News / 19 December 2023

Climate conference in Dubai: Hopeful outcome with a fragile future

The UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai (COP28) has come to an end. Both ENDS and our partners were well represented at the event. History was written, literally, in Dubai, as in the final document the attending countries finally put down on paper that the world must move away from fossil fuels. That is the beginning of the end for the fossil industry. Niels Hazekamp and Daan Robben look back: what did Both ENDS do there and what do we think of the outcome?

Niels has some reservations regarding all the positive reports. "It is very disappointing," he says, "that natural gas is seen a 'transition fuel'. The most recent science is clear: to stop global warming from reaching dangerous levels, we must not start any new coal, oil or gas projects. Moreover, countries and companies must phase out existing fossil projects. The wording is still too cautious, insufficiently urgent and too non-committal, but it is a start. We will hold countries accountable for sticking to their pledge to limit warming to 1.5oC."

Stop support for fossil exports

At COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, the Netherlands took significant steps to stop providing support for fossil exports. The next step was initiated at this conference. "Norway and Australia have joined the signatories of the statement to stop international export support for fossil projects," says Niels. "That is important, because the more countries take part, the better." The Netherlands signed this statement in 2021 and will have almost completely stopped providing fossil export support by the end of this year. Less positive is that the Netherlands has not yet taken the next step, unlike the UK, Canada and the Scandinavian countries. They have pledged that, by 2050, all export support will produce zero net emissions of CO2 (net-zero CO2 in 2050). "The Netherlands did not wish to sign the statement," says Niels. "That is bad news, because it will mean that around half of all export support may not yet comply with the climate goals. Last year, for example, the Netherlands provided 1.5 billion euros in export credit for an airport in Manila and, some years ago, 900 million euros for the construction of a petrochemical (plastics) plant in Oman. The Netherlands also holds a strong position in the export market – and therefore, export support – for meat and other agricultural products. That needs to be radically reduced, and we are going to demand political attention for the issue."

Reality check for the negotiators

At COP28, Daan had the opportunity, on behalf of Both ENDS, of showing why and especially for whom climate funding is so urgent. Two side events organised by Both ENDS and our partners brought policy-makers, climate funds and donors together round the table. The topic under discussion was how to get local solutions for climate change (such as agroecology) higher up the agenda. "Negotiations are often about the big issues," says Daan. "But, in the end, it is about ensuring that those who are most affected by the climate crisis, including women and indigenous groups, can adapt to climate change and protect themselves against its consequences. The activities and discussions that we were able to facilitate are often a reality check for the negotiators and give grassroot organisations a voice at such an enormous conference."

Hopeful outcome with a fragile future

The COP made an encouraging start: it was decided to operationalise the climate 'loss and damage' fund to compensate people in the Global South for climate damage. But there is still much to be done to fill the fund and get it up and running. "The Netherlands' contribution to the fund is very disappointing," says Daan. "At the same time, it must not mean that less attention is devoted to reducing emissions and to adaptation. We look at the outcomes of this COP critically but also with some hope, even though they are pledges – and they have proven fragile in the past. My hope is that COP29, next year in Azerbaijan, will be less dominated by the private sector. When you walked around the COP this year, it looked like an oversized sustainability fair, while we are first and foremost in the middle of a climate crisis in which countries and businesses must take their responsibility and undertake action."

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