With just over six weeks to go until COP28, the UN climate conference, experts point out that the war between Israel and Hamas is likely to hamper progress in negotiations. The biggest climate event in the world takes place in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, from November 30th.
The forecast is that there will be a negative impact on the prioritization of climate issues, as happened in 2022, in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In addition to dividing the attention of world diplomacy, the conflict in Eastern Europe resulted in an increase in the consumption of coal (which is extremely polluting) by European countries that depended on the Russians for the supply of gas (a less dirty fossil fuel than coal). .
For diplomat Rubens Ricupero, former Minister of Finance and the Environment, this phenomenon will repeat itself at this year’s COP. “[A guerra vai] further reduce the priority of the environmental issue and make it more difficult than it already was to reach a minimum consensus to move forward in negotiations”, he assesses.
“In the case of the Middle East, [o conflito] makes any pressure on oil producers to reduce production unlikely. On the contrary, it will make Americans and Europeans work towards increasing production to avoid inflationary price increases.”
Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network that brings together more than 90 socio-environmental organizations, points out that the environment was no longer the most favorable, considering that the COP itself has internal negotiation battles.
Among them are the lack of financing from rich countries to repair the damage caused by extreme climate events in poor countries and the absence of more ambitious goals to curb the climate crisis.
“The COP is a space that needs to have agreements and good will to move forward. With two wars going on, it becomes much more difficult to coordinate this collective desire”, he states.
Eduardo Viola, professor of international relations at the Institute of Advanced Studies at USP and Fundação Getulio Vargas, assesses that the Israel-Hamas war “creates yet another factor in the erosion of global cooperation” and is reflected in the type of action adopted by countries.
“Until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for example, the mantra of the democratic world, particularly in the West, was energy transition. Since the Ukrainian War, what dominates the world is energy security. And achieving energy security, in principle and in the short term, it is easier to resume the use of carbon and increase oil exploration. This is what is happening in the world”, he says.
Izabella Teixeira, former Minister of the Environment and co-president of the UN’s International Panel on Natural Resources, points out, however, that the COP agenda has already been defined and that it will not be possible to avoid discussing the central points of the event.
“A debate will be made possible on climate financing resources, the famous US$100 billion [que os países ricos prometeram a países pobres para investir em ações climáticas, mas ainda não pagaram]discussion of the structuring of the loss and damage fund [criado na COP27]which remains a priority”, he lists.
She also highlights the main item on the agenda: the preparation of the final text of the first Global Stocktake, a global inventory of actions against the climate crisis.
“[Há] an ambition that falls short of the world’s climate discussion. This is an important thing because negotiations are now happening with climate events happening. So, it’s no longer a debate in theory, it’s a real debate,” he says.
Tensions in the Middle East add to environmentalists’ previously low expectations regarding the results of this conference.
The host country is an oil power that produces, on average. 3.2 million barrels per day. Fossil fuels represent a large part of the UAE’s wealth: 30% of the Gross Domestic Product and 13% of exports come directly from the oil and gas industry. The data is from the United States Department of Commerce.
Furthermore, the presidency of COP28 is in the hands of Sultan al-Jaber — who is head of Adnoc, the country’s state oil company. The choice was harshly criticized by experts, who see a conflict of interests in the position.
Jaber will be responsible for conducting the negotiations at the summit, which will have unique participation from the oil industry: this year, for the first time, OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) will have a stand at the COP.
The COP28 organization expects to receive more than 70 thousand participants, including heads of state, government authorities and different members of civil society, such as representatives of private sectors, academics and young activists.
Doubts about the safety of holding an event of this size — and where the presence of several world leaders is expected — naturally arise with the relative proximity to the conflict. Despite this, the organization does not admit to having concerns about this or addressing, for example, a possible postponement of the conference.
A spokesperson for the COP28 leadership said organizers are focused “on delivering tangible and ambitious climate action.” He also said that the presidency “is looking forward to holding a safe and inclusive COP starting at the end of November.”
The experts interviewed by the report agree that it is difficult for any drastic changes to be implemented because of the Israel-Hamas war. “I think the postponement or suspension of the COP is very unlikely because so far the fighting has been limited to the Gaza Strip, quite far from the Gulf area”, says Ricupero.
Teixeira recalls that the 2015 summit, when the Paris Agreement was signed, took place two weeks after the terrorist attacks at the Bataclan concert hall and around the Stade de France stadium.
“It could happen like in Paris, with additional security measures,” he says. “The COP took place at the old Paris airport, Le Bourget [nos arredores da capital francesa]with a security system that is extremely restrictive of access to non-accredited people.”
The former minister states, however, that it is still too early to make a more incisive assessment. “We have to wait for the reflections [da guerra] in the next few days, next month. The COP only starts on November 30th. The pre-COP is now and it is maintained”, he points out, referring to the ministerial event taking place on October 30th and 31st in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi.
Astrini points out that the existence of the conflict in the same region as COP28 could cause some presidents to give up attending, but he does not believe that the event could be a target. “The Emirates are not directly involved in the war, so an attack on the COP would be an attack on the entire planet,” he says.
COP29 is already impacted by conflicts
Even if the Israel-Hamas conflict is resolved quickly, the topic of security should not fail to influence climate discussions. This is because, while it is almost certain that COP30, in 2025, will take place in Brazil, the 2024 edition of the event does not yet have a defined venue.
According to the regional rotation adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP29 should take place in Eastern Europe.
To do this, the 23 countries that make up the regional bloc at the COP must unanimously agree on the host country – and, after the start of the Ukrainian War, Russia opposed any member of the European Union as host.
As a result, Armenia and Azerbaijan were the main candidates, but Baku’s seizure of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave increased tensions between the two countries and with Russia.
Germany, as the host of the UNFCCC, is the default option if countries cannot reach an agreement. And, in this case, the United Arab Emirates would remain as holder of the presidency.
However, according to the Financial Times newspaper, the Emirates would only agree to remain in charge if they can also host the event. There is, therefore, the possibility that the oil country will host the summit two years in a row, in a crucial period for efforts to stop climate change.