Tuesday, December 12, 2023

“Mend It, Don’t End It”

Image: Thomas Mukoya / Reuters

Michael E.Mann and Susan Joy Hassol had an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times yesterday that offered both an incisive critique of the U.N.’s climate summit (COP28) in Dubai and suggestions for the “substantial overhaul of the COP rules and processes” moving forward.

Mann is the author of the new book Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons From Earth’s Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis. Hassol, the director of Climate Communication, publishes Quick Facts on the links between climate change and extreme weather. She was named Friend of the Planet 2023 for pioneering climate communication over three decades.

Following are excerpts from Mann and Hassol’s December 11 Los Angeles Times op-ed.


As the 28th United Nations climate summit (COP28) draws to a close in Dubai, after another year of devastating heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms and record high global temperatures, the entire process is threatening to break down. Not only has COP28 failed to meet this moment demanding dramatic and immediate climate action – it has made a caricature of it.

The fact that the U.N. chose a petro-state, the United Arab Emirates, to host COP28 was an ominous sign to begin with. And the UAE’s appointment of a fossil fuel executive, Sultan Al Jaber, to preside as COP28 president made matters worse.

Yes, we should engage oil and gas producers in the global effort to avert climate catastrophe, and perhaps the offer to host the summit was intended as a carrot to encourage them to join rather than obstruct progress. But if the olive branch was offered in good faith, it was cynically turned into a fig leaf to conceal the naked, shameful ambition of Big Oil to increase its planetary rampage.

. . . As much as we have argued against despair and defeatism, climate activists who have grown skeptical and cynical about the COP framework have every right to be disillusioned with the process. The accusation that it has been co-opted by the fossil fuel industry and become rife with conflicts, corruption and corporate greenwashing is difficult to argue against at this point. The U.N. has largely lost the confidence of youth climate advocates who feel betrayed by what they see as a deck stacked heavily on the side of polluters.

Yet we still can’t afford to abandon the entire COP process. Polluters and petro-states would like nothing more because, deeply flawed as COP is, it’s the only existing framework for global climate negotiations.

Two years ago, climate advocates assailed COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, as a failure midway through the proceedings – but progress ultimately was made, including commitments from countries that could limit warming below 2 degrees Celsius, closer to the 1.5-degree necessity. The next year, the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, at least delivered a “loss and damage” agreement by wealthy industrial countries to provide funds and assistance to the developing world to deal with the devastating consequence of climate change caused primarily by legacy polluters such as the U.S. and European Union.

On its first day, this year’s COP took the next step by establishing the loss and damage fund and securing its first contributions. Eliminating COP would abandon that momentum and effectively be a unilateral disarmament in the battle to preserve a livable climate.

So, what do we do?

Mend it, don’t end it. We call for a substantial overhaul of the COP rules and processes. It’s almost embarrassing to have to explicitly state, for example, that petro-states – those whose economies heavily depend on the extraction and export of oil and gas – should not be allowed to host the meeting. Given the enormous conflict of interest, oil industry executives should not be allowed to heavily influence, much less preside over, the summit.

The weak COP sauce of “name and shame” – publicly exposing and condemning those standing in the way of climate action – is failing, because the bad actors appear to have no shame. There must be financial penalties, such as tariffs or even embargoes, for countries like Saudi Arabia that seek to thwart the global effort to phase out fossil fuels by locking in oil dependency in emerging economies in Africa and Asia. And the COP rules should be changed to allow for a super majority of, say, 75% of nations to approve a decision, rather than the current consensus rules that allow even one holdout to veto any agreement.

These reforms need to happen immediately. The window of opportunity to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius is closing. It will shut tight in a matter of years without rapid and meaningful progress.

To read Michael E. Mann and Susan Joy Hassol’s op-ed in its entirety, click here.

Related Off-site Links:
What’s at Stake Is Our Survival – Drue Slatter (Common Dreams, December 12, 2023).
Climate Activists Outraged as COP28 Draft Text Drops Call for Fossil Fuel Phase OutDemocracy Now! (December 12, 2023).
Why Science Backs a Fossil Fuel Phase Out – Timmon Wallace (Common Dreams, December 12, 2023).
“Cabal of Oil Producers”: Climate Scientist Kevin Anderson Slams Corporate Capture of COP28Democracy Now! (December 7, 2023).

UPDATES: Phase Down, Not Phase Out: COP28 Deal on Fossil Fuels Disappoints Activists and Vulnerable StatesDemocracy Now! (December 13, 2023).
“A Tragedy for the Planet”: Scientists Decry COP28 Outcome – Olivia Rosane (Common Dreams, December 14, 2023).
Big Oil Wins Big at COP28 in Dubai – Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan (Democracy Now!, December 14, 2023).
“Tragically Historic”: The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani on the Failure of Yet Another U.N. Climate SummitDemocracy Now! (December 18, 2023).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Joins NYC’s March to End Fossil Fuels
“Smoke Plume” in Minneapolis
Capital Weather Gang: Quote of the Day – June 7, 2023
Frances Moore Lappé: Quote of the Day – May 22, 2023
“It Is in Our Hands”
George Monbiot: Quote of the Day – July 21, 2022
Declaration of Interdependence
Biophilia, the God Pan, and a Baboon Named Scott
Bernie Sanders: Quote of the Day – July 1, 2021
The Stakes Have Shifted
The Link Between Destruction of Biodiversity and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Something to Think About – February 10, 2020
In Australia, “the Land As We Know It Is No More”
Greta Thunberg: Quote of the Day – September 23, 2019
Five Powerful Responses to the Amazon Fires
Greta Thunberg: Quote of the Day – March 16, 2019
As the World Burns, Calls for a “Green New Deal”
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – August 29, 2017
The People’s Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17
“It Is All Connected”
Standing Together
Standing in Prayer and Solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock
The Paris Climate Talks, Multilateralism, and a “New Approach to Climate Action”
Rachel Smolker: Quote of the Day – September 19, 2014
Superstorm Sandy: A “Wake-Up Call” on Climate Change
Chris Hedges: Quote of the Day – May 31, 2011

Image: Licypriya Kangujam, an Indigenous climate activist from India, holds a banner during the United Nations climate summit (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates – December 11, 2023. (Photo: Thomas Mukoya / Reuters)

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