COP 28 blogs by a Dutch Mennonite

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Climate summit in Dubai 

blog #1 – 29 November 2023

Tomorrow, November 30, the annual United Nations (UN) climate summit starts in Dubai. It’s number 28, that is why the meeting is called COP 28.  

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Those Parties are the participating countries in the climate convention of the UN, almost two hundred of them. In other words: almost all countries in the world. 

These climate negotiations (because that’s what they are) started in the 1990s. The World Council of Churches (WCC), which has a good working relationship with the UN, has been involved in these summits from the beginning. This involvement has now grown and has become multi-religious. Yes: the other major religions in the world also understand the importance of the climate summits and are making themselves heard. 

The Vatican has a special role. In 2015, just before the big climate summit in Paris, the Pope released an important encyclical (Laudato si’) that had an impact on the negotiations. That summit concluded with the Paris Climate Agreement, which has become the new guiding principle. 

Sharing as a new concept 

Many citizens all over the world are concerned about climate change. That is very understandable, because far too few measures have been taken so far. Realistically it’s very difficult to reach good agreements with all those countries. 

A rich country (like the Netherlands) must make efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it also has a historical responsibility: CO2, the most common greenhouse gas, remains in the atmosphere for centuries. That is why poor countries are calling on rich countries to make more money and clean technology available. Otherwise, they will have to use fossil fuels for their economic development for a long time to come. And that means even more greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, due to their geographical location, these countries are most affected by the consequences of climate change. We see this almost every day on the news. 

This, in a nutshell, is the complex problem facing the world. 

The major economies follow a business model based on making profits. They don’t work with the concept of sharing. However, this will be necessary to roll out the clean technology the world needs quickly enough. If this does not happen, the climate will warm too much and the consequences will be incalculable. 

Learning through collaboration 

The reader will realize by now that we are essentially dealing with a profound moral and ethical challenge – one of the reasons the major religions in the world are involved. After all, the climate challenge is about preserving creation, including people, animals, plants and ecosystems.  

Humanity will have to radically change course.  

That is why, in recent years, other cultures – especially those of Indigenous Peoples – have been looked at with new eyes, because they can teach us a lot in many respects. The WCC works closely with their organizations and amplifies their voices. 

Since the year 2000, I have been a member of the WCC team that monitors the climate summits. In that capacity I will be following COP 28 closely and will blog about it. 

More to come. 

Marijke van Duin  
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000, member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.

These blogs were originally published in Dutch on the website of the Netherlands Council of Churches

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The beginning 

blog #2 – 30 November 2023 

It’s November 30, COP 28 has started. What are the most important points? 

Global Stocktake (GST) 

This year, for the first time, national climate efforts of recent years can be assessed and evaluated.  

All countries have submitted climate plans under the Paris Climate Agreement and must implement them. Whether that actually happened, and whether those plans are ambitious enough, will be the focus in the coming weeks.  

But various reports have already shown that this is not the case. In fact, the ambition must be increased 5 times (!) to achieve the most important goal of a maximum of 1.5 C warming. According to the latest data, global warming is currently already 1.4 C. 

Loss & Damage 

Loss and damage due to climate change.  

Last year, after 30 years of lobbying, it was finally decided to set up a fund to compensate for this damage. Many countries are already experiencing this, which often leads to a decline in their gross domestic product.  

Today, the fund has been formally established after a year of preparation. The fund is temporarily placed with the World Bank, which not all countries like. The need for (administrative) transparency and fair accessibility without geopolitical control was immediately pointed out. 

There are of course many more important points. These will be discussed in subsequent blogs. 

It is clear that this will be a very difficult COP.  

The president of COP 28, Sultan Al Jaber, is also CEO of the state oil company of the United Arab Emirates. In his opening speech today, he stated that there is an important role for the fossil industry in tackling climate change. 

And that is a sore point for many countries and organizations, especially the environmental movement.  

How can you present the cause of a problem as the solution?  

Well, it turns out that there are all kinds of ways to do this, especially technological innovations such as capturing and storing CO2 underground (CCS). But not only is this technology still under development and (therefore) very expensive, it is also used as an argument to continue developing new fossil sources.  

Is that really the solution? 

This contradiction will dominate COP 28. 

The religious organizations, or Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), were immediately busy today. Various religious organizations have been working together during the COPs for about eight years. Not only Christian, but also Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu and others. This afternoon there was an open dialogue about various important agenda items, which could also be followed digitally. The most important results will be submitted as recommendations to the Presidency of COP 28.  

The dialogue was followed by an interfaith celebration. 

The role of religion in climate discussion 

New at this COP is the Faith Pavilion – a meeting place especially for religious organizations. Tomorrow various activities will be organized there by young people. The World Council of Churches, among others, is involved.  

In addition, there will be a meeting tomorrow, co-organized by the United Nations itself, on the role of religion in the climate discussion and in climate action. That role is gradually being seen and appreciated.  

And the day after tomorrow, 2 December, the ecumenical service will be held that has now become a tradition at the COPs.  

Marijke van Duin  
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.
These blogs were originally published in Dutch on the website of the Netherlands Council of Churches.

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Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President, joined climate leaders in launching the Global Cooling Pledge to collectively raise ambition and reduce cooling-related emissions. Photo: COP28UAE

High level segment: kings, financiers and residents 

blog #3 – 1 December 2023 

The second day started with the so-called High-Level Segment. Today and tomorrow, many heads of state will give a speech in Dubai to underline how important this summit is. These will be given in two plenary rooms simultaneously, by one president after another, kings and heads of government – a tradition at climate conferences. 

During the first few years I followed those speeches closely. I now know that they more or less amount to the same thing: the situation is urgent and we must act quickly. Some heads of state boast of what has already been done by their country, others – usually from less wealthy countries – call on their counterparts from richer countries for global solidarity. 

While the speeches are being presented, informal meetings of civil servants preparing for the actual negotiations are held in other rooms. It is striking that the vast majority of them are in their 30s, some even in their 20s.  

The discussions include the Global Stocktake (GST) and climate finance. That last point is perhaps the most important of the entire climate process. Because without money there can be no sustainability transition and no global solidarity.  

Although around 400 million dollars was already pledged yesterday for the new Loss & Damage Fund, it does not mean much. The question is whether that money is ‘new and additional’, i.e., comes on top of existing money flows, especially those for development cooperation and for adaptation projects. If that is not the case, the commitments could have negative consequences.  

It is also important that the money is not spent in the form of loans, because that will further increase the already large debt burden of poor countries. 

This is one of the many points that specialized observers of NGOs – including those of religious (development) organizations – pay close attention to. In this way they support the poor(er) countries that desperately need these flows of money.  

That is why finding a definition for climate finance that is accepted by everyone is a very tricky issue. Civil servants and their government bosses have been considering this for years, including now in Dubai. Ultimately, these negotiations should result in a ‘new collective and quantified goal’ for climate financing: NCQG (New Collective Quantified Goal). Many tough nuts will undoubtedly be cracked during this process... 

What are other organizations doing in the meantime? 

Climate Action Network International (CAN-I) holds a press conference every day to explain the status of the summit. This network is formed by approximately 2 000 organizations (!) from 150 countries. CAN-I has been a fixture at climate summits for years.  

We, observers of religious organizations, also benefit from their expertise. 

Today it became clear that the most important point for CAN-I is the phasing out of fossil fuels. One of the spokespersons is the founder of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative – an initiative to ban fossil fuels for good. Many religious organizations, including Mennonite World Conference, support this initiative.  

A meeting about this will be held tomorrow at the Faith Pavilion, together with Greenfaith, an international multi-faith organization focused on climate justice. 

Litmus test 

Not only NGOs, but also authoritative organizations such as the IEA (International Energy Agency) and the IPCC (the international team of hundreds of climate scientists who work for the UN) argue that we must phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible.  

Ditto former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, David Boyd. He said that COP 28 will be a litmus test for the entire UN climate negotiation process. In his opinion, if it is not possible to clearly agree that fossil fuels must be phased out as quickly as possible, this could mean the end of the entire process.  

Let’s hope this will not be the case. 

Other organizations are also hard at work. Including youth organizations and the Indigenous Peoples’ Platform (IPP).  

This afternoon the Youth Climate Report was presented. This is an interactive documentary project: a digital database with videos about climate research by young people worldwide, from 2008 to the present.  

The IPP has only been around for a few years and was created with the support of the World Council of Churches. Many Indigenous Peoples around the world feel disconnected from national borders and poorly represented by their national governments. Their voices were therefore not heard for years. Thanks to the platform, there are now various opportunities for them to participate in the climate process.  

It is clear that they not only want to be seen as victims of climate change, which they certainly are, but also as providers of solutions. After all, they have centuries, even millennia, of experience with living with nature – not against nature.  

Something to learn from. 

Marijke van Duin 
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.
These blogs were originally published in Dutch on the website of the Netherlands Council of Churches.

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Balancing act 

blog #4 – 3 December 2023 

Today is Health Day in Dubai. This means that the focus is on the relationship between climate change and human health.  

Many people have died purely from heat stress in recent years, including in Europe. In addition, floods increase the risk of diseases such as cholera and malaria. Malaria is also advancing north, just like dengue: the mosquitoes that spread these diseases move north because of the higher temperatures.  

And consider the smoke released during forest fires: it is very bad for your health. 

Medical journals are increasingly paying attention to the negative effect of climate change on human health.  

Another important meeting today was the ministerial round table discussion on “Just Transition.” This means achieving the fairest possible energy transition for the entire world.  

This is perhaps the most important topic, certainly for the longer term.  

The rich countries do have money for sustainable energy, but the poor(er) ones often do not. They are largely dependent on fossil fuels for their economic development. Something the fossil industry knows but too well. Their assessment of the future shows that they expect a decrease in the use of fossil fuels in rich countries, but an increase in poor ones. If this trend is not reversed, it will become impossible to adequately combat climate change. So there is every reason to focus on sustainable energy worldwide. 

The strongest shoulders 

Fortunately, there is broad agreement about the need to double energy efficiency worldwide in the coming years (up to and including 2030) and to triple investments in sustainable energy. But this will have to be accompanied by a rapid decrease in the use of fossil energy to have a positive effect on the climate. 

However, strict realism is required: after all, we know what happens if, for example, the price of petrol goes up – protests and unrest everywhere. Just think of the yellow vests in France a few years ago, and the many protests in Latin American countries. People complain when they have to pay more at the pump. 

This clearly shows that poor(er) people and countries need help to make the sustainability transition. This socio-economic aspect will become increasingly important in the coming years, also in rich countries. The slogan ‘the strongest shoulders must bear the heaviest burdens’ will have to be lived up to. 

It is as if a ‘third way’ must be followed: not a foreign concept to Christians.  

On the one hand, climate change forces us to switch to sustainable energy, on the other hand there is the need to keep economies running and/or further develop them. Hence the lobby to make fossil fuels cleaner and not to ban them.  

To ensure that the energy transition takes place in a controlled manner, without economies being disrupted and societies ending up in chaos, but also without warming the climate further, a true balancing act is required.  

This process is probably the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. And it therefore needs input from all parties: not only governments, but also the business community, citizen movements, trade unions, NGOs and science. Everyone can and should be able to discuss this. The ministers agreed on this today. 

Due to the comprehensive nature of the Just Transition, there will be a Work Program (JTWG). It was advocated that this should be included in all work streams of the climate negotiations: mitigation (the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions), adaptation (to climate change), climate finance, technology and more. The Work Program will also have to find its way into national climate plans and long-term strategies. 

Loss through militarization 

Yesterday, 2 December 2023, the Pope was scheduled to give a speech in Dubai. But he had to be absent due to illness. Fortunately, his spokesperson was able to present his text during the last part of the High-Level Segment.  

And what a text!  

The Pope called for national interests to finally be subordinated to the overarching interest: fighting climate change and choosing life.  

It is time for a new vision, he said, new confidence in the multilateral process and attention to the victims. Moreover, care for creation is closely intertwined with the pursuit of peace – how much money and energy is lost in all kinds of wars that destroy our common home! 

The full text can be found at:  

CAN-I also referred to the link between climate change and militarism. Their ECO newsletter today read the following: 

Militarization is responsible for 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions but is not being addressed. On top of that come the emissions as a result of actual conflicts: in the first year, the emissions from the war in Ukraine were equal to those of a rich country like Belgium. In 2022, global military spending rose to a record high of $2.24 trillion. G20 military spending represents 87% of that. These same countries spend 30 times more on their military than on climate finance. 
(translation and summary by Marijke van Duin) 

A topic that resonates with us peace churches… 

Marijke van Duin 
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.
These blogs were originally published in Dutch on the website of the Netherlands Council of Churches.

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Dr. Sultan Al Jaber and World Bank President Ajay Banga connected during Finance Day at COP28, to discuss how to accelerate climate finance commitments from billions to trillions. Photo: COP28UAE

Money, money, money 

blog #5 – 4 December 2023 

Today is Finance Day in Dubai.  

Actually, finance is always in the centre during the climate negotiations, but today it is being talked about even more than usual. There are various streams of negotiations underway: about long-term climate financing, about the new target to be determined that I mentioned a few days ago (NCQG), about financing for adaptation through the Adaptation Fund (AF), about the Green Climate Fund (Green Climate Fund, GCF) for which the promised annual $100 billion by 2020 has still not been achieved. And more. 

The discussions always come down to the same thing. Many poor(er) countries are in a downward spiral. Their economies are under pressure due to large debt burdens and increasing problems caused by climate change (storms, floods, droughts, crop failures, migration). It is not without reason that they have been calling for better support from the rich countries for years. Not only because those countries are richer, but also because they are responsible for the historic emissions of greenhouse gases, the consequences of which we experience today. 


You would say that the installation of the Climate Damage Fund should alleviate this need. But the reality is that that is just a drop in the ocean.  

The real need is not in billions of dollars, but in the trillions as many studies have shown. Because money is needed not only for loss and damage, but also for adaptation plans (adaptation to climate change) and for mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions). 

The rich countries understand that they have to pay, but try to avoid this as much as possible, by 

  1. not taking responsibility for historical emissions; 
  2. using existing funds and labelling them as climate money (e.g., money for development cooperation); 
  3. saying that everyone should contribute (e.g., China); 
  4. having loss and damage handled by insurance companies;  
  5. involving the private sector. 

Shouldn’t China contribute then? It is the second largest polluter in the world, after the United States.  

And yes, perhaps it is strange that China is still classified as a developing country at the UN. But then it is often forgotten that emissions per capita are much lower than those in the US or the EU.  

Moreover, China’s emissions are recent, not from centuries ago. So some nuance is in order. 

Meanwhile, Western countries and China continue to have a stranglehold on each other in this regard. 

And aren’t insurance companies useful? Well, for people who can pay the premium, yes.  

But most people in the poorest countries cannot. So for them, the most needy, it is not a solution.  

In addition, there is the risk that companies no longer want to invest in countries with a high climate risk. Which would be the beginning of the end. These countries actually need support for much-needed adaptation to climate change. But contributions to the Adaptation Fund have declined in recent years... 

Shouldn’t the private sector participate?  

Yes, of course, but that requires one or two things. For example, a different tax system; levies on CO2; levies on international financial transactions; and so on. It also includes reforming international financial institutions such as the World Bank and multilateral banks. Discussions about this have only recently started.  

At recent COPs, there is a push for heavily taxing the billion-dollar profits of the fossil industry and using that money for climate finance. Will that happen? Let’s hope so. 

Efforts without results 

Back to yesterday.  

A row broke out when it was announced that COP28 president Al Jaber had said that science had not shown that the target of a maximum 1.5°C warming could not be achieved while maintaining the fossil industry. He promptly received a letter from two top climate scientists who debunked this. Didn’t Al Jaber know that CCS (carbon capture and storage) can only eliminate a very small part of the emissions? Even people in the oil and gas industry themselves know that. (I can confirm the latter. An acquaintance I have works on CCS at Shell, and he says that a maximum of 5% CO2 emissions can be eliminated.) 

The cold figures are as follows:  

  • The fossil industry is responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  
  • Approximately 85% of this is caused by the combustion of the end products by industries and consumers (“scope 3”).  

So even if the sector tries to make extraction, processing and production climate-neutral, it still makes little sense. In other words, the signing yesterday of the Oil and Gas Charter – an initiative of Al Jaber – by 50 oil and gas companies, does not have much significance. 

By way of comparison, here is a statement by the head of the climate and health department at the World Health Organization: “Talking about climate change without talking about fossil fuels is like talking about lung cancer without mentioning tobacco.” 

Unfortunately, fossil fuels are not mentioned in the COP 28 Health Declaration that was signed yesterday by 120 countries. 

Marijke van Duin 
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.
These blogs were originally published in Dutch on the website of the Netherlands Council of Churches.

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At the Youth Climate Champion Pavilion, Indigenous young people from the 7 socio-cultural regions engaged in insightful discussions to promote their essential involvement into the UNFCCC process, alongside leaders of each working group, indigenous organizations, communities and Youth Climate Champion Shamma Al Mazrui. Photo: COP28UAE

Time pressure 

blog #6 – 5 December 2023 

Today, almost all meetings start late or are postponed. Not so strange, since this is the largest COP ever, with more than 100 000 registered participants. 

The delegations are getting bigger. That of the fossil sector is the third largest, with almost 2 500 people. Only the delegations of host country UAE and of Brazil (which will host the COP in 2025) are larger.  

This makes the negotiations increasingly unworkable. And more importantly: not all countries can delegate so many people. Poor(er) countries in particular have to make do with sometimes only a handful of delegates. Due to the large number of parallel meeting streams, it is impossible for them to follow everything, so these countries are immediately behind. 

Now or never 

Time is running out, because the ministers will soon be coming to Dubai. The negotiating texts must be well prepared by then. It doesn't look good in that regard. 

The new EU Commissioner for Climate, Wopke Hoekstra, will also make his appearance. He will try to push for the most important EU position: the phasing out of fossil fuels.  

At the moment the split is approximately 50-50: half of the participating countries want that too while the other half does not. If it is not possible to get the phasing out in black and white, to many, the summit will have failed according.  

It is now or never. 

The reality of the world is grim. Five countries in the world (namely the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Norway) have new oil and gas production projects in the pipeline until 2050; approximately 51% of the total number of planned projects. If these countries – which are also historic emitters – were to withdraw those plans, it would save an enormous amount of CO2 emissions.  

Fortunately, other countries show real leadership by joining the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, or by trying to get a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty off the ground. That kind of leadership is desperately needed. 

In the Netherlands, Greenpeace has done important work on the fossil sector.  

Today the report Todays Emissions, Tomorrow's Deaths was published. The emissions data reported by nine European oil and gas companies were analyzed, including from Shell, TotalEnergies and BP.  

The conclusion: just one year of their emissions can cause many premature fatalities. 

In addition, in the Climate Homicide report, also published today, independent experts point out the possibility in some European countries of criminal prosecution of the fossil fuel sector on the grounds of endangering human lives. This is not yet done much, but it could greatly help the fight against climate change. 

Today also Indigenous Peoples (IP) have made themselves heard in Dubai. In a confrontational article they criticize the fossil sector that damages Mother Earth.  

“As Indigenous Peoples, we stand united and do not support the extractive systems of any natural resource, especially fossil fuels because they inevitably damage Mother Earth, the web of life, and each other. All states must commit to an equitable and rights-based phase out of fossil fuels at COP28, a moratorium on false solutions that violate our collective rights, coupled with a commitment to a fair and just transition to sustainable, non-carbon-based energy sources. This is the only way to ensure achievement of the Paris Agreement Goal of 1.5°C global temperature rise, that protects our ways of life, food and eco-systems and collective rights to survival.” (published in ECO, Dec. 5) 

Marijke van Duin 
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.
These blogs were originally published in Dutch on the website of the Netherlands Council of Churches.

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blog #7 – 6 December 2023

Today the first half of COP 28 has ended. Tomorrow is a 'day off', in that there are no negotiations. Nevertheless, many meetings will be held, by countries or country groups as well as by NGOs. It is a day to take stock and discuss strategies for the second week. We, the ecumenical delegation, also have a strategic consultation. We will look at which topics we can best focus on in the coming days and months.

One of those topics is adaptation. This is addressed in various ways in the COP process. Adaptation to climate change is important for all countries, but essential for countries in vulnerable zones. Think of Africa, and of low-lying islands.

Also consider countries such as the Netherlands and Bangladesh.

However, there is a crucial difference between these two countries. One has money, the other has not.

The Netherlands has been strengthening its coasts for years and is making plans for the expected sea level rise.

Bangladesh is regularly hit by floods, resulting in large flows of displaced people, failed harvests and endless misery. Adaptation projects could help, but cost a lot of money.

The Paris Agreement includes a Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), an effort to make countries and populations more resilient to the consequences of climate change in the coming decades.

Last year, in Sharm el-Sheikh, a work programme was set up to intensify this work. But the conversations in Dubai are extremely difficult. Here too, a contrast emerges between the rich and the poor(er) countries. Where the poor(er) want clear goals, based on the right to development and including financing, the rich hold back on this.

Plenty of money

Why is it so difficult to break through the invisible barrier between rich and poor?

A pressing question, especially considering the argument of top economist Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University, USA). He pointed out that around $100 trillion are put out in the world every year, of which approximately $27 trillion are saved. Enough money to tackle climate change and the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) in their mutual relationship.

But the problem is that the money does not end up where it is needed.

How to change that? According to Sachs as follows:

  • Introduce a global CO2 tax of approximately $5 per tonne, on both historical and current emissions. That money should be made available directly to the poor(er) countries.
  • Scale up the capital of the multilateral development banks (MDBs) by a factor of 5, and give India and China more voting shares.
  • Reform the capital market. The credit rating systems are outdated and no longer fit the current reality. It is often said that the market will solve everything, but that’s false: about 82 poor(er) countries do not even have a credit rating, therefore cannot borrow money cheaply and risk a downward spiral. Also the debt policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund need to be overhauled.
  • End the current wars asap through negotiations. This frees up a lot of money which can be used for the SDGs.

Adaptation, indeed. Starting with the current financial systems…

(No blog tomorrow.)

Marijke van Duin  
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.

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The Netherlands in the spotlight

blog #8 – 9 December 2023

The second part of the climate summit, the political consultation, started yesterday. Ministers from around the world have arrived to try to reach consensus on the stumbling blocks.

And there are plenty of those. In fact, negotiations have reached a standstill on all major pathways: the Global Stocktake (GST), the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), the Mitigation Work Program (MWP), the Just Transition (JT) and climate finance (CF).

There are page-long texts, most of which consist of options, with or without brackets. For example, there are four text options around the ‘phasing out of fossil fuels’ alone.

To find a solution, COP 28 chairman Al Jaber has put together teams of ministers to smoothen negotiations on each issue. Each team consists of a minister from a developing country and one from a developed country. In the coming days they will hold discussions with various countries and country groups in an attempt to get on the same page.


In the meantime, the Netherlands has taken an important step today.

Under the leadership of outgoing Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate, Rob Jetten, a coalition has been formed in Dubai of countries that want to start abolishing subsidies for the fossil industry.

In the Netherlands alone, these subsidies amount to around €40 to €46 billion per year. The countries are, except the Netherlands: Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, France, Spain, Canada, Costa Rica and Antigua & Barbuda. Hopefully the list will grow in the coming months.

However, it remains to be seen whether the next Dutch cabinet will continue in this line.

A major climate demonstration was also held today in Dubai at the conference site. Members of our team walked along with banners that read “No faith in fossil fuels! End fossil fuels fast and fair!” Demonstrating is not self-evident in the UAE, but UN rules apply on the sites where UN conferences are held. That is why the opportunity was also taken to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. However, flags were not allowed to be shown.

There were also various side events in which religious organizations were involved. Including about agriculture and food, and nature management. The churches in Scandinavia in particular own enormous forest areas that need to be managed. Through church networks, sister churches in Africa, for example, can benefit from their expertise.

More for everyone

Some church delegations also engage directly with the government delegation from their country.

For example, there were conversations between the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden and the head of the Swedish government delegation, and between American church representatives and a delegation from the American Congress.

The differences are big. For example, the Swedish Archbishop was invited to submit textual proposals for consideration by the Swedish negotiators, but the American government officials feel strongly limited in their freedom of action.

Tomorrow a bilateral consultation is planned between the leaders of our ecumenical team and the head of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN). Through this group, African countries coordinate their input in the climate COPs in an effort to achieve more.

The real work is about to begin.

Marijke van Duin  
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation. 
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.

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Human rights

blog #9 – 10 December 2023

Today the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrates its 75th birthday. You’d think there’s every reason for a party.

But in Dubai it is not that simple. For years people have fought to have human rights integrated into international climate policy. Think of the right to clean air, the right to development and even the right to life.

All of this is increasingly under pressure, especially for people in climate-vulnerable areas.

Women and children are particularly hard hit by the climate crisis, especially Indigenous Peoples in poor(er) countries. Just think of the increasing drought in parts of Africa. Women are usually the ones who provide water there. If you have to walk not 5 but 20 kilometers a day, you won’t have time for anything else. And that’s just one simple example.

We religious organizations work together with NGOs and women’s movements to draw more attention to the effects of the climate crisis on women. The UN has drawn up a Gender Action Plan to support this. But its implementation runs into the same barriers as other parts of international climate policy: unwillingness and money.

As long as it is not recognized that international climate policy must go hand-in-hand with achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the situation worldwide will deteriorate. Many rich countries profess that they are working on this, but in practice they are mainly concerned with business-as-usual: economic growth in their own country. Perhaps slightly greener growth than thirty years ago – for which the necessary raw materials are happily sourced from the same poor(er) countries.

A delegate from Kenya sounded a warning in Dubai: it won’t be long before widespread unrest breaks out. Food shortages and climate migration are already commonplace in Kenya and elsewhere. Moreover, Kenya’s president William Ruto recently remarked that, due to rising interest rates, Africa will have to pay $62 billion in debt repayments this year, which is 35% more than in 2022. “If you don’t solve the debt issue, you can’t solve the climate issue,” he said.

Apparently, there are still two realities: the Western one, which uses the climate summits mainly as a good opportunity to do business-as-usual, even if that’s a bit greener than before; and the daily reality of most of the world’s population. They fight for their survival in a world that cares less and less about them.

A bridge will have to be built quickly, otherwise the consequences will be incalculable. Let’s not forget that the climate COPs were originally intended for that...

Let’s turn back to what actually happened in Dubai today. The ministers continued to make speeches, just like yesterday. And there have been countless rounds of consultations, mostly behind closed doors. That makes it difficult for observers to keep track of the state of affairs. So, last night there was a plenary session to catch everyone up. It became clear that all really important texts are stuck. It’s a bit like the snake biting its own tail: many sub-topics are being negotiated, but they are all intertwined. So the one waits for the other.

Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you break everything down instead of keeping an eye on the big picture. Or, in the words of a judge from Uganda who is part of our team:

“These climate summits are similar to what happened during slavery. If you let people work till they drop, they forget everything they ever knew and get used to being slaves. These technical negotiations are of no use; we need actual justice. And it is not even national interests that block that, but the interests of a small group of extremely wealthy people who manipulate the entire world to their will.”

I have nothing to add to that.

Marijke van Duin  
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.

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blog #10 – 11 December 2023

Two texts were released in Dubai this evening, about the Global Stocktake (GST) and about the Global Goal on Adaptation. These texts are the basis for the final texts to be officially adopted tomorrow. Although there is a good chance that meetings will continue on Wednesday and even Thursday.

The word disappointing doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Many Parties and stakeholders have worked hard to get “phasing out of fossil fuels” into the GST text. That has not been accomplished (yet).

The OPEC countries are blocking this, as might be expected. Furthermore, the text is a summary of matters that has largely already been established in previous COP texts. There is no commitment whatsoever, only an invitation for voluntary actions. This is not a step forward, but a big step backward.

Our team met to discuss the state of affairs. Everyone was in a bad mood and will have to do everything they can to avoid ending up in a climate depression (again). Remember, many of us have been involved in this process for decades. A press statement has been issued as soon as possible, which can be read here.

What baffles me is that the rich countries apparently still do not realize that their stance is ultimately counterproductive.

After all, most rich countries want to get rid of the large flows of migrants. Anyone with a bit of common sense will understand that for that to happen something must be done about the root cause of migration: the lack of future perspective in many developing countries. This certainly applies to Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America. That future perspective is increasingly under pressure due to the climate crisis.

Also, for that reason it pays to fight the climate crisis with every means possible.

Certainly, that involves an enormous amount of money. Many developing countries currently have no choice but to continue using fossil fuels, even produce them if possible. After all, they need access to energy and a source of income. Even though in the case of fossil fuel extraction, the vast majority of that income goes to the Western fossil industries.

Much more financial support is needed to enable developing countries to make the energy transition to sustainable energy. The rich countries can provide that support. If they are wise, they will do so. Also out of self-interest!

I have often experienced that one or two days before the completion of a COP the situation seemed hopeless. And then, at the very last moment, there was a positive twist. It cannot be ruled out that that will happen this time too.

So, let’s wait and pray, and see what tomorrow will bring.

Marijke van Duin  
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.

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blog #11 – December 13

To be honest, I did not expect COP 28 to be concluded already on 13 December. And many with me. Certainly not in view of the very poor draft closing text of 11 December. COP 28 president Al Jaber and his staff have taken the harsh criticism seriously and stepped up their game.

Negotiations continued yesterday and last night. Behind closed doors, that is. A large number of those present, including my team, had already gone home. Others were sleeping on chairs and couches throughout the conference centre from sheer exhaustion. That’s just part of it.

Today around 11 a.m. Dubai time the conference neared its end. At the last plenary session, a new compromise text was presented and adopted surprisingly quickly. A text that is a lot better than the previous one, but nevertheless leaves much – too much – open. I am therefore not as enthusiastic as many media.

My team has already issued a press release which can be found here.

Also the general secretary of the World Council of Churches has issued a statement (read “we, as people of faith, must continue to nurture hope” here).

We have not achieved the much-desired phasing out of fossil fuels. Instead, the Parties are called on to engage in a number of efforts, 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;
  • Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.

The idea is clear: the energy transition must be accelerated, focusing more and more on sustainable energy and less and less on fossil fuels. But the door remains wide open for ‘clean’ coal and for CCS – carbon (CO2) capture and storage. But we know that this can only make a very small contribution to reducing emissions and is also very expensive. Even rich countries can only spend their money once. If that money goes into those kinds of technologies, we won’t make much progress.

In addition, the agreements are not binding, but voluntary.

On top of that, the negotiations on the rules for the carbon markets failed.

The EU has had its own emissions trading system for a number of years (EU-ETS), as has the USA. Other regions in the world have followed or are following, including China and Africa.

Strict rules are pivotal to make these markets work, that is, to actually contribute to reducing the total amount of emissions. But the USA doesn’t want strict rules. Consequently, the EU and the USA had an argument about this in Dubai. The EU held its ground, causing the negotiations to collapse.

Under the motto “better no agreements than bad ones,” further negotiations have been postponed until COP 29 next year. That is very inconvenient for the business community.

Negotiations on the hottest issue – climate financing – has also been postponed until next year. Yet many countries will be unable to join the propagated sustainable energy transition without adequate financial support. They will have to continue to use fossil fuels in that case. Sustained pressure from society remains necessary to obtain this much-needed financial support. An important step would be the reform of the international financial architecture. An initiative to this end was indeed launched last year. Let’s hope that this will find wide resonance in the near future.

Next year COP 29 will be held in Azerbaijan, and in 2025 Brazil will host COP 30. I hope to be present again and report on these summits.

I thank the readers for their attention.

Marijke van Duin
Member of the Mennonite Church in the Netherlands, a MWC member congregation.
Since 2000 member of the Working Group on Climate Change of the
World Council of Churches. This team is accredited as observers of the yearly UN climate negotiations.

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