Fossil fuels, fairness, finance: Climate fights to watch in 2023

Residents wade through flood water in Obagi community, Rivers state, Nigeria October 21, 2022. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

Residents wade through flood water in Obagi community, Rivers state, Nigeria October 21, 2022. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

What’s the context?

We asked experts which issues they think will – or should – turn up the heat in the climate conversation

  • Pressure expected on Gulf petro-states ahead of COP28 in UAE
  • Make-or-break year to boost integrity of global carbon markets
  • Just transition for the few? More money needed for green equity

LONDON - From huge floods in Pakistan and Nigeria to heatwaves in India and drought-fuelled hunger in the Horn of Africa, vulnerable countries faced mounting climate disasters in 2022.

That has made it much harder for wealthy nations – whose emissions have driven the crisis – to ignore the need for more financial help for those suffering the most in a warming world.

Last month, at the COP27 summit in Egypt, they agreed to create a fund to help communities on the frontline deal with growing "loss and damage" from climate change impacts.

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But efforts to reduce planet-heating emissions from oil, gas and coal – to avoid yet more climate damage – have seen little progress, and the relationship between top carbon polluters like China and the United States remains politically tense.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked a global energy squeeze that made some governments question their heavy reliance on fossil fuels – but also pushed others to boost production, both to meet demand and profit from high prices.

COP27 ended with a stalemate on whether and how the world should commit to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels – a particular worry with next year's COP28 climate talks hosted by the United Arab Emirates, a major oil and gas producer.

What will 2023 bring? We asked top climate analysts and activists what they predict for the new year:

Smoke and steam billow from Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant powered by lignite, in Kleszczow, Poland October 20, 2022. REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki

Smoke and steam billow from Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant powered by lignite, in Kleszczow, Poland October 20, 2022. REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki

Smoke and steam billow from Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant powered by lignite, in Kleszczow, Poland October 20, 2022. REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki

Political headwinds

Li Shuo, senior global policy adviser, Greenpeace China

"Will geopolitics drag the climate agenda further down, or will a new type of big-power relationship emerge – one that still allows the climate agenda to progress?

"The pessimistic side of me sees profound challenges... (but) the optimistic side of me still sees hope.

"Climate is at the top of the global agenda. The issue will only become more urgent as climate impacts deepen... and it is not like we have the luxury of time to wait for better political conditions."

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Philippines climate justice activist

"With the decision of a 'loss and damage' finance facility at the latest U.N. climate summit, we need to put pressure to ensure that this is operationalised immediately.

"It's a historic victory, but we still need to make sure that it becomes clear how the money will be transferred and who will pay."

Mohamed Adow, founder and director, Power Shift Africa

"COP28 is already being talked down by some climate campaigners, writing it off due to the host nation being the United Arab Emirates.

"However, that actually offers a big opportunity. Normally disruptive members of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), like Saudi Arabia, are less likely to derail their neighbour's big moment in the global spotlight."

Delegates applaud as COP27 President Sameh Shoukry delivers a statement during the closing plenary at the COP27 climate summit in Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 20, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Delegates applaud as COP27 President Sameh Shoukry delivers a statement during the closing plenary at the COP27 climate summit in Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 20, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Delegates applaud as COP27 President Sameh Shoukry delivers a statement during the closing plenary at the COP27 climate summit in Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 20, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

A global finance rethink

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy, Climate Action Network International

"The financial institutions that were put in place in a bygone time are no longer fit-for-purpose and, in tragic irony, are often just seeding greater inequity and injustice by increasing the debt burden of countries as they try to solve for compounding and accelerating crises."

Vladislav Kaim, youth climate advisor to U.N. secretary-general

"The inadequacy of the efforts and poor climate leadership of the international financial institutions in general, and the World Bank in particular, has become glaringly evident.

"A summit (French President Emmanuel Macron) convenes in June will be a barometer of what his leadership – or that of (Barbados Prime Minister) Mia Mottley, with her Bridgetown Initiative – can achieve in the current environment."

Rachel Kyte, dean, The Fletcher School at Tufts University and co-chair of the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative

"The financial capacity of the international financial architecture provides the 'easiest' trillion dollars to access (for climate action) – it's already authorised and in the case of the multilateral development banks is highly under-leveraged, despite 20 years of efforts to improve.

"So making that public money take more risk, work harder, move faster, is – while not easy – not as hard as finding another trillion."

Phasing down fossil fuels

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Philippines climate justice activist

"We need governments to sign onto the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to ensure that we stop all new, and expansion of, fossil infrastructure."

Mohamed Adow, founder and director, Power Shift Africa

"For many years climate campaigners have said the world needs to get onto a 'war footing' to adequately deal with the climate crisis. A mobilisation akin to that which helped win World War Two is needed to accelerate the global energy transition.

"What has been missing is the political will... (but) that is now changing as fossil fuel costs soar and the folly of reliance on petro-dictators like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin becomes clear."

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy, Climate Action Network International

"With the climate conference COP28 in Dubai, we can expect petro-states and oil-producing states to exploit the moment to dictate the terms of the transition to their benefit and prop up false solutions. It will be a critical year to dismantle this powerful lobby."

Credible net-zero claims

Vladislav Kaim, youth climate advisor to U.N. secretary-general

"(Carbon offsets) already are discredited. There is no quick fix... to allow the polluters to buy their way out of the need to reduce emissions – and we should not give an inch in the fight on this.

"(Net-zero) pledges are the stuff of the day before yesterday – (high-emitters must) show us what they are actually doing, and be prepared to be held accountable."

Rachel Kyte, dean, The Fletcher School at Tufts University and co-chair of the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative

"2023 is an important year to pull together the different efforts to build the transparent rules of the road for a (carbon) market.

"For voluntary carbon markets to work well, we need clarity on high integrity on both the supply and demand side – and that is coming into focus."

Fresh pressure for climate action

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy, Climate Action Network International

"The climate crisis is a human rights crisis and viewing it through this lens widens the leverage points for action. It is time to hold states accountable to their obligations to their citizens.

"A key process early next year is the vote on the resolution tabled by the government of Vanuatu, seeking an advisory opinion from the world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice, on climate change.

"This would clarify states' obligations to their citizens through the framing of international law."

Fatima Denton, director, United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa

"Youth groups in various parts of the world are challenging the dominant narratives on climate change and critiquing climate diplomacy for being too slow, too protracted, and for failing to challenge power relations.

"They are increasingly pointing to climate change as more than a scientific, economic, political issue, but inherently moral. As a result, they are speaking out against what they perceive to be climate injustice."

Just transition gaps

Mohamed Adow, founder and director, Power Shift Africa

"We're already seeing deals being struck to help developing countries get out of polluting industries, like the recent $15 billion agreement between the G7 and Vietnam. We need to see more of these to power a just transition.

"We also need to remove the barriers currently preventing the growth in good jobs in clean energy.

"The British government has had a de facto ban on onshore wind, the cheapest form of new electricity in the UK, for the last seven years. Not only was that a terrible policy from a climate perspective, it also prevented the growth of high-skill, high-value green jobs from emerging in the UK.

"Renewables offer a source of much-needed and well-paid employment if the industry is given support from governments around the world."

Fatima Denton, director, United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa

"Climate finance obstacles will impede equitable transitions... Countries that are most vulnerable to climate extremes and have the least adaptive capacity are on the transition's periphery. (That) will negatively impact the quality, speed and depth of the transition."

(Reporting by Laurie Goering and Megan Rowling; editing by Jumana Farouky.)


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