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Urgency, hope, and integrity at the mid-point of COP28

Inside the Global Stocktake Negotiations (photo credit: COP28 UAE)

Day Six of COP started with the release of the draft text on matters relating to the Global Stocktake (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice or SBSTA 59, agenda item 5). Highlights of the draft text include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Emphasized the critical role of multilateralism and international cooperation to achieve socioeconomic development (p.19, para. 168)
  • Called for an orderly and just phaseout of fossil fuels [p.6, para. 35(c)]
  • Tripling of renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 [p.5, para. 35(a)]
  • Scaling up by 2030 low-emission technologies “such as carbon capture and storage” [p.5, para. 35(a)]
  • Acknowledged the insufficiency of climate finance provision as estimated adaptation costs “are now approximately 10–18 times as much as international public adaptation finance flows.” (p.8, para. 68)
  • Called for the establishment of an implementation programme of the Loss and Damage fund and adaptation fund (p.14, para. 122)

The mention of a just fossil fuel phaseout is a significant advancement, however it is critical to stay vigilant with technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) being proposed as solutions. CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide produced by industrial activities, transporting, and storing the captured carbon deep underground. CCS technologies are not operable at the present time.

It is also disconcerting that there are no references in the text to food security in the climate action. Several civil society groups are in the process of engaging their country negotiators to push for the inclusion of food systems as the text undergoes further negotiations.

Amnesty International, Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition, and Global Witness reported an alarming number of 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP28. This heavily overshadowed representation from the most climate vulnerable nations (only 1,509 combined), and official indigenous representatives (316). While fossil fuel companies are part of the solution and were openly invited into the COP process for collaborative accountability, this was not the felt experience.

These are complexities, injustices, that undermine the credibility of the COP process, and  posit a genuine challenge for civil society and faith-based groups to remain engaged and act as a collective to call for justice and accountability.

Voices of integrity and hope from our Ecojesuit partners

The Holy See delegation and Caritas Internationalis held an event on Addressing Loss & Damages through a shared understanding of Human Development & Ecology. It was raised that putting monetary equivalent on non-economic losses and damages such as cultures, languages, lives, and spiritual connections with the land strips away its value. Leonard Chiti SJ shared the experiences of communities in Southern Africa that have been hit hard by two consecutive tropical cyclones, leaving community members traumatized. The Jesuit Provinces in South Africa and the Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development (JCED) accompanied affected communities through psycho-spiritual counseling another key part of the non-economic loss.

Leonard Chiti SJ (leftmost) shares African perspectives on non-economic losses and damages (photo credit: UNFCCC)

Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA) led by Charles Chilufya SJ at the Faith Pavilion facilitated a session entitled A Just Transition for Africa: Mining for Climate Change Mitigation – Faith and Theological Perspectives that delved into the intricate balance between the extraction of technology minerals, vital for modern solutions to climate change, and the ethical considerations of such practices. The event emphasized faith’s pivotal role in molding environmentally and ethically responsible mining practices.

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong from the Archdiocese of Suva, Fiji, brought forward the concerns and voices of the Great Ocean States in various speaking engagements. Archbishop Loy Chong made an intervention at a high-level party event hosted by Tuvalu entitled Nation-states join forces to pursue a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiating mandate, by highlighting the Indigenous spirituality the Pacific Islanders have with the ocean, and that the treaty is “a step towards the protection of human existence, identity, and dignity”. In the side-event hosted by the Holy See, he also emphasized how practices such as deep-sea mining to keep up with the demands of minerals for renewable energy equipment is a form of neo-colonialism.

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong highlights the Indigenous spirituality of Pacific Islanders at a high-level event on the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (photo credit: UNFCCC)

Loss and Damage Fund: What Next? was a side event organized by CIDSE, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), Christian Aid, ActionAid International, the Maryknoll Sisters of Saint Dominic Inc., and Climate Action Network – International. The event explored actions and paths forward for civil society to lobby for equitable access and just governance in the operationalization of the fund, and reiterated the need for financial architecture reforms of funding institutions. The panelists (which included Mary Criselle Mejillano of the Ecojesuit Network Secretariat) held a fruitful exchange with the audience and rallied to remain engaged starting at the national level to ensure direct access of climate vulnerable communities to the fund.

At the end of the day, Laudato Si’ Movement, Carmelite NGO, Boston College, VIVAT International, and Catholic Relief Services, urged COP28 decision makers to make bold decisions about climate change mitigation, just energy transition, and integral human development, among others, at a side event entitled Global Catholic Letter on Climate Change to the COP28 Presidency. Archbishop Peter Loy Chong shared a song he composed “Climate Change Lament” that uplifts the cries of Pacific Islanders as they suffer the impacts of the climate crisis.

COP28 is now halfway through with a host of questions and concerns still unanswered and humanity extremely vulnerable. Many have already made their contribution in an event or segment of the negotiations and have returned home. In the following week, people will start returning to their homes and face the existential realities of their own people and their survival in a changing climate. Amid the constraints and difficulties of the process and accountability, civil society organizations know they have a critical role in keeping up the urgency and integrity of each text under negotiation, while sharing a sense of hope. 

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