Absence of Presidents Biden, Jinping from COP28 angers African climate activists

Climate summit credibility, World Bank role in Loss and Damage Fund questioned by Pan African Climate Justice Alliance

PACJA Executive Director Mithika Mwenda at COP28. Photo: @mithika_mwenda / X (Formerly Twitter)12jav.net

The absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden from arguably the largest-ever climate summit has enraged African climate activists, even as they continue to question Sultan Al Jaber’s suitability as conference president and expected outcomes.

Over 70,000 delegates, including heads of state and world leaders, are in Dubai for the two-week 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to build consensus and facilitate progress on climate action among stakeholders. 

The absence of presidents from the world’s two biggest polluting nations sends the wrong message and signals a reluctance to share the burden of reducing the climate crisis, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a consortium of more than 1,000 organisations from 51 African countries.

“The absence of Chinese and US Presidents at COP28 not only sends a wrong signal to the world but also dents their image as leaders urgently needed in this epochal time when the world needs inspirational leadership towards the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future,” said PACJA Executive Director Mithika Mwenda.

The absence of Biden and XI says a lot about their lack of commitment to battling climate change, said Mwenda. “They are probably not living up to expectations regarding their emission targets as promised in the Paris Agreement. Or have low expectations regarding the outcomes or success of COP28 and are shying away from accountability for any possible fallouts or disagreements,” he said.

In a statement, the activists said they were deeply concerned about the credibility of COP28 given the alarming ties between COP president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber and the fossil fuel industry, but neveretheless called for bold actions and solutions. 

“PACJA maintains its rejection of the suitability of Sultan al Jaber to lead COP28 proceedings and urges all parties to uphold the principles of transparency, accountability and impartiality, ensuring that the outcome of COP28 truly reflects the global commitment to combat climate change,” read the PACJA statement in part.

World Bank role in Loss and Damage Fund faulted

The activists also raised concerns over the decision to host the Loss and Damage Fund under the auspices of the World Bank, an institution they said is laced with a history of presiding over policies that have led to the catastrophic economic decline of countries in the Global South.

They acknowledged that while Loss and Damage are not within the remit of the Bank, its history of burdening loans to African countries raises serious doubts about its ability to manage the fund effectively.

“The control [over World Bank] exerted by the US, which opposes compensation for Loss and Damage, further jeopardises the fund’s integrity. We insist on a more neutral and accountable body that is proximate to communities experiencing the vagaries of climate-triggered disasters to oversee the Loss and Damage Fund, ensuring fair and just compensation for affected nations,” further read the statement.

The activists underscored the urgent need to operationalise the global goal on adaptation at COP28, emphasising that adaptation efforts should be scaled up to meet the special needs and circumstances faced by African nations. They are also calling for a significant increase in climate finance for Africa, focusing on adaptation and resilience building as opposed to mitigation.

“This COP, as a departure from its tradition, must deliberately pursue grant-based climate financing, in line with keeping the global commitment by developed countries to deliver climate finance in grant form. PACJA emphasises the critical importance of a comprehensive and transparent Global Stock Take as a mechanism to assess collective progress towards achieving the agreement’s goals,” said the activists.

Carbon credits called ‘False solutions’

The alliance unequivocally rejects any false solutions and delay tactics that threaten to undermine genuine progress in the fight against climate change, Mwenda said. “As COP28 unfolds, we urge all parties to dismiss approaches that merely pay lip service to environmental concerns without delivering tangible, equitable, and sustainable outcomes,” he said.

“False solutions, such as carbon offset schemes that divert attention from actual emissions reduction efforts, geoengineering and delay tactics that perpetuate inaction, only serve to exacerbate the climate crisis, injustices and human rights violations. We call for a collective commitment to substantive and immediate action, rooted in science, justice and the principles of the Paris Agreement,” said Mwenda.

He concluded by saying COP28 must be a turning point and that while the alliance remains committed to fostering a just and equitable global response to the climate crisis, all parties at the summit must prioritise the needs of vulnerable people not only in Africa but globally.

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