COP-28 Reflections: Transitioning Away From Petro-State Economics

The 28th Conference of Parties (COP-28) just finished up in Dubai.  Feasta assisted a delegation of (mostly) young people to attend, in order to support the goals of the global youth climate justice movement, and to help promote CapGlobalCarbon and the Cap & Share Climate Alliance, which are Feasta’s proposed approaches for  addressing the problems of climate change and inequality at the international level.

It took over 20 years and 27 conferences to get here, so how did they do this time?

On the plus side, the accord called for “transitioning” away from fossil fuels.  Most advocates would have preferred the term “phase out,” but the fossil fuel interests, which were well-represented in Dubai (and in fact the President of COP-28 is also the President of the UAE State-owned fossil fuel company) vetoed “phase out.”  News articles were left to parse the meaning of “transitioning” versus “phasing out.”

It is also important to note that the text states “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner … so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

Just, orderly, and equitable applies to Feasta’s proposed methodology Cap & Share, so that is something to promote between now and the next COP (see more on Cap & Share below).

Other advocates were not pleased with the outcome.  Greta’s sound bite was “stab in the back,” and Oxfam also expressed disappointment.  A few young people from Ireland, including Feasta delegate Jessica, are in this short RTE (Irish state television) interview, where they describe some of the shortcomings of the result of the COP.

Luckily, the official outcome is not the only thing to take away from COPs.  The COP is also (or maybe mostly) useful as a barometer for who is saying what, and where the energy is being spent in the climate movement.  One of the better events called for a “fast, fair, full, funded & feminist fossil fuel phase out.”

Some of Feasta’s allies, including our partner group Equal Right, were also on hand to promote the recent formation of the Cap & Share Climate Alliance.

As a reminder, the Alliance is looking for organizations to join, who can agree to the following principles:

  1. A carbon cap on the extraction and/or importation of fossil fuels that reduces briskly towards real zero (not ‘net zero’)
  2. No offsets (Allied activities like tree-planting should be undertaken in addition to, not instead of, keeping fossil fuels in the ground.)
  3. A carbon charge applied to companies that extract or import fossil fuels
  4. Carbon dividends that are paid out directly to people
  5. Features and mechanisms that address climate justice, global justice and intergenerational justice
  6. Citizen oversight (a meaningful management role for the people of the world, not just national governments)

In Feasta’s preferred approach, which we call CapGlobalCarbon, a Global Climate Trust is formed by early adopting nations, such as those in BOGA), and a Cap is placed on fossil fuel extraction.  Upstream fossil fuel extraction companies must purchase permits up to the cap, and those funds are returned back to people on an equal per capita basis.  It would result in transfers of wealth from fossil producers to low-income people primarily in the Global South.  If countries join in pairs or groups, it can move from a concept to a reality, and it has more details to it than just saying “Climate Justice Now.”  If your group is part of the Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty or the Civil Society Review, please consider also joining the Alliance.

Finally, a few words about the context of the COP.  Obviously being in Dubai put the petro-politics front and center.  Many Western observers have to consider the strangeness of capitalism without democracy, the rampant inequality, and the Arab nations that are setting up soccer (ahem, football) teams and hosting golf tournaments as they think about their post-oil future.  The inevitable transition from oil money will be part of the climate narrative, and maybe that is the big takeaway from COP28.

In our next blog post we hope to feature the reflections from the Feasta delegates who were on hand to tell us, what was “civil society” like in a country with no middle class?  And no natural resources (except oil)?

The other aspect of context internationally was the wars going on in Ukraine and Israel, and what that means for the Post-WWII order.  President Biden did not attend COP-28, but he was ostensibly attending to democracy-on-life-support at home.  Looking ahead, the narrative of 2024 will link climate protection with democracy protection (and the fight against anti-science disinformation and fascism).

Stay tuned for some more COP-28 commentary, and then, once our delegates have recovered, we can start thinking about the COP-29 summit next year in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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