John Kerry and Sultan al-Jaber

United Arab Emirates' minister of industry and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, attends an event alongside U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on January 14, 2023.

(Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images)

Is COP28 Rigged to Fail From the Start?

We can't let those opposed to a livable future win the battle now being waged over where our energy comes from.

More than 70,000 people from nearly 200 countries — including an estimated 700+ fossil fuel industry lobbyists (there were 636 at the last conference) — are arriving this week in Dubai for the opening of the 28th “Conference Of Parties” (COP28) that are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP is the main decision-making body of the UNFCCC.

And already the Republican Party is doing what it can to sabotage any efforts by the Biden administration to help the world adapt to climate change while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

The Council on Foreign Relations notes that for most of the poor nations of the world, “women, girls, and historically marginalized people, are bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change…”

COP28 will help focus world and media attention on the climate emergency that 50 years of intentional lies funded by the world’s largest fossil fuel producers have helped create.

Through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), America has been funding efforts to help these groups deal with the impacts of the climate emergency. As the CFR notes:

“But the current divisive political climate within Congress has put programs like this in its crosshairs. Despite the program’s timeliness—with weather and climate extremes increasing in every region across the globe—Congress recently defunded the program. The money previously authorized for this work was withdrawn on the grounds that the money would potentially support abortion services or advocacy abroad, violating the Helms Amendment.”

Abortion, however, is purely a red herring being used by House Republicans to undercut pretty much any efforts by the US government to help a world now afire in part because of American greenhouse gas emissions and the lies promulgated for decades by massive US oil, coal, and methane companies that heavily fund the GOP.

As the CFR notes in the next paragraph:

“The premise of this attack is entirely and demonstrably false. … USAID funding to Global Fund for Women is used solely for climate resilience and crisis response work. Yet the funds were still revoked.”

And that’s just Republican opposition to helping the poor countries of the world deal with the consequences of US emissions. Taking any serious steps to cut fossil fuel production or consumption — after the Biden Administration’s spectacular success with the Inflation Reduction Act’s $369 billion dedicated to climate change passed in the last Congress — are now on hold.

As Politico notes:

“GOP control of Congress’ lower chamber will make it hard to do more internationally.”

Meanwhile, the fossil fuel producing nations of the world are banding together to block serious efforts at shifting the world away from their products and toward renewable energy sources.

In a particularly cynical move, a Saudi program called the “Oil Demand Sustainability Programme (ODSP)” is reaching out to poor countries, particularly in Africa, to encourage them to expand their use of oil to power transportation, housing, and electricity.

Instead of helping poor countries solarize their power systems and electrify their transportation sector, they’re encouraging them to build oil-fired power plants to generate electricity and manufacture more low-cost gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and trucks.

The Guardianquotes Mohamed Adow, the director of the thinktank Power Shift Africa:

“The Saudi government is like a drug dealer trying to get Africa hooked on its harmful product.
“The rest of the world is weaning itself off dirty and polluting fossil fuels and Saudi Arabia is getting desperate for more customers and is turning its sights on Africa. It’s repulsive.”

Similarly, Russia — a country with an economy about the size of Italy that is almost entirely based on fossil fuel production — has declared their intention to block any efforts to reduce demand for the oil and gas they produce. As Politico notes:

“[T]here are signs Russia’s geopolitical gambit could disrupt the talks both this year and next year…”

This COP28 meeting is being held in the capital city of the world’s seventh largest producer of fossil fuels. As Meteor Blades notes at Daily Kos:

“Now, you might be saying to yourself, isn’t having a climate conference in a monarchical petrostate kind of like having a middle school on Jeffrey Epstein’s island? You wouldn’t be wrong.”

Nonetheless, COP28 will help focus world and media attention on the climate emergency that 50 years of intentional lies funded by the world’s largest fossil fuel producers have helped create.

For example, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Antarctica and, this week in advance of COP28, tried to warn the world:

“I have just returned from Antarctica—the sleeping giant. A giant being awoken by climate chaos. Together, Antarctica and Greenland are melting well over three times faster than they were in the early 1990s.
“It is profoundly shocking to stand on the ice of Antarctica and hear directly from scientists how fast the ice is disappearing. …
“Leaders must not let the hopes of people around the world for a sustainable planet melt away.”

Some of the wealthiest and most powerful people, companies, and countries in the world are working to frustrate efforts to salvage a livable planet for us, our children, and our grandchildren.

We can’t let them prevail.

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