an enlightened self-interest in going beyond their rhetoric.

For now, however, even this seems highly unlikely as, in the immediate future, the availability of offshore services continues to come in handy, while their negative impact on domestic inequality remain largely hidden from public view.

Besides, fighting domestic inequality isn’t really a major concern for many of these governments anyway.



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