COP28 in a time of chaos

Raza Hussain Qazi
Monday, Nov 13, 2023

The raging Israeli violence in Gaza is feared to cast a dark shadow on the upcoming COP28 climate summit as the climate discussions are also not immune to abusive power dynamics and life-destroying events.

The existential threat to humanity in the face of climate change demands consensus rather than division. The horrible humanitarian crisis in Gaza will lead to utter uncertainty over consensus-building efforts which will push crucial global efforts to combat climate change further away, especially the critical support needed by developing countries to manage devastating climate impacts.

The unequivocal US and Western support for Israel’s genocide of the besieged population of Gaza marred efforts to build consensus over global challenges. There is mounting resentment across the Global South over how the US has given carte blanche to Israel to attack Gaza with full force which has been further perpetuated by the Western government’s blanket support to the obliterate human population at enormous scale. The West is being rightly accused of encouraging Israel’s disproportionate use of force to annihilate 2.3 million civilians, including children and women in Gaza.

By siding with the oppressors and persecutors, they have lost all credibility as champions of human rights in the world, as countless citizens can be seen protesting against this inhuman support. Their dual standards can be assessed by the declaration of a recent G20 summit held in New Delhi which condemned Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians to uphold respect for the UN charter and international laws. Paradoxically, they all support Israel’s war crimes in Gaza to restrict water, electricity, gas supplies and bomb hospitals, schools, and ambulances.

All this is allowed to happen at a time when the world needs unified efforts and pooled resources for collective climate action. The deepening distrust has widened the relation gap between the Global North and Global South which will further strain the negotiations at COP28 and beyond. Historically speaking, the division between the climate vanguard and the laggards has never been so wide. Western hypocrisy makes sure it protects its own while leaving others at the mercy of their oppressors. Throughout the climate justice movement, the Global North has proved to be a cog in the wheel of climate justice.

During the year, all five meetings of Technical Committee (TC) on the Loss & Damage Fund (L&D Fund) are a testimony to this apathy on the part of the developed nations where they have put all of their efforts into removing the liability, compensation and Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) principles from the text of the proceedings. The progress on recommendations to COP28 by the fifth TC faced bottlenecks initiated by members of the US who left no stone unturned to stall the progress.

The year-long relentless dialogue on the operationalization of the L&D Fund saw developed nations using every tactic in the book to diminish the breadth and depth of the new Fund, aiming to sidestep their responsibilities. Likewise, their focus remained only on the World Bank to create an unscrupulous hedge on the L&D Fund. The recent synthesis report of the first Global Stocktake said that current global efforts regarding the climate crisis are falling far short of meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals. Remember, among the key mandates of this year’s UN climate negotiations (COP28) are the Global Stocktake, and the operationalizing of the Loss and Damage Fund.

There are many reasons why this text is unacceptably weak – including no obligations for developed countries to pay their fair share into the Loss and Damage Fund and the World Bank (WB) becoming the interim host of the Fund. This uncanny approach on the part of the developed world is to put more impetus to the struggle of the developing countries which are to continue fighting for climate justice for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis and for the immediate delivery of a fit-for-purpose Fund.

As the globe grapples with unparalleled climatic catastrophes, we cannot permit more delays or deceptive maneuvers. The communities bearing the direct brunt of these disasters, though no fault of their own, deserve genuine commitment and action not betrayal.

The enormity and scale of the security and climate crisis underscores the need for the international community to sit together to find sustainable solutions to end the violence which risks wider instability and global spillover. The unprecedented challenge demands to fail all efforts that are meant to derail ongoing global and regional efforts aimed at dialogue, cooperation, and co-existence.

They must not allow nihilistic destruction to overtake a region where people have already suffered prolonged conflicts, devastating wars and protracted climate catastrophes.

The 2023 climate moot is going to be phenomenal at this point, where we are about to witness global fossil fuel leaders, emitters, detractors, and destructors giving long lectures on humanity and cutting carbon emissions. This is to offer you a breathtaking green energy transition mantra by seasoned diplomats, technocrats and politicians from oil-producing nations. Keeping up with the usual dichotomy, the rich will zealously sermonize the poor about the dangers of industrializing economies – after securing hefty profits from multinationals and devouring massive amounts of new gas, coal, and oil. Likewise, the champions of human rights and peace will be worth listening to as they have heroic stories of the thousands of murdered children in Gaza.

The first job for the L&D Fund pundits now is to assess and quickly respond to the mammoth economic and non-economic loss and damage of Gaza. This is going to be a long-haul rebuilding journey as the quantum of devastation is unprecedented. Though the challenge of rebuilding infrastructure will require billions of dollars, the real challenge is to bring children, youth and women out of the psycho-social trauma. By the time the world gathers at COP28, the killing madness might have come to a close. Otherwise, COP28 will remain a futile exercise as has been its past trajectory.

The writer is a climate governance expert who works for global development organizations in the fields of research, advisory, policy analysis, and legislative reforms.He tweets/posts @razashafqat