The text of the COP 28 draft agreement is dismal. As I write this on Monday evening the world has 24 hours to save the 1.5 degree limit on global warming that is needed to prevent climate catastrophe. But, OPEC and the other oil producing countries have successfully lobbied to remove a commitment to phase out fossil fuels.

Small states like the Marshall Islands, for whom global warming and rising sea levels present an existential threat, have been loudest in their condemnation. But even the USA and EU states like Germany and Ireland have condemned the draft. It rests upon the spurious notion that science can save us with carbon capture while enabling the oil industry to continue to rake in massive profits. But carbon capture is an unproven technology that still requires massive investment. Mary Robinson, the ex-president of Ireland who is attending COP 28 as leader of the Elders NGO founded by Nelson Mandela, said that carbon capture comes with a price tag of “$27 trillion or something to develop fully”.

According to an International Energy Agency report: “Africa is home to 60% of the best solar resources globally, yet only 1% of installed solar PV capacity.” That is because only 3% of the world’s energy investment goes into Africa. NURU, a solar power business in the Democratic Republic of Congo, aims to connect over 5 million homes and businesses by the end of next year. Yet it took five years to secure the necessary investment. If some of those trillions earmarked for carbon capture were redirected, it would make African countries self-sufficient in energy, and some would become net exporters of clean energy to the rest of the world.

Do not expect such ideas to feature in the final report. Marilyn Tyzack reported for us last week on the conflict of interest in appointing Sultan Al-Jaber, the chief executive of the United Arab Emirates’ national oil company, ADNOC, as president of COP 28. He refuses to accept that fossil fuels must be phased out and has packed the conference with representatives of the fossil fuel industry, who are openly touting for trade and targeting African countries to invest in more fossil fuels.

One western power has chosen not to speak out against the carve up in Dubai. The United Kingdom. Perhaps Sunak is too busy explaining his failures during the Covid pandemic. Or perhaps he is distracted by the civil war in the Tory Party over his Rwanda proposals. More likely he is planning another tranche of licences to search for North Sea gas and oil.

Sunak only spent a few hours in Dubai, mainly meeting with the heads of Arab oil states. In contrast, Starmer was there for three days, burnishing his green credentials on the world stage. He said he was there defending Britain’s national interest, whatever that means. In a global climate crisis the only interest worth defending is the elimination of all fossil fuels. Yet Starmer has said that a Labour government will not cancel the licences granted by Sunak for fossil fuel exploration in the North Sea. Market forces cannot be gainsaid even when they threaten us all with disaster. Capitalism may be doomed. We cannot let it doom us all. We need to act to save ourselves.


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