Can’t be ‘business as usual’ at UN climate conference, say UBC experts

November 28, 2023

Can’t be ‘business as usual’ at UN climate conference, say UBC experts

UBC climate experts are looking for action on fisheries, finance and renewable energy goals at the United Nations climate change conference, including the 28th Conference of Parties (COP). We spoke to four current and former COP delegates to ask what the world, and Canada, need to see come out of the conference, to be held from November 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai. 

Dr. William Cheung: The oceans must be part of the discussions

Dr. Cheung is a professor and the director of the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, a COP 28 delegate and co-author of the IPCC 2023 report. 

The oceans must be considered part of the discussions—they host a vast diversity of life, provide renewable energy through offshore windfarms, feed or employ a good portion of the world, serve as carbon sinks and offer a potential low-carbon pantry and economy through sustainable fishing and aquaculture.

Even if the world successfully limits global warming to 1.5 C, tropical areas, small islands, and developing states will continue to see a substantial decrease in catches and seafood availability, as well as sea level rise in the near term. We need to see the loss and damages fund used to support these actors. 

Not achieving the warming limit doesn’t mean we should give up. Every degree of warming avoided helps. This requires further emissions cuts than those to which countries have already committed. Making meaningful progress in this conference is very important for addressing other global challenges including biodiversity conservation and food security.

Dr. Kathryn Harrison: Countries need to up their game

Dr. Harrison is a professor with the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability and the Department of Political Science. She is a former COP 26 delegate.

The world isn’t on track to meet the Paris Agreement goal to limit warming to 1.5 to 2 C, and so, the most fundamental thing we need is greater ambition to reduce emissions, both in terms of national targets and domestic policies to meet them. 

Wealthy countries that disproportionately caused climate change must provide greater financial support to low-income countries that disproportionately suffer its impacts. I’m also hoping to see acknowledgement of the need to phase out both consumption and production of fossil fuels.

Canada must demonstrate our word can be trusted by implementing policies needed to meet our targets, and acknowledging the need to wind down fossil fuel production. And Canada can lead in committing greater climate finance for developing countries

It’s easy to be cynical about UN climate conferences, but I’m stubbornly hopeful, because I have never been surrounded by so many people deeply committed to eliminating climate change. 

Fabiola Melchior: Strengthening youth participation

Fabiola Melchior is a master’s student in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies at UBC Okanagan and a climate activist. 

I hope to see the parties strengthen meaningful youth participation at key decision-making events, which is crucial not only because youth are at the forefront of climate justice organizing in their communities, but especially because we continually confront the roots of capitalist and colonial structures that have led to the climate crisis. This could include the institutionalization of the Youth Climate Champion within the COP Presidency. 

Going into this conference, we need to amplify calls for the implementation of a robust conflict-of-interests policy within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This would require the parties to maintain separation from corporate entities and limit sponsorships by polluting entities that may impact the focus, progress and outcomes of COPs. Last year 636 representatives of oil and gas industries attended COP, outnumbering any one delegation of frontline communities. It is time to take action, and kick big polluters out.

Temitope Onifade: Tackle renewable energy technologies

Temitope Onifade is an affiliated research scholar in the Peter A. Allard School of Law and a COP 26 delegate. 

I’d like to see countries address the management of renewable energy technologies, the most widely accepted alternative to fossil fuels. These technologies require diverse minerals, metals and other materials. Efforts to find these, such as deep-sea mining, create social and environmental challenges. COP 28 should create a framework to address such implications, which can then be implemented with partners such as the International Renewable Energy Agency.

COP 28 should not be business as usual: governments, heavily lobbied by businesses, negotiating technology and market-based systems. We have done this for decades, but it has not worked. Rather, governments should be promoting the solutions that work while empowering the countries and communities that are disproportionately impacted by not only climate change but also the solutions. They should listen to what such countries and communities think about the best ways to deal with those impacts, not what powerful industries tell them. 

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