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As COP28 Negotiators Wrestle With Fossil Fuels, Activists Urge Them To Remember What’s At Stake

The fate of fossil fuels is the central question at the United Nations-led talks, with activists and experts saying that a quick phase out is the only way

As COP28 negotiators wrestle with fossil fuels, activists urge them to remember what’s at stake
The fate of fossil fuels is the central question at the United Nations-led talks in Dubai

Dubai: In the bustling halls where global climate talks are being held, onetime farmer Joseph Kenson Sakala of Malawi is sharing the story of how fossil fuel development upended his life — and hoping that negotiators listen to many such stories and then move decisively to cut the use of the coal, oil and gas warming the planet. Mr Sakala grew maize and produced enough to sustain his family and to help feed his broader community of Mchinji. But he was forced out by water and soil pollution from coal mining in his East Africa nation, he said. Mr Sakala now leads a non-governmental organization, Youth for Environment and Sustainable Development, that helps farmers adapt to climate change.

Climate crisis and damages because of fossil fuel extraction destroyed me. Now in Malawi, there are just a few rich people who are making money at the expense of so many people like us who are suffering.

At the COP28 talks in Dubai, 34-year-old Sakala told his story in a meeting of African countries, spoke with Nepal leaders chairing the group of Least Developed Countries, and hosted an event on fossil fuel extraction’s effects on vulnerable communities.

The health issues his community faced from pollution will reach others unless leaders agree to phase out fossil fuels, Mr Sakala said.

Also Read: Latest Global Adaptation Goal Draft Calls For Closing Finance Gap And Global Stocktake Consideration

The fate of fossil fuels is the central question at the United Nations-led talks, with activists and experts saying that a quick phase out is the only way to bring emissions down sharply enough to avert catastrophic warming. Some oil-rich nations argue, instead, for a slower and open-ended transition.

Alice McGown, a mapping specialist who has worked to identify fossil fuels in protected areas for the non-profit Leave it in the Ground Initiative, said preventing the extraction of those fuels could prevent trillions of dollars in damages from climate change. It’s also essential to stay within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit of warming since pre-industrial times called for in the Paris Agreement, she said.

She added,

It is clear that the vast majority of fossil fuels must stay unburned. The International Energy Agency has pointed to the incompatibility of new fossil fuel extraction projects with the Paris targets and keeping fossil fuels in the ground has been described as the next big step in climate policy.

Soumya Dutta, a researcher and activist, described the potential impact of coal mining in a central Indian forest that is home to a diverse ecology and tribal communities. Some mining has already taken a toll on Hasdeo Arand, a forest of about 1,700 square kilometres, and more is expected.

Ms Dutta said,

The impact would be felt not just on the indigenous groups but on the biodiversity too. Hasdeo Arand forest alone is home to 82 species of birds, 167 varieties of vegetation, out of which 18 are considered threatened and endangered butterfly species. The forest is a habitat and a major migratory corridor for elephants, and has had confirmed sightings of tigers.

With most of India’s energy coming from coal and oil, it’s reluctant to commit to phasing out completely, said Dutta, a key coordinator with the India-based Movement for Advancing Understanding on Sustainability And Mutuality (MAUSAM), a coalition of more than 40 organisations and networks working on sustainability.

That’s despite evidence of increases in extreme weather — flooding, droughts, and heat waves — that have hit India and other countries in recent years, he said.

Also Read: COP28 Plan To Triple Renewables Is Doable, But Not Easy, Companies Say

Kjell Kuhne, director of the Leave it in the Ground Initiative, has pointed to a major development that COP28’s host nation, the United Arab Emirates, plans for the Persian Gulf’s Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, the largest marine protected area in the gulf. He called it “a huge contradiction” as nations meet in Dubai to try to figure out how to head off the disastrous climate change.

He said,

Drilling has not yet started and that is why we are here, because if UAE aspires to be in a leadership role in certain spaces and this is something it should not be done and there should be a definitive push to absolute phase out.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India. 

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