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    COP28 president’s reply to Mary Robinson exposed divide among nations

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    New Delhi, Dec 10 , Just when minds and intentions are coming together to develop climate resilience, innovate for cleaner sustenance, and pitch for alternate methods of traditional fuel-based common practices, the president of the COP 28 summit brought the discourse to a screeching halt with his comment that there is “no science” behind demands to phase out fossil fuels.

    Al Jaber, the UAE’s climate envoy, chairs the board of directors of the country’s renewables company. He is also the head of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

    When Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, asked if Al Jaber would lead phasing out fossil fuels, his response was: “there is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5.”

    He added that his expectation from the summit was a “sober and mature conversation” and that he was not “signing up to any discussion that is alarmist.”

    He, however, maintained that the 1.5 degree goal was his “north star,” and a phase-down and phase-out of fossil fuel was “inevitable” but “we need to be real, serious and pragmatic about it.”

    This controversial comment was made during the She Changes Climate panel event on November 21, and the incident came to light last week when The Guardian published a report pertaining to the event.

    To tone down the controversy and the series of responses that subsequently erupted, the climate leader went on to ask the former Irish premier: “please, help me, show me a roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuels that will allow for sustainable socio-economic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves.”

    As the necessary exercise to dispel confusion ensued, the Emirati businessman’s remark points to a crucial concern about the constantly contemplated issue.

    Scientific reports of the U.N., which seek to guide global negotiations, repeatedly underscore the importance of phasing out fossil fuels.

    Other reports indicate that use of fossil fuels must necessarily be reduced to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius — the threshold above which it will be more difficult for humans and ecosystems to adapt. This common goal was agreed upon in the Paris climate accord in April 2016 (COP 21).

    Irreversible and lasting impact on the health of humans — to the extent that the genetic make-up is studied to be affected—is the immediate concern that demands clean air to breathe and a clean, livable environment.

    Besides rapidly depleting resources which, as an immediate effect, significantly alter local demography, ecological balance and socio-economic structure of a local region, the extraction and burning of fossil fuels cause local pollution at the site of production and use. In the long run, its continued use harms a region and its inhabitants beyond the local contours.

    Scientists have been aggressively studying and asserting that a significant curb on fossil fuels will drastically bring down emissions, thereby mitigate its ill effects and contribute to general public health, including preventing serious ailments and even deaths.

    However, notwithstanding this fundamental concept, the role of fossil fuels is a deeply controversial issue that countries of the world are faced with. There is no turning away from this and the COP28 climate summit yet again brings to the fore the political and economic aspects of the gravely compounded situation.

    A more pragmatic approach is mulling over phasing down the fossil-based engagements instead of phasing it out altogether, which if not executed with a thorough plan, could lead to another crisis of collapsed systems with difficult or barely-available alternatives.

    However, despite being the main driver of the climate crisis and the awareness of this at the highest possible levels on global platforms, the production of fossil fuels in 2030 is expected to be more than double of what would be necessary to keep global warming under 1.5 degree Celsius, as per a study.

    Extreme weather events this year were a grim reminder for what the planet might be headed for at this rate.

    Indeed, it is a difficult situation but what is more difficult than this is the reality of nations that seek prosperity now must switch from non-prosperous means — if only there is collective political will that transcends ulterior economic interests for greater environmental good.

    (Kavya Dubey may be reached at [email protected])

    kvd/bg

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