Sustainability is part of AEGEE’s core values and it is part of our strategic plan to work towards a society that respects planetary boundaries in the fight against climate change. In this statement we want to highlight the agreements that have been reached during the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP 28, that was held in Dubai from November 30th to December 12th of 2023 and to raise awareness on the decisions that affect the future on Earth and whose effects might be irreversible. Thereby, we think it is important to express our opinion with regards to it.
A COP is an annual conference that takes place since 1995 and it is the supreme decision-making body from the UN Framework of Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) 1. In the conference the ratifying states or parties are represented, and they assess the effects of the measures implemented by the convention. At this COP, key climate change issues were discussed such as the first stocktake on the progress of the Nationally Determined Contributions, NDC goals of the Paris Agreement, the implementation of the loss and damage fund established in COP27, the phase out of fossil fuels before 2050, the increasing of climate finance, innovative economic strategies, and working towards adaptation. All of this, in the warmest year on record 2 and with an increasing trend on natural disasters over the last decades 3.
One of the main outcomes and achievements of COP 28 is the agreement of countries on the need to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems 4. However, there is no obligation for countries to take any specific action, there is no specific timescale and this agreement only aims at the energy supply, instead of the economy as a whole, thus disregarding other fossil intensive activities and products such as plastics or petrochemicals.
It is worth noting that fossil fuels are the main cause of global warming 5 and we are not on the way to achieve our goal of slowing the rise of temperature as shown by the first stocktake of COP Paris 2015 6, which settled to limit the rise of global temperature to 1,5 degrees higher with respect to the preindustrial times by the end of the century. But even so, progress has been made, since a commitment was made to triple the renewable energy capacity by 2030.
In the field of climate finance, wealthier nations have committed to pay 792M $ 7 to the loss and damage fund to help developing countries to treat climate change and the devastation effects of climate catastrophes. Although this is a start, it is hardly enough for the developing nations to deal with climate effects 8. Not to mention that it is not clear whether these pledges will be carried out and whether they will reach the people who really need them 9.
The need to address the implications that climate change has on health was referred to with the Health Day being held for the first time and the commitment of the Global North to pay 777M $ to combat neglected tropical diseases such as the river blindness and lymphatic filariasis 10. Besides the implementation of these funds, it was agreed to the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund, Adaptation Fund, and Special Climate Change Fund 11.
In AEGEE-Europe, we strive for sustainability and for a just and inclusive transformation of societies. We think there is room for improvement in the climate change conferences and we want to demand a stronger commitment to fight climate change.
A Climate summit should not be just greenwashing for nations and organisations but they must be fully committed to the agreements and do not put other interests that go against the fight on climate change first. An increase in transparency has been done yet there should be a clearer way to tackle the conflicts of interests that have been evident in this summit 12, where the COP president is the CEO of ADNOC, the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company, and the enormous presence of fossil fuel representatives and lobbyists with at least 2456 delegates, almost four times the number at COP 27, overtaking delegates from the most susceptible countries 13. Furthermore, hosting the COP in a non-democratic country, where human rights are not respected, discourages dissidence 14. Climate summits must work according to the common goals to preserve the climate, where fossil fuel companies should have a limited role, they should not influence climate policy since they can take advantage of that.
As stated by IPCC 15, it is urgent to transform the economy on a planetary level towards a circular model, based on the sustainability of all productive resources, and to change the consumption habits and lifestyle of the population, especially in developed countries. The unequal development in the different regions of the world has created the paradox that the ones that most carry the burden of the costs of climate change are the ones that contributed less to creating it.
The transition cannot wait and should not rely on carbon capture techniques 16, which are costly technologies that are not yet fully developed and might fail at a large scale as a tool to mitigate climate change 17. They are only a strategy for fossil fuel companies to delay it and not to lose their profit and their hegemonic position while repositioning themselves in the new sustainable global market. So they should not be used as an excuse or distraction to phase out fossil fuels.
We consider the aforementioned betterments essential to be able to reduce the effects of climate change, although we fully support any actions that can help us preserve the environment and do not compromise the future on earth, and we fully embrace any step that can lead to a sustainable society.
Disclaimer: Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.