By Lisa Vives
As the Dubai conference on climate winds up, some difficult issues may remain on the table for future debates—namely fossil fuel controversies and geopolitical tensions.
The central debate among countries is whether to “phase out” or “phase down” fossil fuels. Despite their known impact on climate change, debates on the future of fossil fuels only became a fixture at the summit at COP26 in Glasgow two years ago.
The issue has become more contentious under the UAE Presidency, with the state oil company chief allegedly using this year’s summit to strike oil deals with foreign dignitaries. While regions like the EU have already pledged to support a “phase out” agenda, the head of OPEC on 8 December rallied members to oppose any resolution with the “phase out” wording.
The Climate Conference of the Parties (COP28) —from 30 November to 12 December—marks the first time the summit debated food systems, with more than 130 countries signing a resolution acknowledging the impact of meat production in greenhouse gas emissions.
After a months-long effort by the youth-led Food@COP coalition, the United Arab Emirates environment minister, Mariam Almheiri, announced in November that two-thirds of the food served at the event will be plant-based.
“We know that our food systems are intrinsically linked to the fate of our natural world, and so we have made the progressive decision to ensure that we explore how the catering provided across the event can be responsible and climate-conscious,” Almheiri said in a press release.
The resolution called on wealthier countries to encourage citizens to eat less meat as one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to food, with meat and dairy accounting for the lion’s share while providing just 18 percent of the world’s calories.
Meat and dairy production also cause deforestation, biodiversity loss, pandemic risk and water pollution.
Despite the “long overdue” conversation, as one expert said, it’s unlikely that developed nations like the US will implement the recommendations.
Other observers argued the proposals “ignore the complexity of food systems,” including issues like power imbalances, industrial food production, and climate change’s disproportionate effect on the Global South.
Meat and dairy are driving the climate crisis. So why won’t world leaders at COP28 do anything about it?
Meanwhile, the next climate summit is already shrouded in geopolitical controversy. Per UN rules, COP29 should take place in Eastern Europe, but Russia has been blocking all EU member bids over their opposition to the war in Ukraine.
The frontrunner is now Azerbaijan, but critics say that a Baku summit will only be another win for petrostates. And as Azerbaijan builds stronger ties with Russia, many worry that Moscow’s energy goals will dominate the conference.