OPINION | COP28: Good - but not good enough


The responses of island nations to the outcomes at COP28 stood in contrast to the relief expressed by other delegates - a stark reminder that while progress has been made to halt the devastating impact of climate change, there has not been nearly enough, writes Andreas Peschke for News24.com.

When HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) closed this year's World Climate Conference, COP 28, in Dubai, delegates rose for standing ovations. They were tired, but relieved. Important progress had been made. The world community recommitted to the goal of reducing global warming to 1.5°C.

Logo of the COP28 in Dubai with flags of the UN member states in the background
28th Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai© picture alliance / NurPhoto

Yet, when representatives of island states took the stage a couple of minutes later, they were crying. What had been achieved, they said, may be significant, but it is not enough to save our countries. Their tears were a clear reminder to all of us, of how much more still needs to be done to halt global warming.

For the first time, at COP28, the pathway to slow down climate change has been described much more clearly than at previous climate conferences. It will be reached by massively expanding renewable energies. Renewables are mentioned in the final document as the main energy source of the future. A global commitment was made to triple (!) the use of renewable energies by 2030. This is an important signal for countries like South Africa, or Germany, which have already embarked upon a massive transition of their energy systems, bringing in renewable sources of energy.

At the same time, COP28 became the first climate summit which agreed on transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems. By 2050, the era of fossil fuels will come to an end. This will fundamentally change the face of our societies and economies. And it is a clear signal to investors that fossil fuels in the long term are no secure investments any more. Germany is proud to have contributed to this consensus during the preparatory Petersberg Climate Dialogue.

COP 28
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and State Secretary Jennifer Morgan, Special Envoy for International Climate Action, at the Climate Change Conference in Dubai© Sebastian Rau/photothek.de

With the US, Columbia and UAE, the number of countries committed to exit coal within the next 10 to 15 years has risen to 167. Germany wants to exit coal by 2030. Of course, we know that the exit needs to be gradual and step-by-step. Nobody can switch off coal-fired power stations overnight. Not in Germany, and not in South Africa. And nobody should. This process needs to be handled carefully, with a view to a secure and stable energy supply, and also mitigating the social consequences.

By providing alternative livelihoods to miners and families, nobody should be left behind. It is a fundamental transformation process where our countries should and already do cooperate intensively.

At COP28, there was the important question of how best to adapt to the effects of ongoing climate change, such as devastating floods, droughts, storms, heat waves, which negatively affect human health, water availability and agriculture. By 2027, all countries will have access to an early warning system.

And then there were the very important questions of climate financing, climate justice and solidarity. It is clear that industrial countries must take on a special responsibility to fight climate change. They should also support countries of the Global South in this effort. Africa contributes only 2% to global emissions, yet it is disproportionally affected by climate change. Therefore, already on the first day of the conference, Germany, together with the United Arab Emirates, announced to put 100 million US Dollars into the so-called Loss and Damage Fund, to assist the most vulnerable countries with solidarity. The next COP at Baku, Azerbaijan, shall look at what new financing instruments are necessary to ensure adequate and just climate financing.

Offshore windpark in the Baltic Sea
Offshore windpark in the Baltic Sea© picture alliance / blickwinkel/M. Woike

South Africa has, as part of the global climate effort, already embarked on the courageous and visionary path of a just energy transition, gradually bringing in new forms of energy into the energy mix, and tackling the social aspects of the transformation. Just ahead of COP28, the government presented a detailed implementation plan, once more taking a leading role.

In my view, a successful transition can also make a positive contribution to solving the energy crisis. Therefore, joining hands for a just energy transition, is also an important part of the cooperation between South Africa, the US, the UK, the EU and other partners. Germany has already committed R36 billion to this cooperation. It is how we see global partnership at work.

In these times of geopolitical crises, COP28 was not only a step forward for climate protection. It was also proof that multilateralism can work, even under difficult circumstances. Now it is all about implementation. By 2025, all countries should submit cross-sectoral new climate plans. Germany will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with South Africa, as a major global partner, in this epochal endeavour.

So truly, much has been achieved. But so much more needs to be done if we want to save our planet. The just energy transition is far from completed. Climate change still needs to be reined in. One thing is clear. If we want to be successful, we need to act urgently. And now.

c. News24.com

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