popcawn - December 2023

popcawn - December 2023
UNFCCC Formal Opening of COP28… | Flickr

COP28: the COP that steals Christmas?

While many of us may be winding down for the end of the year celebrations, global climate action is ramping up with the start of the 28th annual Conference of the Parties (COP28) this week. Great! I can relax and start planning our family Christmas, while global leaders and their respective policy makers are busying themselves solving climate change. My Christmas wishes include quality time with loved ones, comforting delicious food and confirmation from climate scientists that as a result of COP28, we’re categorically on track to limit global warming to a ‘safe’ 1.5 degrees…As I jolt from my reverie, I remind myself that it’s important to have hope, but perhaps this last one is a wish too far, especially for this particular COP.

Since the signing of the Paris accords in 2015, there has been little progress from COPs – indeed if they had been more successful, we might not be hearing terms like ‘emissions canyons’ used by the UN secretary general last month to describe the findings in the 2023 Emissions Gap report1, emphasizing the gulf between where we need to be and where we currently are.

The pessimist in me feels that this COP was dead in the water before it even officially started – it’s being hosted by the world’s fourth largest oil producer2, with a president who is also CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). As you might expect, this has drawn much criticism. But you have to have hope so I delved beyond the headlines to try to find evidence of his deep understanding of the climate emergency and perhaps ambition to pivot his oil company away from fossil fuel extraction and into clean energy. Yes, there is an apparently comprehensive sustainability section on ADNOC’s website3 and yes, Dr Sultan Al Jabar is in his second tenure as the UAE Special Climate Envoy for Climate Change4, but a quote from his personal website4 confirmed my fears that we’re unlikely to get the wording of ‘phase out’ fossil fuels that we so desperately need1:

 “To meet current and future energy needs, the world needs all the solutions it can get. It is not hydrocarbons or solar, not wind or nuclear or hydrogen. It is all of the above, plus the clean energies yet to be discovered, commercialized, and deployed. In short, the world needs maximum energy and minimum emissions”

Despite my frustration and disgust that oil companies have known about and covered up the role of fossil fuels in the emerging climate crisis5, is there a view that having a COP president who is seen as an ally of the oil companies will foster true engagement with the sector and improve transparency? We’d better hope so, given reports that ADNOC has expansion plans that will ‘blow the carbon budget twice over’6. However, I don’t hold much hope in that respect given the accusations of plans to seal commercial fossil fuel deals in the preliminary COP28 meetings7. Explaining the issue to my children, I likened it to Father Christmas plotting to steal their toys under the guise of bringing presents. Let’s hope that with his plans exposed, Father Christmas makes amends and delivers the best Christmas ever.

None of this helps my eco-anxiety and it turns out I’m not alone – the number of searches for climate anxiety has risen sharply recently8. So how can I enjoy Christmas, when the world is quite literally on fire? If I ignore it, I feel like I have my head in the sand and that doesn’t sit well with me. But if I welcome it to take up permanent residence in the forefront of my mind then that’s a miserable Christmas for me and my friends and family…finding balance is key. A recent blog post9 gave me a name for this: sane realism, whereby giving space to and accepting our natural and healthy negative emotions of grief and anxiety about the climate and ecological crises can actually enhance our experience of joy and hope in what we still have left to fight for.

On that note, the team from CA-WN wish you many moments of joy and relaxation over the festive period and we look forward to redoubling our efforts to do our bit in 2024.

Clare Slater


1.      United Nations. UN urges dramatic climate action as records keep tumbling. Available at https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/11/1143777 accessed 28 November 2023

2.      Our World in Data. Oil Production. Available at https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/oil-production-by-country accessed 28 November 2023

3.      ADNOC available at https://www.adnoc.ae/en/ accessed 28 November 2023

4.      Dr Sultan Al Jabar. Available at: https://drsultanaljaber.com/bio.html accessed 28 November 2023

5.      BBC. Big Oil vs the World tells the 40 year story of how the oil industry delayed action on climate change. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/mediacentre/2022/big-oil-vs-the-world accessed 28 November 2023

6.      The Guardian. Cop28 host UAE has world’s biggest climate-busting oil plans, data indicates available at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/nov/15/cop28-host-uae-oil-plans-data accessed 28 November 2023

7.      The Guardian. Cop28 host UAE planned to promote oil deals during climate talks available at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/nov/27/cop28-host-uae-planned-promote-oil-deals-climate-talks accessed 28 November 2023

8.      BBC News. Climate change: Rise in Google searches around ‘anxiety’ available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-67473829 accessed 28 November 2023

9.      Gen Dread. Put on a happy face: unlearning toxic positivity in climate work. Available at https://gendread.substack.com/p/put-on-a-happy-face-unlearning-toxic?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2 accessed 28 November 2023