COP 28: It was as if Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald appeared

singing a climate change “Indian love’ song

At the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) 28, for the UN IPCC global climate change talks in Abu Dhabi, the parties failed to do much of anything in the way of a commitment to stop the exploration and drilling and use of fossil fuels.  There were no requirements, no demands, no targets, no convincing plans for doing away with fossil fuels.   Instead, at a core moment, the parties were heard calling others to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems.

  1. [the COP] Further… calls on Parties to contribute to the following global efforts, in a nationally determined manner, taking into account the Paris Agreement and their different national circumstances, pathways and approaches [including]

Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science;

The “call” for “transitioning away” sounds like Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald calling to each other in the Indian Love song and hoping the other will hear their call, like mating birds:

Oo-Oo-Oo-Oo, Oo-Oo-Oo-Oo

When I’m calling you

Oo-Oo-Oo-Oo, Oo-Oo-Oo-Oo

Will you answer too?

Oo-Oo-Oo-Oo, Oo-Oo-Oo-Oo

While such calling may carry some quaint courting notions, it would not appear to be the kind of communication that will generate a robust , concrete course of actions to stop the use of fossil fuels which, unquestionably, are destroying our planet.

One of the comments that captures, inadvertently, the utter lack of substance in this call for transitioning is that by John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.  At the end of the COP, he said that the mere mention of moving away from fossil fuels could be interpreted as a successful outcome for the climate summit.  See Berwyn, below.  Then again, it could not be interpreted as a successful outcome.  When either outcome is likely, the terms don’t carry much, if any meaning.  The participants from the Indigenous communities, those most likely to be devastated by climate breakdown, found the outcome to be “dishonest.”  Berwyn, below.

Having closely followed socio-political affairs in Northern Ireland for over 50 years, there’s always the danger of becoming inured to the ambiguous and sometimes tortuous language that at times is needed to overcome some very entrenched values and attitudes.  The wink and nod, the waffling, the vagueness at times seems to be necessary.

But eventually the words have to mean something real and we’re not near there when it comes to talking about climate actions. In Northern Ireland the blocks to political action were deep and emotional and historic.  With climate breakdown, the blocks to action are, simply, money.  Fossil fuel interests and their financial and political backers are making too much money from the usage of fossil fuels to let go.

It’s time to call a fossil fuel just what it is:  a dirty, toxic, climate-destroying barrel of money.







Caroline O’Doherty, “Cop28: Historic climate agreement reached on ‘transitioning away’ from fossil fuels,” Irish Independent (13 Dec 2023).

Damian Carrington, “Good Cop, bad Cop: what the Cop28 agreement says and what it means,” The Guardian (13 Dec 2023).

Bob Berwyn, “COP28 Does Not Deliver Clear Path to Fossil Fuel Phase Out: Small island states that arrived after the document was approved, don’t accept the outcome as a consensus decision,” Inside Climate News (13 Dec 2023).



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