Despite the shouts of glory that will have triggered the publication of its final declaration, the COP 28, which has just ended, will have decided nothing serious. The 200 delegations, gathered around 100,000 participants, will have managed to agree only on: 1/ The creation of a small financial fund to compensate for a very small part of the damage soon caused by climate disasters; 2/ The deployment, already decided otherwise, and still insufficient of renewable energies; 3/ The timid mention of nuclear energy as part of the solutions; and, 4/ The theoretical need to move towards the gradual elimination of the use of fossil fuels. Is considered as a great triumph, an awareness that should have taken place 40 years ago at least.
On the other hand, this COP will not have decided (which would have been the least of things in the current state of the world), to definitively prohibit, and as soon as possible, the use of coal, which burns more than ever in China, Poland, India, and in so many other countries; to take concrete steps to reduce the use of gas and oil, at least by immediately banning new drilling when it destroys biodiversity; nor to massively promote energy savings, so simple and so effective. Nothing has been decided to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by cattle, and in particular methane, the worst source of pollution in our atmosphere.
There has also been no mention of how to finance the enormous expenditure that will result from this energy transition, particularly in developing countries. Finally, there was no mention of the urgency of putting in place carbon recovery mechanisms, at a credible price of at least $150 per tonne, or carbon capture and biodiversity protection mechanisms. Because what disrupts the climate is not only the flow of greenhouse gases emitted every day, but also the accumulated stock, which can only be destroyed by carbon capture by oceans and forests, and by a positive use of carbon, for example in therapeutic matters.
At this pace, the commitments of the 2015 Paris Agreement (containing the average increase in global temperature in 2100 to less than 1.5 degrees from the beginning of the industrial era) will not be met: one will remain on the slope of a cataclysmic increase of at least 4 degrees; and, humanity is preparing to live even greater disasters than those of today. Countries will disappear, not just from the small islands of the Pacific; entire regions will become permanently uninhabitable, not just the coastal regions of Pakistan and Bangladesh; monstrous hurricanes will ravage megacities, such as Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Shanghai or Singapore; glaciers will melt; frozen plains will no longer be, releasing particularly toxic methane wells.
Moreover, these events are no longer likely but some, their damages can no longer be covered by insurance, which assumes the pooling of risks to the uncertain occurrence. Everyone will have to bear the brunt, either personally or through taxes. With costs in the thousands of billions.
The heart of today’s battle should be to understand that threats are evolving at an exponential rate, while solutions are being delivered at a constant speed. More generally, the action, positive and negative, of billions of people upsets the planet at an exponentially increasing speed while the institutions that are supposed to supervise them evolve only at a constant speed. And these institutions do nothing to prepare the people who depend on them for the magnitude of the changes that would be necessary to make the most of these upheavals, or to compensate for the damages of those who will lose.
It looks like what happened between 1908 and 1913: everything was in place for a very happy 20th century; but the mismanagement of the exponential acceleration of technical progress and ideological changes has led to a nostalgic tension over outdated values and power relations. We know the rest: 4 decades of barbarism. Perfectly preventable, if we had been able to prepare for it…
What about today?
Image: COP 28 summit in Dubai, December 13th, 2023, Hannes P Albert/DPA.