By: Aman Majmudar
COP28: Revitalizing the Global South
When we first arrived on the COP28 campus at Expo City in Dubai, it looked to us like a Universal Studios or Disney Land but for grownups tackling climate change. Straight ahead of the entrance were solar panels propped up and arranged into big satellite-like disks. The sun in the cloudless sky, the middle eastern heat, questioned my bringing a blazer; I was sweating. Music played, fit for a day spa, but a touch more futuristic. Still, I was excited that the best of the trip had yet to come.
During this first day, I attended a few panels and walked around several different hubs showcasing the latest in the climate and energy space, from the innovation and technology hub to the knowledge hub to the energy transition hub. Each had interesting things going on. In the knowledge hub, for instance, McKinsey had set up shop to discuss financing the energy transition, having invited Mark Carney, who previously led the central banks of both Canada and England. He and the other panelists stressed that emerging economies in the global south can ease the transition by having flourishing local-currency markets. I appreciated this focus on the global south. These countries have emitted the least but often suffer the most from climate-related disasters.
Beyond such panels, the hubs featured booths of businesses, local and international, who displayed new technologies in development. I spoke to an organization from Japan that uses satellites to collect data on climate patterns and offer these data free for the public. Another firm was creating computer programs to make supply and production chains more renewable. Meeting representatives from these firms inspired hope—that so many are coming together to science the heck out of the climate crisis.
Those sentiments carried on to the next two days. Day 2’s most stimulating event I attended was on how blockchain technology can hold corporations accountable for the carbon they emit at every step of the supply chain. For instance, creating bottled water requires carbon, from making the plastic to purifying the water. By tracking and recording these steps with a blockchain, companies can get each of them certified into tokens they can show the public—prospective investors.
After the blockchain event, I lunched and then walked around. Also strolling around the large COP28 campus were diplomats, scholars, and businesspeople. Despite their different occupations and origins, they converged in wanting to find solutions for the climate crisis, revealing that hard problems attract interdisciplinary, nuanced efforts.
I especially saw the importance of such efforts at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center on day 3. One panelist said we cannot change the status quo through gut reactions. Another said we cannot solve poverty without solving energy poverty. A third said it’s possible for the global south to develop sustainably. But he warned we need to ensure everyone gets their minimum energy requirement met, since there has been too much stress on subsidies rather than economics. Again, this emphasis on the global south makes me feel heeding its issues is our main way out of the climate crisis.
After these panelists came John Kerry, the US’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. His most memorable words: “COP28—twenty-seven COPs too many.”