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Conclusion of the World Climate Action Summit: Sounding the alarm on decarbonization and methane slashing

Heads of State gathered for the conclusion of the WCAS. Leaders of developing countries such as Vice President David Choquehuanca Céspedes expressed their frustrations on climate inaction (Photo credit: UNFCCC)

Highlights of Day 2 of the World Climate Action Summit

Day 3 of COP28 marked the conclusion of the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS) where Heads of State continued to deliver their statements. Some of the notable statements include David Choquehuanca Céspedes, Vice President of the Plurinational state of Bolivia, who strongly emphasized that “the Indigenous, the first people of Mother Earth, never had to adapt to a world of imbalance and division…Developing countries have prepared a broad path for developed countries who rely on our resources and yet trample all over us and do not allow us to tread the path with them.” He reiterated that climate justice cannot be attained without first understanding life sciences.

From the Great Ocean States, Kausea Natano, Tuvalu Prime Minister, spoke about the impacts of sea level rise the island states face that has now become their reality, and proceeded to endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, welcomed the Loss and Damage fund but warned that the financial institutions need to be decapitalized. She also emphasized that adaptation needs are part of the equation by stating “for every dollar we spend before disasters happen, it saves $7 in damages and indeed in loss of lives.”

“I am with you” are the resounding words of Pope Francis, delivered by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on his behalf. “I am with you because the destruction of the environment is an offence against God is a sin that is not only personal but also structural, one that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations. I am with you because climate change is “a global social issue and one intimately related to the dignity of human life”.” The address emphasized that multilateralism is the way forward but not without trust, and appealed to the Parties gathered to choose life and the future.

Ongoing negotiations and agreements reached

Parallel to the WCAS, negotiations on the different COP28 workstreams continued. One of the negotiations was the Informal Consultation held by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SB 8) on the Global Stocktake. The process mainly involved Parties (countries) sharing contributions to enhance the draft text on SBSTA 59 agenda item 8: Matters relating to the Global Stocktake. Key points were mainly on bridging the adaptation gap such as doubling of adaptation finance, and a further articulation on maladaptation practices. Before the session started, observers present in the meeting room were requested to give up their seats due to the lack of space for Party representatives who arrived late.

Day 3 of COP28 also marked several key commitments, one of which is the Biden Administration’s pledge to slash 80% of methane emissions by 2038. The COP28 presidency launched the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Chapter (OGDC), a voluntary pledge speed up climate action and slash methane emissions by 2030. Over 50 companies, representing more than 40% of global oil production have signed on, yet the OGDC was scrutinized by civil society groups and environmental advocates. Oil Change International stated that “OGDC is a dangerous distraction from the COP28 process”, and that legal agreements to reduce fossil fuel burning are what is needed.

To further speed up the world’s momentum on decarbonization, 118 countries have committed to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030. 22 countries have signed on and launched the Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy by 2050 that “recognizes the Key Role of Nuclear Energy in Keeping Within Reach the Goal of Limiting Temperature Rise to 1.5 Degrees Celsius.” This landmark agreement was once again met with criticism from advocates. Masayoshi Iyoda, a campaigner from Japan recounted the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster in 2011 and told The Guardian that “there is no space for dangerous nuclear power to accelerate the decarbonization needed to achieve the Paris climate goal…it is nothing more than a dangerous distraction.”

An interfaith dialogue on integral ecology, and loss and damage

In the Faith Pavilion far from the main halls, as the WCAS and negotiations ensued, faith actors at COP28 listened to a session on Integral Ecology Faith-Based Journeys: Strategies for Overcoming Technocratic Approach to Climate Change facilitated by the Laudato Si’ Research Institute. The session listened to how diverse faith communities practiced care for nature. Pope Francis in Laudate Deum highlighted how care for Creation is deeply ingrained in all faith traditions and beliefs.

Catholic actors then presented the Loss and Damage: The Moral Case for Action that was signed by faith leaders across the world. The statement emphasizes that to truly meet the needs of climate vulnerable communities, the Loss and Damage fund needs to be accessible, comprehensive, restorative, and efficient and effective. 

Just transition and decarbonization

In a span of three days of COP, landmark agreements to slash emissions were launched, contributions to climate finance and pledges to the Loss and Damage Fund were made. These are indeed positive steps and are welcomed, however, an agreement to phase out fossil fuels has yet to be made clear.

Moreover, the current pathways of energy to decarbonization are dominated by green energy technologies. How extensive are the resources that need to be pooled to fast-track this path to decarbonization? Then, what does this further entail? This does not necessarily mean that the transition is just.

A truly just transition is human rights centered and does not further compromise livelihood security and the natural environment. A lot more can happen in the remaining 10 days, it is critical to be vigilant, remain engaged, and hopeful.

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