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It’s another sunny and smoggy day in Dubai, and it’s the final 48 hours of COP. Welcome to hell.

The first real stab at a Global Stocktake text is incoming today. Although given the state of the UN website, quite frankly who knows. This is the main deal in Dubai, and the future of the world’s fossil fuel use is at stake. The COP Presidency now holds the pen – it’s gambling this will be close enough to a landing zone that we can wrap on Tuesday. If not, COP28 is set to smash records for the longest summit given we’re in the penultimate day.

Rumours of a late night US-China bilateral, building on the 14 Nov Sunnylands statement that talked of tripling renewables and ‘accelerating the substitution’ of oil, gas & coal inside the next decade, never came to pass. Could one be brewing? Veteran China watcher Li Shuo says no. Still, the world’s top oil & gas producer and planet’s main coal guzzler have much in common – not least they’re the world’s top two historical emitters.

The so-called Majlis meeting did take place on Sunday, however, and here are some key takeaways:

– COP president: You arrive the ‘changemakers’, leave the ‘chancemakers’

– EU: No alternative than to follow the science – phase out of fossil fuels and subsidies

– Colombia: Phase out fossil fuels progressively; need a new economic and financial plan

– China: Climate action is a marathon, not a sprint

– Tuvalu (for AOSIS): Need a tougher fossil fuel phaseout goal; no compromise on 1.5C

– Germany: Need to peak emissions by 2025; phase out fossil fuels ‘to save mankind’

– Japan: Differences among the parties, but unless we overcome them, we’ll be destroyed

– Bolivia: Countries pushing fossil phaseout are expanding oil & gas (names US, Canada, Norway)

– Bangladesh: Litmus test for multilateralism. If we fail here the consequences will be dire

– Saudi Arabia: Too much targeting of energy, not enough on emissions; needs to be inclusive

– Brazil: De-escalating fossil fuels is unavoidable; this decade is the ‘last chance’ for climate action 

– UK: Something bizarre about cows, a pasture and trench warfare

– South Africa: Have received just 10% of support for new energy targets; finance key

– Australia: To keep 1.5 alive, fossil fuels have no ongoing role to play in our energy systems 

– Iraq: Phasedown or phaseout of fossil fuels or subsidies are contrary to the PA 

– Chile: Paying for 1.5C is cheaper than 2C – more emissions = more loss and damage & adaptation.

Saudi and OPEC pushback on fossil fuel phaseout lines is a sign of ‘panic’, reckons Germany climate envoy Jennifer Morgan. The duo have marshalled the troops, with the New York Times and Washington Post reporting on Saudi and Arab Group attempts to slow talks across multiple tracks. It’s an old strategy, as this Nov 2023 CSSN review of 30 years of Saudi tactics at the UN underlines. History tells us that when isolated, Riyadh typically buckles.

Meanwhile Rwanda and Sierra Leone used their role in the newly-established high ambition coalition for food (aka ACF) to call out the chasm between leaders promising to put food in their new climate plans last week and the gaping hole in the GST text where food should be. Rumour has it that a few other countries, like Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, also made a stand behind the scenes.

Pledge watch

Yesterday, the IEA crunched the numbers on the impact of the two major voluntary pledges of this COP. If the tripling renewables and the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter pledges are delivered in full, they’d close 30% of the gap to 1.5C.  Put another way – to meet Paris Agreement targets, voluntary promises won’t cut it.

US block

Expect the ritual dances and choreography of the final two days to up the tempo today. COP boss Al-Jaber’s not happy: “Time is ticking. The clock is ticking and I’m sure you can all hear it… we need to move much, much, much faster”. He’s still clinging to an 11am Tuesday finish, much as Tottenham fans cling to the idea they might pick up silverware. The sweepstakes and flight bookings tell a different story – most suggest we’ll be here on Wednesday. Briefings from UN climate boss Stimon Stiell and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will raise the stakes further, as will activists inside and outside the halls.

A new text on the Global Goal on Adaptation is due today. Sunday’s effort was light on targets, a concrete work plan and cash. The US has been called out for blocking progress, though Japan pushed back against including financial targets at all, and all richer countries bristled about the inclusion of the principle of fairness. There is a rumoured agreed way forward on the technical process to get a new finance goal (what comes after the $100bn), though the text is MIA. This will be a big-ticket political item for next year’s COP in Baku.

Speaking of future COPs, Brazil, the now-official host of COP30, will carry out a series of anti-climate actions after this year’s summit closes. In addition to the mega oil and gas auctions, Congress wants to overturn Lula’s veto of the Temporary Milestone, a measure that reverses the recognition of indigenous lands and prevents new titling. A group of investors with $10 trillion under management has sent a letter to parliamentarians calling for the veto to be upheld or the perceived risk of investing in Brazil will increase, O Globo reports. 

For the first time ever at a UN climate conference, yesterday marked  a full day devoted to addressing the health impacts of climate change. Health Ministers from around the world including Canada’s attended. But the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health, endorsed by over 120 governments,  contains a glaring omission — there is no mention of a fossil fuel phase out, or the impact of fossil fuels on health.

It’s clear to me, to my brothers and sisters of Wet’suwet’en Nation, and to Indigenous communities beyond, that a historic (and still pervasive) driving force of climate change and decimation of land and human health is the colonization of lands for resource extraction —  often, for oil and gas.

In so-called Canada, the 670-km fracked gas Coastal GasLink pipeline is being forced through, with militarized state police engaged in surveillance, intimidation, and violent force, evicting Wet’suwet’en people from our ancestral lands.

Land is more than a place to be bought, sold or profit from. Our ancestors make up every rock, tree, and drop of water from the river — they are the substance on which we rely for life, and to which we return after life. The cycling of materials and nutrients on this planet — the circle of life — is not a figure of speech, but a fact. The health of our land and water is intertwined with our own health. 

As Coastal GasLink destroys lands where my people have lived since time immemorial, we mourn for this loss. And we worry about health damages to come. The impact of fracked gas on health is multifold. Fracking involves blasting massive volumes of water, toxic chemicals, and sand, deep into the earth to fracture rock formations and release natural gas. In addition to chemicals used in fracking that can cause cancer, fracking pollutes drinking water and can negatively impact infants’ health. 

Then there are the climate damages. Methane is a major greenhouse gas, warming the planet by 86 times as much as carbon dioxide. Just 0.2% of leaked methane gas makes it as potent a driver for climate change as coal. As the world heats up, climate impacts have harmful effects on Indigenous Peoples’ physical and mental health.

Earlier this year, massive flooding in sections of Coastal GasLink construction turned a tributary of Wet’suwet’en sacred headwaters, Wedzin Kwa (known as the Morice River) into a murky brown river of sediment, choking up precious salmon habitat. Coastal GasLink received more than 50 warnings from the British Columbia government, and stop-work orders for violating terms of its environmental assessment certificate. 

In spite of ongoing widespread public opposition, Coastal GasLink continues its “resource extraction”, an innocuous term that hides the truth: it is decimating the health of our land and risking the health of our people. 

My community is not alone in experiencing the health of our land and people sacrificed for colonialist, corporate greed. For over a decade, Indigenous communities living near the oil sands have urged the federal government to conduct a scientific assessment of the toxic health impacts in their communities of oil sands production. 

In 2009, the Alberta Cancer Board confirmed cancer rates were higher in Fort Chipewyan than what would be expected. The board recommended a comprehensive baseline health study by the federal government but one has never been completed, partly due to concerns from Indigenous communities that the oil and gas industry would play a role in the research. It would be counterproductive to allow the suspect of a crime a say in its own investigation, no? 

Which brings me back to COP28. The UN climate conference is a critical meeting on climate change, where state leaders from around the world decide how to work together to tackle climate change. It is irrefutable that a climate-safe, livable world has no room for the continued burning of more oil and gas. But this year, with COP hosted by an oil state and a COP president whose main gig is running an oil company in the midst of a $150 billion expansion, the words “fossil fuel phase out” are contentious. Talk about letting the perpetrator into the negotiation room. 

Science requires a phaseout of fossil fuels. For this to happen, we must acknowledge that greed for profit has no room in any equitable solution toward the protection of planetary, land, and human health. I urge the international community to hold steadfast to the non-negotiable goal of a fossil fuel phase out. The safety of Mother Earth — our ancestors’ legacies and our future generations – depend on it.