COP28 was riddled with ironies from day one, being held in the United Arab Emirates, a key oil and gas economy; and led by Sultan Al Jaber, who is the chief executive of the national oil company Adnoc. “Is this a joke?” you might splutter, through increasingly polluted air. Far from a laughing matter, this is the ruling class’s best offer when it comes to ‘combating climate change’.
After another year of record breaking heat waves, extreme weather conditions and wildfires that have cost thousands of people’s lives, we are in a race against the clock to prevent further global warming and adapt to increasingly harsh conditions to ensure people’s safety.
Instead of making things better, this summit has set to pour oil on the flames, as it were.
Conflict of interest
Adnoc is responsible for the largest net-zero busting expansion plans of any company in the world, according to Guardian. Researchers pointed out how “ridiculous” it is for CEO Sultan Al Jaber to be COP28 president, given the rather obvious “conflict of interest”.
In defence of his actions, Sultan Al Jaber disgracefully claimed that there is “no science” that indicates that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed to restrict global warming! He added that “unless you want to take the world back into the caves”, a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development.
Clearly, Al Jaber considered the summit as simply a business opportunity. Leaked documents obtained by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) and seen by the Guardian, revealed that, behind the scenes, Adnoc spoke with 15 countries it wants to work with to extract their oil and gas resources.
So, whilst showy pledges are made, the company proposed in the meantime to help China in evaluating its LNG (liquefied natural gas) opportunities; and in Mozambique, Canada and Australia it “stands ready” to help develop oil and gas reserves.
50 major oil and gas companies ‘pledged’ to cut emissions, but did not even agree to stop drilling. And key companies of global oil production in large producers like China, Iraq, Iran and Qatar did not even bother to add their names.
Empty pledges and backtracking
The Financial Times reported on 11 December that any mention of phasing out fossil fuels has completely been dropped from the draft COP28 agreement. This has caused so much outrage that they had to extend the summit until 13 December.
In the end, they finally agreed on a ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels. They tried to portray this as a ‘historic’ agreement, because (scandalously), no previous COP ever mentioned moving away from oil and gas! Nevertheless, the farcical events outlined above mean we can treat this ‘agreement’ with an industrial quantity of scepticism.
An article by Bloomberg explains that, whether these minimal promises will even become a reality, is all down to “investors, consumers and national governments”. They point out that previous pledges were ignored before, and emissions continued to rise.
Saudi Arabia also put strong pressure against the possibility of agreeing to a ‘phase out’ fossil fuels, as Bloomberg reports:
“As COP28 got into full swing, the kingdom's Energy Minister was asked by Bloomberg News if he'd be happy to see a phase down in the text.
“‘Absolutely not,’ he replied.
“The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries later sent a letter to members, asking them to lobby against any text that targets fossil fuels rather than emissions.”
And so, the final language was watered down to reflect these ‘concerns’.
Climate scientists have repeatedly stated how ‘essential’ it is to stop exploiting more fossil fuel reserves as soon as possible. That it cannot be safely burned without damaging the environment catastrophically. And yet, when Riyadh raises the merest growl, it gets its way.
COP28 has been nothing but a smokescreen. One can hardly be surprised to find that the ruling class puts their own national economic interests ahead of fighting climate change. Especially in a time of world crisis and shrinking markets, their priorities lie with striking profitable trade deals.
It is no surprise that ‘adaptation’ has been pushed for by many officials and activists from climate-vulnerable nations, as it has become extremely urgent. With no end in sight in the burning of fossil fuels, African nations in particular desperately need more funds to build resilience against increased temperatures, droughts and storms.
But this too, has not seen any serious commitments at the summit.
The Independent spoke to Teresa Anderson, a global lead of climate justice at ActionAid International, who called the situation “incredibly frustrating” and added:
“The negotiations haven’t matched the urgency and pace and the type of ambitious commitments we need to see. The trouble is that adaptation money doesn’t give funders a return on investment [our emphasis].”
Does that not sum up the myopic logic of capitalism?
After decades of cuts and austerity, the capitalists are not going to invest money into infrastructure that is simply not profitable. There is no long-term planning as they are solely focussed on the short-term questions of protecting their own markets and profits.
However, as they are kicking the can down the road, exacerbating these problems, it is only making adaptation in the future extraordinarily expensive.
COP28 has surely played a role in exposing the ruling class on a grander scale. But every COP before that has proven utterly useless, and what could be likened to a theatrical performance.
Nothing has been done to halt climate change with any urgency, and we should not have any illusions that the ruling class will do what is necessary.
The point is that we are not held back by anything other than the regime of private property and the profit motive. We do possess the technological solutions to bring our economy into harmony with nature, but this cannot be achieved under the capitalist system, with all its fetters.
This brings out the fundamental class question: you cannot plan what you do not control, and you cannot control what you do not own.
Only when the working class seizes control of the commanding heights of the economy, such as the big banks, industries, and major monopolies, can we plan the economy in the interests of the majority of society, instead to maximise profits for the few.
This level of planning and control is required to invest in infrastructure to adapt to impacts of climate change, as well as laying the basis for alternative energy sources based on solar, wind and water.
Of course, this is only the beginning. But by removing profit from the equation, on the basis of genuine workers’ control and management, we can unleash the potential of all of humanity’s ingenuity and expertise.
This is what we are fighting for. This year’s COP28 has displayed the arrogance of the ruling class. They are laughing in our faces whilst striking profitable deals, and we are made to live with the consequences.
We won’t be taking this lying down, and neither should you. We need to urgently fight for a sane, democratically planned, communist society, and take destiny into our own hands.