The Immorality of COP28

  • December 13, 2023
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For the last two weeks, delegates from the world’s governments have met in the United Arab Emirates for COP28, the United Nation’s annual climate change conference. Over one hundred thousand attendees, ranging from heads of state to climate bureaucrats, corporate leaders, nongovernmental organization representatives, and activists, descended on the lavish Dubai venue to hash out new policies for governments to force on their citizens in the name of fighting climate change.

These annual meetings are designed to culminate in a final resolution where all 198 governments agree to pursue certain goals. In the draft of this year’s agreement, released Monday, the world’s governments agreed to work toward “tripling the global capacity for renewables by 2030, doubling the rate of energy savings through efficiency measures, rapidly phasing down unabated coal and limiting licenses for new power plants.”

Notably absent was a pledge to completely “phase out” fossil fuels, instead calling on the world’s governments to reduce “both consumption and production of fossil fuels . . . so as to achieve net zero [carbon emissions] by, before, or around 2050.”

This greatly upset a number of attendees as comments earlier this week from the summit president, Sultan Al Jaber, had led many to expect a call to phase fossil fuels out entirely. In response, delegates from the European Union and various countries in Oceania threatened to walk away.

Opposition to the goal of phasing out fossil fuels came, predictably, from the oil-rich regimes of the Middle East. But there was also pushback from numerous African nations whose delegates called the aim “unworkable.”

The African delegates are right to push back, but to call the phasing out of fossil fuels merely “unworkable” is a serious understatement. Forcing people off the energy sources they need to live safe, prosperous lives would bring unimaginable devastation. In the developed world, it would involve actively making people much poorer. And in countries still developing, it would entail putting a stop to the climb out of absolute poverty.

Despite all the pomp, formality, and official-sounding proceedings of COP28, the world’s governments have no right to subject the rest of the population to such devastation. Even without the promise to phase out fossil fuels entirely, the already agreed upon ambition to make a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and to limit further energy production will, if realized, be incredibly damaging.

It is also ridiculous for politicians and United Nations officials to frame these policies as being necessary for our safety. Because by working to take away humanity’s only means to produce and power modern infrastructure, these governments threaten to make their citizens more vulnerable to extreme weather—even if its frequency were to decrease marginally.

Contradictions like this can be traced back to environmentalism, the ideology at the root of all these efforts. Environmentalism rests on a valuation of untouched, nonhuman nature as the highest good. It frames humanity as a destructive outside force, corrupting nature with concrete, plastic, and carbon dioxide.

While the radical environmentalists, who consistently believe Earth needs to be protected from humans, make up only one part of the broader coalition pushing for green policies, these ideologues define the moral framework for the entire movement.

COP28 hides the unseemly nature of what this movement is pushing for behind extravagant venues, big-name speakers, and the optics of international cooperation. But at its core, the conference combines environmentalism—an antihuman ideology that is, in the words of Lew Rockwell, “every bit as pitiless and messianic as Marxism”—with the coercive power of the world’s governments. See that for the threat that it is.