Climate Conference COP28: Show the courage to end the fossil age!

The year 2023 marks another year in which the world has experienced ever more floods, storms, heat waves and droughts, making the regions affected difficult, if not impossible, to live in. The EU’s earth observation programme Copernicus estimates that 2023 will be the warmest year since records began and the hottest summer in human history. The climate crisis is no longer abstract, the climate crisis is real. Recently, Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of the Pacific Ocean island state Tuvalu, once again urged the world to stop using fossil fuels that have brought our planet’s climate to the brink of collapse.

And we do not need to go as far as to Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean. This summer’s floods, fires and heat waves destroyed homes, forests, fertile soil in Greece, Italy and elsewhere. Extreme weather events make the end of the fossil age ever more urgent.

This year´s climate conference is the first time that the promises made at the Paris climate conference eight years ago will be reviewed and scrutinised via a global stocktake.

When heads of states and governments, ministers, representatives of small islands and regions, representatives of non-governmental organisations and hordes of lobbyists come together in Dubai, they come together at the brink of a climate and biodiversity collapse.

So what to do now? The answer is simple: We need to end the age of fossil fuels. COP28 needs to agree on concrete plans and measures to phase out all fossil fuels. At this crucial moment for the climate and the planet, we call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. We need a clear commitment from COP28 to end the pouring of millions and billions into oil, coal and gas projects, boosting climate action, economy and industry. We need to divert  this money into building wind turbines and solar parks to achieve the tripling of the share of renewable energies. We need to double our efforts to use energy efficiently before the year 2030.

The climate killer methane, the main component of natural gas, is accelerating the global climate crisis. Methane emissions cause around a third of global warming. In a 20 year time frame, Methane is 82 times more harmful to the climate than the same amount of carbon dioxide. In the past 15 years, methane emissions have been worryingly on the rise. With the new EU legislation obliging companies to reduce methane emissions in the energy sector,  the EU can set standards for the world to fulfill the Global Methane Pledge, made at the climate conference in Glasgow in 2021. Soon, rules applying within the EU to reduce methane emissions will also apply to imports. As the EU is still importing 80 percent of fossil fuels, the new and stricter rules will have an impact also on lowering methane emissions outside the EU.

We need the climate conference in Dubai to send a strong message on climate justice. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, the homes of 143 million people will be threatened by climate change. People in countries and regions that never contributed to the climate catastrophe will be the first to suffer the most, losing their homes after massive storms, losing their crops after unprecedented heat waves, losing their country because of the simple fact that countries will simply cease to exist.

We cannot afford developing countries to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change alone. The loss and damage fund to support countries and regions most affected by extreme weather was finally established on the first day of COP28 negotiations. The countries which have fueled global heating like the EU, the US and China, should contribute their fair share.

Justice also means civil society needs to have access to the conference and a space to make their voices heard. Why should the fossil lobby have privileged access and spread greenwashing while those pointing out the disastrous effects of decades-long use of fossil fuels should not be able to speak up? Would it not be just as hilarious to let the tobacco industry sit  at the table while the deathly consequences of smoking, and ways to curb the spread of a  worldwide addiction are being discussed? Just as the World Health Organisation banned the tobacco industry, the UN should ban the fossil fuel industry from negotiations on how to phase out fossil fuels. We urge the UN to permanently kick the fossil fuel industry out of the international Climate Conference. The last proof for this necessity was given by this year’s chair of the COP, Sultan Al-Jabr, who simultaneously acts as CEO of one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, when he publicly denounced the findings of the IPCC on the need to phase out fossil fuels in order to keep the 1.5 °C limit in reach.

The fight for climate action and climate justice is directly linked to the fight for human rights. Floods and heat waves endanger basic human rights such as access to clean water, adequate food and housing and basic healthcare. Those who defend our planet are increasingly becoming a target – in 2022, every day marked the killing of one environmental activist.

In the United Arab Emirates, fighting for human rights can put you, your friends and your family in severe danger. Defending human rights can send you to prison or be a death sentence. We call for the United Arab Emirates to release Ahmed Mansoor and all other detained human rights defenders and climate activists. No-one defending human rights or fighting for climate action should ever fear for their lives, be it in the United Arab Emirates or elsewhere. We call for clear commitments to human rights to be the standard for hosting future UN Climate Conferences.

We appeal to the heads of states and governments, to the EU and to all negotiating at the world climate conference in Dubai: Make this climate conference the one that marks the end of our dependency on coal, gas and oil, and show the courage to end the fossil age!