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Big Oil’s Takeover of U.N. Climate Summit Decried by Activists Fighting for Fossil Fuel Phaseout

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Climate activist Harjeet Singh joins us for an update on the U.N. climate summit in Dubai, where fossil fuel lobbyists outnumber many countries’ delegations. “It is deeply, deeply problematic to see how fossil fuel lobbyists are taking over these climate talks,” he says, noting that climate activists’ fears of an industry takeover of the world’s foremost gathering for climate governance appear to have come true. “We can’t just allow fossil fuel industry to define what is going to happen here,” Singh warns, as financial interests continue to divert political energy away from decarbonization. Singh is the head of global political strategy with Climate Action Network and works on the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a global initiative to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the U.N. climate summit, we’re joined by Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy with Climate Action Network and with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a global initiative to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition. He’s based in New Delhi, India, but is joining us here from Dubai.

It’s great to have you back on the show. Let’s just talk about the significance of what I was questioning Dr. Al Jaber about, one, this record number of lobbyists. I was just speaking to a young activist, said she’s actually not — there are far fewer, proportionally, climate activists here than at previous summits, because so many of them were limited in getting credentials. And yet it’s the largest U.N. climate summit ever, with the, by far, largest number of oil, fossil fuel lobbyists. How does that affect these talks? And what needs to be done here?

HARJEET SINGH: Thank you very much, Amy, for having me again on your show. Always a pleasure.

It is deeply, deeply problematic to see how fossil fuel lobbyists are taking over these climate talks. And that’s exactly the concern that we have been raising right from the day one, when it was announced that UAE is going to be the host of climate talks, and we got an oil executive leading the conversation here. And this is our fear really coming true. We can’t just allow fossil fuel industry to define what needs to happen here. We want governments to regulate this industry that has caused the problem in the first place.

And we are here to demand that we need fossil fuel phaseout in a just and equitable manner. And that language is what we are expecting to appear in the next few days, because that’s the message that we have to send to the world, which is already facing climate crisis. We cannot afford any other language which creates any confusion or leaves any kind of loopholes that fossil fuels can still continue. And we just cannot do that, as we see how rising temperatures are wrecking the planet.

AMY GOODMAN: He said a fossil fuel phaseout — the other question I was asking him — would mean, well, taking the world back into caves. What is the sustainable answer?

HARJEET SINGH: We already have renewable energy, really taking it to a level where it is comparable to fossil fuel investments. The point here is that how we can use those solutions — you know, the reason fossil fuel industry is surviving, because of the subsidies. And I must remind everybody that, as per the report of IMF, these subsidies are to the tune of $11 million per minute. Let me repeat: $11 million per minute. And if you add all the externalities, fossil fuel industry cannot survive. On the other hand, you see investments not going sufficiently to the renewable energy industry. And that’s what is needed. So we have solutions, but we are not investing enough in the solutions. And that’s why fossil fuel industry is surviving. And that’s what we need to be questioning. Science is absolutely clear that we need to phase out fossil fuels. We need to do that in a just and equitable manner.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Harjeet Singh, you’re wearing blue today. If you can explain why you’re doing that? And also, you just came from a loss and damage protest. We’ve started talking about loss and damage again this week at the U.N. climate summit. But talk about why that was the focus of your protest outside.

HARJEET SINGH: As activists, we are wearing blue today, and that’s a color we associate with loss and damage. We did that last year in our protest. And just two hours ago, we actually protested, saying that how we’ve got the fund, which was historic, getting it on the very first day of COP, unprecedented, but it’s not enough. The reality is that we only got a couple of hundred million dollars as a pledge, when the need is hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s the scale. People are suffering right now, and we are not getting sufficient money to fill the fund.

AMY GOODMAN: And again, say what it means, what it would be used for. Who would pay into it, and who would get that support?

HARJEET SINGH: Let’s understand that we got the convention on climate change 30 years ago. We were expecting the emission reductions to happen to a level where we will not be seeing this crisis, but we did not see any reduction in the emissions. We did not also provide support to communities and countries to adapt, to be more prepared to deal with disasters. And here we are, seeing climate emergency all around us in the form of increasing floods and raging wildfires and sea levels rising. People are losing their homes, their farms, their income, and they are being displaced. There is no support available from the system.

So, after fighting for 30 years, we eventually got this decision last year in Sharm el-Sheikh at COP27. And on the very first day of COP28, finally, the decision is also to operationalize, which means that now we will be able to support people who are losing her homes, so that they can rebuild their lives and livelihoods. But the money is not enough. So, yes, it is historic that we have been able to establish, and it’s a victory of climate justice movement, that put so much of pressure on the leaders so that we get this fund, but we don’t want to create another fund which is not enough or which is an empty shell. We need to be responding to the calls of people who are facing this crisis right now, how they can restart their lives and rebuild their homes.

AMY GOODMAN: What does “global stock trade” [sic] mean?

HARJEET SINGH: So, global stocktake is a process that was agreed —

AMY GOODMAN: Global stocktake.

HARJEET SINGH: — in 2015 as part of Paris Agreement, because when the pledges were put together, it was clear that we are looking at a three degree of warming, which is going to be catastrophic, by the end of century. Now, we required a process so that we can continuously ramp up and ratchet up our ambition. So this is a very unique process, if you look at many international agreements don’t have it.

So, 2023 is the first year when the global stocktake means we are looking at where we are, and then we are also going to determine how we need to increase our ambition over the next few years so that we can stay below the target of 1.5 degrees temperature rise Celsius, and we don’t cross that threshold. So it’s a very important process. And, in fact, as we speak, the discussions are happening on this global stocktake, which includes all the elements — talk about mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage and, most importantly, finance and technology.

AMY GOODMAN: How does climate change affect India? How does climate change play out every day?

HARJEET SINGH: Well, India is a large country with 7,500-kilometer-long coastline. And you talk of any geoclimatic zone India has, and it’s extremely vulnerable. In fact, it has been ranked one of the top five and top 10 countries over the last few years in terms of vulnerability. And we are seeing — we have seen some heat waves which were unprecedented in the last few years. We have seen how floods are becoming far more intense. We have seen some devastating storms and people getting displaced. And there are now studies which say that India is going to lose its GDP by 3% over the next few years and how it’s going to lose billions of dollars over the next few years, and those impacts are already happening. So, countries are vulnerable. They are suffering, you know, without any reason, because they are not the ones who have caused the problem in the first place. And there are many more developing countries who are in worse situation than India.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 30 seconds left. It’s yours.

HARJEET SINGH: Well, I would say we have to make sure that we get a decision on fossil fuel phaseout, because even when we talk about loss and damage, we know very clearly more fossil fuels equals more loss and damage. So, we have got this decision, but unless we address the cause of the climate crisis, which is fossil fuels, we will not be able to deal with the climate emergency. And we have to ramp up adaptation finance, because people need to be now prepared to deal with disasters, and also they need to get support when they are suffering. So we need to work across the board on all these three pillars of climate action.

AMY GOODMAN: Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy with Climate Action Network and the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a global initiative to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition, usually based in New Delhi, India.

Coming up next, we look at how the UAE is buying up land across Africa as part of an initiative called Blue Carbon. Back in a minute.

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Carbon Colonialism: Oil-Rich UAE Buys Up Large Swaths of Africa for Carbon Credits to Keep Polluting

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