“Global stocktake” at COP28 climate summit should address continued risks faced by frontline environmental defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg at a protest at the pre-COP28 climate change conference in Bonn, Germany on June 12, 2023.

The United Nations COP28 climate change conference will take place from November 30 to December 12, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

COPs oversee deepening climate crisis

The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in March 1995.

Global civil society has been increasingly critical of COP summits as a space to address the climate crisis for numerous reasons.

Significantly, almost 30 years of COP summits have failed to address the climate crisis. Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide emissions continue to increase and slightly over half of all cumulative global CO2 emissions have taken place since 1990

Just last month, the World Meteorological Organization reported there was a 66 per cent likelihood of exceeding the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold in at least one year between 2023 and 2027. While this is expected to be temporary, it is a warning sign.

And last year, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said she wouldn’t attend the COP27 talks in Egypt. She commented: “The COPs are mainly used as an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention, using many different kinds of greenwashing.”

COP28 coming soon

Th COP28 climate summit is also shaping up to be problematic.

The Guardian reports: “The official chosen to preside over the [COP28] summit – Sultan Al Jaber – is the chief executive of the country’s national oil company, Adnoc, which is planning a big expansion of production capacity.”

A joint statement signed by many human rights organizations has further noted: “Civil society groups fear that the severe restrictions imposed by the UAE authorities in recent years will hinder the full and meaningful participation of journalists, activists, human rights defenders, civil society, youth groups, and indigenous peoples’ representatives at COP28.”

That letter calls for an “end restrictions on civic space and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly to enable meaningful participation of civil society and indigenous peoples at COP28.”

This past November, Canadian author Naomi Klein tweeted: “Now is the time to decide not to do this all over again next year, when the summit will be in the UAE. Of all places. Civil society should announce a boycott + instead hold a true people’s summit.”

“An opportunity to mobilize”

Greta Thunberg has also cautioned: “The COPs are not really working, unless of course we use them as an opportunity to mobilize.”

Peace Brigades International will try to do just that, use the occasion of COP28 as an opportunity to mobilize.

“Global stocktake”

It is expected that a “global stocktake” will take place at COP28. This will be the first assessment since the promises made at COP21 in Paris in 2015 of how countries are faring on the emission-cutting commitments they made at that time.

While the crucial matrix will be the rise in global emissions, it is important to highlight the risks that continue to be faced by frontline environmental defenders.

In December 2022, Global Witness reported that since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, at least 1,213 environmental defenders have been killed.

They have further commented: “Most of these attacks are related to land conflicts involving climate-damaging industries – from logging to large-scale agribusinesses to mining. Nearly all these attacks are taking place in the Global South, and yet it is companies in the Global North who are ultimately driving or benefiting from this violence. Consumer demand for raw materials and commodities is fuelling unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, often at the expense of Indigenous and local communities.”

Peace Brigades International accompanies environmental defenders in the Global South who face risks due to their opposition to logging, mining, large-scale agribusiness, fossil fuel extractivism, and hydroelectric dams.

COP28 webinar later this year

PBI created a global online platforms to hear the voices of frontline defenders at the time of the COP26 summit in Scotland and the COP27 summit in Egypt.

COP27 and environmental defenders (November 15, 2022)

COP26 and land defenders (November 6, 2021)

Following the recent Bonn Climate Change Conference (June 5-15), we will also remain attentive to the “Summit for a new global financial pact” on June 22-23 in Paris, and the “climate ambition” summit on September 20 in New York.

In the coming months, watch for more information on our next webinar at the time of the COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates.

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