Woot! What a show. What excitement. What a relief. COP28 went into overtime, of all things, exhausted delegates debated wording they no longer possessed the acuity to comprehend, and then miraculously they snatched rhetorical victory from the jaws of actual defeat and we got resounding with predictable declarations of a “historic deal”. For instance “COP28 strikes ‘historic’ deal to transition away from fossil fuels” from Euronews.green. Or “The COP28 United Nations climate summit clinched a historic climate deal on Wednesday” from Reuters. And the prating coxcombs at Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change crowed “Canada contributes to historic outcomes on climate ambition and clean energy at COP28”. Of course after an almost identical theatrical performance a year ago in Egypt, journalactivists pronounced COP27 “historic”. Does anyone remember what for? Anyone?
Well, apparently, “Cop27 strikes ‘historic’ climate compensation deal but no progress on emissions”. Oh really? To borrow a phrase from Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, could a search party find that deal today? Though if it tried, it might instead stumble across the headline “With the bang of a gavel at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, diplomats struck an agreement that called on governments to return next year with stronger plans to curb emissions.” Which evidently the searchers at COP27 couldn’t find.
So on to “FLOP 28 & the annual COP pantomime”, as Net Zero Watch dubbed it, for the same pseudo-theatrics including, from the New York Times “Climate Forward”, a breathless Dec. 12 report that “The fossil fuel fight goes into overtime”. As if anyone thought the conference would conclude on time, or with anything actually meaningful. And the same preposterous rhetoric including:
“‘The Republic of the Marshall Islands did not come here to sign our death warrant,’ said John Silk, the minister of natural resources for the nation of atolls in the Pacific Ocean. ‘We will not go silently to our watery graves.’”
Or to our luxury buffets.
We are more inclined to Roger Pielke Jr.’s terse summary of COP28 “COP arc/ High hopes/ Evil obstructors/ Brink of collapse/ Rays of hope still/ Overtime/ Exhausted negotiators/ Historic text!!/ Let’s do it again next year 🤓” And they will, with precisely that arc again. And nothing will happen. But it will be historic.
So here’s the deal. Nothing was achieved at COP28 other than to manage a pseudo-event sufficiently dramatic at the ending that you won’t look utterly stupid going to COP29 to repeat the performance. At least not within the echo chamber that these conferences have become.
On December 13 a Reuters newsletter, possibly drafted by a journalist as exhausted as any COP delegate, announced “Nations strike deal to end age of oil” although even their actual story only asserted that “Nations strike a deal at COP28 to transition away from fossil fuels” which in turn faded dismally to “Representatives from nearly 200 countries agreed at the COP28 climate summit to begin reducing global consumption of fossil fuels to avert the worst of climate change” before suddenly rallying, or mood-swinging due to fatigue, to “a first of its kind deal signaling the eventual end of the oil age”.
Climate Home News showed the same kind of forced pseudo-enthusiasm, announcing as the conference stumbled bleary-eyed to a pseudo-conclusion that:
“The UAE consensus has landed. Sultan Al Jaber gaveled through the deal late morning Wednesday, one day into overtime. It did not bring the clear call to phase out fossil fuels many were pushing for, based on the science of 1.5C. But it did clear the low bar set by previous inaction of targeting a transition away from all fossil fuels in energy systems, not just coal.”
Yeah? Then surely this “low bar set by previous inaction” rather suggests that the shouts of triumph and giddy sleep-deprived victory dances at 27 previous COPs were all nonsense. Which they were.
A slightly more sober report from the Associated Press said:
“United Nations climate negotiators directed the world on Wednesday to transition away from planet-warming fossil fuels in a move the talks chief called historic, despite critics’ worries about loopholes.”
Oh. Those. But never mind. According to Canada’s own extra-pleased-with-himself Environment Minister:
“Canada and nearly 200 other countries have reached a historic agreement on the Global Stocktake at COP28, which mobilizes ambitious actions and international support to cut greenhouse gas pollution and put us on a path toward a safer, more sustainable future.”
The Economist’s “The Climate Issue”, which might be called pseudo-journalism since it’s devoted to reporting a certain story regardless of awkward facts, insisted that “COP28 defied the pessimists”. Instead, and much worse, it vindicated the cynics.
So stand by for COP29 next November in… Azerbaijan. Wonder if 100,000 people will go there for high hopes, evil obstructors, brink of collapse, rays of hope still, overtime, exhausted negotiators and yet another “historic” text.