COP28: An Ethiopian perspective

It’s funny, isn’t it? Sultan Al-Jaber is not only the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technologies but also the CEO of the state oil company ADNOC. With this portfolio, he was the man at the helm of COP28, the 28th UN Climate Change Conference, which gathered about 100,000 participants from nearly 200 countries and ran for almost two weeks. This is tantamount to appointing a leader of a major terrorist group to chair a peace conference. Everyone knows that oil companies are one of the main culprits, bearing the lion’s share of the responsibility for making the climate situation worse and dragging the political commitment to strong and swift action to combat climate change.

Surely the organizers of the global conference, which ended last week and is considered the biggest climate conference ever, did not arrange this irony just to create a media spectacle, but they expected an unprecedented and groundbreaking outcome when deciding to experiment with such an out-of-the-box thinking. Back in our school days, we remember desperate teachers who appointed the most troublesome students to be the monitor for a chaotic classroom.

The COP28 was held at a desperate time when many wether records that stayed on for several decades had been smashed. Frequent and widening occurrences of severe droughts, untimely rain, record temperatures, record incidents of Wildfire, intense flooding, the rise of ocean levels, and so on. “We are way off track. The world is playing catch up when it comes to the key Paris Agreement goal of holding the rise of global temperature down to 1.5 degrees. And the hard reality is to achieve this goal, global emissions must fall to 43% by 2030. To add to that challenge we must decrease emissions at a time of continued economic uncertainty, heightened geopolitical tensions, and increasing pressure on energy security.” said al-Jaber

So, the struggle in the fight against climate change would remain an uphill task and complicated involving conflict of interests. However, it appears that the COP28 organizers’ intentions to make the conference historic and special from the previous UN climate conferences delivered fruits. For the first time in almost three decades of international climate negotiations, both the rich and the poor, or as they say it, the north and the south, have reached a consensus “to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems.”

What is more, it is for the first time that the very word ‘fossil fuel’ is mentioned in the resolution of a UN climate conference. Previously the focus was only limited to coal. Now with the mention of fossil fuels, the world governments have agreed to move away from not only coal as an energy source but also oil and gas.

As big stride as the COP28 agreement may sound to the developed world, for the majority of nations of the developing world it has indeed missed the mark.

The developing world’s economy is highly vulnerable and dependent on the climate. Besides it does not have the technological advancements to counter and mitigate the climatic influences. It is therefore obvious that the developing world is the immediate and the main victim of the consequences of climate change which is now unfolding on an emergency scale.

For one thing, the COP28 agreement sounds less resolute, specific, and more cautious to call urgent action, which makes it a weak response in the face of the reality on the ground where the troubles of climate change are going from bad to worse with frightening pace.

The developing world was expecting a stronger and time-bounded agreement that provided for the phasing out of fossil fuels from both energy and non-energy systems.

The other thing is the developing countries were expecting the COP28 agreement to make a strong push forward for a workable mechanism by which they will be compensated by the developed world for the loss they are suffering due to climate change which is mainly green gas emissions by the advanced economies. There is reportedly no concrete statement on the COP28 on the progress of practical implementation of ‘the Loss and damage fund ‘ that was agreed upon at the previous summit COP27 agreement. The fund requires developed countries, the main contributors of greenhouse gas to provide financial support to projects responding to the climate change.

“The lack of explicit financial support for developing countries in the agreement is a particularly hard blow for African countries, many of which were in favor of a fossil fuel phase-out but can’t get there without significant upfront investment,” says an American anti-fossil fuel campaigner, who was a participant at COP28.

Disappointments and expectations aside, however, Ethiopia successfully participated in the conference, where Premier Abiy Ahmed, as head of the Ethiopian delegation, delivered an important speech at the august assembly. He reported on his country’s impressive achievements in the fight against climate change by developing its own solutions to reduce emissions and build resilience, including the Green Legacy Initiative and the development of the renewable energy resources that the country has in abundance. He also appealed to the international community to turn their pledges into action and work with developing countries to find holistic and sustainable responses to the negative impacts of climate change.

“Success can only be measured by the action we take…I call upon collective global action for a stepped-up climate agenda. The major challenge in providing solutions is the cost of capital and how international financing is structured. No country can effectively tackle the climate challenge if debt is a burden. This is why, the G-20 must work to implement bolder and more timely debt relief plans to enable the most affected countries to overcome debt stress, address climate challenges, and pursue more equitable and sustainable economic growth objectives. At the same time, pledged funds must be disbursed.” said the Premier at COP28.

As al-Jaber said, the world as a whole may be far behind schedule in implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. But as the Ethiopian pavilion at COP28 proves and the Prime Minister’s speech confirms, against all odds, Ethiopia is on track and on schedule to fulfill the commitment it made as a party in the Paris agreement.

Ethiopia has been conducting a nationwide reforestation campaign since 2019. By 2030, the country will triple its power generation capacity and double the efficiency of its energy use by harnessing its green energy resources such as water, wind and geothermal energy. Soon, such green mega power projects as the GERD will be completed. With such surplus production of green energy, it would be easy for Ethiopian industry and transportation to achieve emission ranges that fall below the maximum allowable limit of environmental safety standard parameters.

It is only a matter of a few years before Ethiopia declares itself as Africa’s clean energy hub. It is safe to say that Ethiopia is at the forefront of nations leading the race against climate change.

At this year’s summit, Ethiopia was represented by a magnificent pavilion that presented a miniature version of the country and was well received by conference participants and the media. The next step should be to bring the COP participants to Ethiopia. Given its past and current achievements and its future ambitions as an emerging climate-resilient economy, it is time for Ethiopia to consider hosting the COP. The COP has been held in Africa once in five years since 2006, most recently at COP27 in Egypt. One can therefore predict that COP32 in 2027 could be the next opportunity for Africa. The African country that deserves to host is certainly Ethiopia.



Recommended For You