King Charles urges 'genuine' climate action at COP28

The sense of urgency was heightened by a UN warning Thursday that 2023 is on track to become the hottest year on record


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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 5:05 PM

King Charles III told world leaders Friday that the UN's COP28 talks in Dubai must be a turning point in the fight against climate change, as tough negotiations over the fate of fossil fuels began.

Charles kicked off two days of speeches by heads of state and government in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, where the future of fossil fuels has taken centre stage.

"I pray with all my heart that COP28 will be another critical turning point towards genuine transformational action," King Charles told assembled leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"We are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment... all at once, at a pace that far outstrips Nature's ability to cope," said the king, a lifelong environmentalist, who missed last year's COP27 in Egypt reportedly due to objections by then UK prime minister Liz Truss.

The sense of urgency was heightened by a UN warning Thursday that 2023 is on track to become the hottest year on record, raising fears the world will not meet the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Speaking after the king, Lula, who will host COP30 climate talks in the Amazon in 2025, said: "The planet is fed up with unfulfilled climate agreements."

Other leaders from developing nations spoke of the disproportionate impact of global warming on their people and urged wealthier nations to honour unfulfilled promises to deliver climate funding.

"It's painful for the people of the small island developing states to see that COP28 may not be the milestone moment we had all been hoping for because of our slow progress on the Paris Agreement," said Tonga's King Tupou VI.

The UAE hosts said more than 170 world leaders would attend COP28, but Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden – whose countries are the world's biggest polluters – are absent.

The COP28 conference opened on Thursday with an early victory as nations agreed to launch a "loss and damage" fund for vulnerable countries devastated by natural disasters.

But delegates face two weeks of tough negotiations on an array of issues that have long bedevilled climate talks, starting with the future of oil, gas and coal.

A first draft of a COP28 agreement being negotiated by nearly 200 countries includes language on a "phasedown/out" of fossil fuels, which account for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions.

"The science is clear: the 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Activists have raised concerns about the influence of the energy industry lobby at COP28 as the conference is chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, who is also head of the UAE's national oil company.

Jaber, who is also chairman of a renewable energy firm, said Thursday the "role of fossil fuels" must be included in a final COP28 deal.

The draft text sets up a fight between those calling for a "phaseout" and those in favour of a less drastic "phasedown" of fossil fuels. But observers said the inclusion of such language was significant.

"It is more ambitious than anything ever tabled at COP27 (talks in Egypt last year), so even having it among the options is a big step up," said Lola Vallejo, an expert from French climate think tank IDDRI.


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