The last COP.
The last COP.
I have the feeling that 2023 will go down in history as the game changing year for the climate crisis.
But I am afraid it is the climate crisis itself which is changing the game and not us.
Just a couple of weeks before COP28 and everyone and everything is geared for the big event. They will all be there. Like before.
And, of course, everyone who is someone is acknowledging the importance of taking serious decisions to tackle the climate crisis.
The government, industry and business stakeholders are cautiously optimistic and the civil society stakeholders are cautiously pessimistic.
As always, the end result will be a compromise where system stakeholders will promise less that they could do and far less than they should do and in actual fact deliver even less, while civil societies will celebrate minor victories and criticize COP for not rising to the critical occasion, molded by stark climate reality.
Finally, they will renew their rendezvous for next year, like they have been doing for 28 years.
COP’s have become annual gatherings, like trade fairs.
Like a jamboree.
But it cannot be so. It must not be so.
We are dealing with a clear, direct threat to human existence.
We cannot have market rules and politicians’ aspirations, guided by extremely short time horizons, derail and mislead COP judgment and decisions.
Science is above all and science has been clear all along for 28 consecutive COP sessions.
Yet, the leaders of humanity have been anything but homo sapiens.
The following diagram[i] showing the evolution of CO2 emissions as a function of COP conferences speaks volumes, which do not make pleasant reading.
As is always customary before a COP, reports by UN institutions and globally renowned organisations summarizing the state of play, are published.
Reading them is also not pleasant.
For example, a UN report published on November 14th 2023 reads:
“New Analysis of National Climate Plans: Insufficient Progress Made, COP28 Must Set Stage for Immediate Action”[i]
The opening paragraph reads: “A new report from UN Climate Change finds national climate action plans remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Even with increased efforts by some countries, the report shows much more action is needed now to bend the world’s emissions trajectory further downward and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Ask yourselves how many times you have read similar paragraphs?
Why is there nothing done?
Another news item published on November 17th, 2023 in Inside Climate News, is even clearer:
“New Research Makes it Harder to Kick The Climate Can Down the Road from COP28”,
stating in no uncertain terms that: “Without immediate emissions cuts, global temperatures will breach the Paris Agreement’s goals sooner than expected, scientists say. ‘Despite decades of warnings, we are still heading in the wrong direction’[ii]
It doesn’t just say that we are not doing enough.
It says we are heading in the wrong direction.
And it is not the only report to do so.
The Systems Change Lab, which is convened by World Resources Institute and Bezos Earth Fund, and supports the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, published a few days ago the State of Climate Action 2023[iii]
From the various findings of the report, one stands out, in my opinion.
It is a report on a set of 42 indicators, worked out by scientists, which characterize the state of the current climate action in comparison to what is needed to maintain the possibility of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C.[iv]
Read and try to keep your cool:
- 1 (one) out of 42 is on track
- 6 are off track
- 24 are well off track
- 6 are in the opposite direction and
- 5 insufficient data, but they don’t appear promising
At this point feel free to panic, but if you are still with me, let me share some more scary stories. For the sake of brevity, I will share the news headlines and you can browse yourself.
And let’s start with the COP presidency not practicing what it preaches, as COP28 presidency of course, because as oil producers they do just fine.
- Cop28 host UAE breaking its own ban on routine gas flaring, data shows
- Cop28 host UAE has world’s biggest climate-busting oil plans, data indicates
We all know that the temperature rise is breaking new records, but it is wise to keep it in mind……
- ‘Shocking’ October Temperatures Obliterated Past Records, Helping Make 2023 the Hottest Year On Record
……because the culprit, CO2 emissions, are not decreasing. On the contrary:
- Climate-heating gases reach record highs, UN reports
- Global emissions set to fall only 2% by 2030 - UN report
- Uncounted Emissions: The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuel Exports
It is no wonder then that the carbon budget to keep temperature rise below 1.5oC will be exceeded, erasing all hopes of meeting this emblematic lifesaving target
- Earth's carbon budget for 1.5°C will be exhausted by 2029, says IPCC
- Global Fossil Production Set to Blow Through 1.5°C Climate Limit, New Report Warns
Simply because fossil fuel companies trust their revenue lines and the stock exchange way more than science and carry on with business as usual.
- ‘Insanity’: petrostates planning huge expansion of fossil fuels, says UN report
- COP28 climate dispute: what are 'unabated' fossil fuels?
- Phase out or phase down? Fight over fossil fuels heats up in run-up to COP28
So much so that the cost of the climate crisis, the loss and damage incurred by the hour, the deaths, the destruction, the despair, the displacement, carry no weight in their decisions.
- Climate crisis costing $16m an hour in extreme weather damage, study estimates
- Gulf Stream could collapse as early as 2025, study suggest
- Climate scientists give "survival guide for humanity" in landmark UN report
This is the reality.
We are heading for an unprecedented disaster and time is not running out, but it has already run out. All that is left for us to do is to cut our losses.
COP28 is not a jamboree. It is a reunion get together. It is not a cocktail party.
COP28 has to deliver the one and only solution we all know. Even those who oppose it.
To immediately start phasing out Fossil Fuels the fastest technically possible way as mandated by science.
COP28 cannot kick the climate can down the COP road.
Hence, COP28 has to be kept going until “green” smoke rises.
It is the only solution that will save (literary) the day.
And this means that COP28 has to be the last COP
Either because it has delivered what it set out to deliver from COP1 or because it has pitifully failed its mandate and we have to seek another way to reach the only scientifically mandated solution which will take us out of the climate woods.
Either way there cannot be a COP29.
Dr. Ioannis Tsipouridis
Renewable Energy Consultant Engineer
Technical Advisor of Research & Internationialisation & Visiting Professor @Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST)
Director of RECCReC (Renewable Energy & Climate Change Research Center at TUM) & Visiting Professor at Technical University of Mombasa (TUM)