Negotiators, world leaders and climate experts from nearly every country in the world are in Dubai for COP28, the annual United Nations climate change conference.

COP28 comes after another disastrous year of climate-related events in almost every part of our planet. Canada faced an unprecedented wildfire season — with communities evacuated and blanketed in smoke — on top of droughts, storms and flooding.

And, of course, we’re not just dealing with the climate crisis. In the midst of global conflicts and an affordability crisis caused by the surging price of fossil fuels and corporate profiteering, climate diplomacy may not seem like a high priority.

But we know these crises are interlinked. Failure to take climate action will result in far worse storms, fires and floods — with real impacts on communities. It will increase food and water shortages. It will impact people’s ability to lead full lives.

As clear as the risks of inaction are, so are the benefits of transitioning to clean energy.

Despite what those looking to delay climate action would have us believe, addressing the climate crisis can — and must — go hand in hand with addressing affordability concerns. Whether it’s ensuring electricity is produced from the cheapest sources (which are solar and wind energy), paying less for home heating thanks to government-funded retrofits or heat pumps, or having access to electrified public transit options, the shift to low-carbon, energy-efficient solutions will leave communities better off.

Yet, countries around the world are not on track to achieve the necessary greenhouse gas emission reductions to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate disasters — and we’re running out of time.

Fossil fuels are responsible for over 90 per cent of carbon emissions. That means the single most important thing countries must do is to stop producing and using fossil fuels. Yet, countries continue to move in the opposite direction by expanding oil and gas production.

COP28 must deliver a global agreement to phase out fossil fuel production, writes Julia Levin @lev_jf @ Environmental Defence #COP28 #cdnpoli #EmissionsCap #ClimateCrisis #StopFossilFuelSubsidies

Enter COP28

Despite calls from over 80 countries at COP27, including Canada, the final decision text did not include phasing out all fossil fuels. Since then, momentum for a fossil fuel phaseout has continued growing.

Of course, in order to make real progress, negotiators will have to ignore the efforts of the oil and gas industry to weaken climate action. Over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists were included in national delegations at COP27 — and many more were in attendance. Even larger numbers are expected this year. These lobbyists have no interest in advancing climate action. Their only goal is to prolong business as usual for as long as possible to protect their short-term profits. This includes promoting dangerous distractions, including carbon capture, which have much more to do with justifying new fossil fuel infrastructure than effectively reducing emissions. Even with a massive expansion of carbon capture — itself extremely unlikely, expensive and risky — a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels is still necessary.

Real climate leadership requires honesty: it means acknowledging the need to phase out fossil fuels. COP28 must succeed where previous negotiations have failed.

COP28 must deliver a global agreement to phase out fossil fuel production.

There can be no collaboration without trust. By giving every country a seat at the table, COP helps address global inequities that often hinder progress.

In fact, one of the key themes for this year’s COP is the need for wealthy countries to compensate countries in the Global South, which are disproportionately experiencing climate-related impacts that cannot be avoided or adapted to. This is referred to as loss and damage. A significant win at COP27 was the establishment of a new loss and damage fund. COP28 must also deliver on a fully operationalized and capitalized fund.

Though much of the essential work necessary for the energy transition happens at home, addressing the climate crisis is not something any country can tackle on its own. As the International Energy Agency recently stated, “No country is an energy island, and no country is insulated from the risks of climate change. The necessity of collaboration has never been higher.”

Julia Levin is associate director of Environmental Defence Canada.

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So you geniuses hold a climate conference where you fly in 70,000 people to party an air conditioned buildings in the middle of the desert and get blown up but the leader of the conference. And you want us to trust you with our economic and energy future?