Island States Feel Ignored in Climate Conference Decision

Environment Minister of Samoa after negotiations on Tuesday

Breakthrough at the World Climate Conference: For the first time, the global community calls for a departure from fossil fuels at a UN climate conference. However, the clear exit previously demanded by more than a hundred states is not mentioned in the final text adopted in Dubai.

In the plenary hall in Dubai, several state representatives and delegates responded with prolonged applause, standing in solidarity. The host, Sultan Al Jaber, expressed gratitude for the input and announced his intention to reflect on it. However, no changes to the decision were anticipated.

The island nations, particularly those threatened by the rising sea level, feel overlooked. A representative of Samoa addressed the plenum, stating that the group of island nations had to coordinate and was not in the room in time to take a position.

Shortly before, the conference president of the United Arab Emirates unexpectedly swiftly approved the draft text at the beginning of the plenary session with a hammer blow. This is how decisions are made at climate conferences, where the principle of unanimity applies.

“We cannot return to our islands with the message that this process has betrayed us,” said the representative of Samoa. “The course correction we needed has not been achieved.”

“This Text is Only a Beginning”

The German government supports the decision of the UN Climate Conference. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock expressed relief, stating that a “huge burden has been lifted” from the German delegation in Dubai. The agreement demonstrates “that we are collectively walking the path of climate justice,” said Baerbock. She emphasized, “For us as the European Union and Germany, this text is only a beginning.” Germany and the EU have not only committed to phasing out fossil fuels but also to supporting the world’s most vulnerable states.

The EU, Germany, and other nations had previously advocated for a phase-out—a clear exit from fossil fuels.

UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell acknowledged the decision as a step in the right direction, although he deemed it insufficient. The meeting of nearly 200 states had to send a signal to address humanity’s central climate problem—an unequivocal stop sign to fossil fuels and their pollution, which is scorching the planet. He stated, “Even if we have not ended the era of fossil fuels in Dubai, this result is the beginning of the end.”

EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra remarked that it was a day to rejoice because “humanity has finally done what was long overdue.” Thirty years were spent initiating “the beginning of the end of fossil fuels.” The conclusion of the climate conference marked a day of gratitude and satisfaction. Hoekstra emphasized that our children and their children must live with what we have left behind, both the good and the bad.

US Climate Envoy John Kerry expressed satisfaction and gratitude, even though his government had hoped for clearer formulations in the final text. He acknowledged the challenges globally, such as wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and appreciated the unity of the nearly 200 states in the spirit of multilateralism, attempting to define the common good. Kerry commented, “That is the hardest thing in diplomacy. It is the hardest thing in politics.”

The President of the German Environment Agency, Dirk Messner, supports the UN Climate Conference’s call to move away from fossil fuels. Messner stated, “This finally acknowledges what science has long demanded.” Ending the fossil era is essential to prevent dangerous climate change, secure prosperity, and preserve the future prospects of future generations.

“The COP28 climate conference was pure greenwashing,” said energy expert Claudia Kemfert from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). She dismissed the conference president’s claim of a “historic package” as untrue in both positive and negative senses. Only a commitment to an immediate exit from fossil fuels could have led to achieving climate goals. Kemfert argued, “With this agreement, the 1.5-degree target will hardly be achievable.”

“Even if the present provisions were fully implemented, millions of people in the Global South would still face floods, fires, and famines, standing on the brink of a climate catastrophe,” said Sven Harmeling, the climate policy director at the aid organization Care International.

Featured Image: Environment Minister of Samoa after negotiations on Tuesday Photo: Martin Divisek / EPA.