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DUBAI: Men stand near a COP28 sign in a metro station in Dubai on November 28, 2023, ahead of the United Nations climate summit. – AFP
DUBAI: Men stand near a COP28 sign in a metro station in Dubai on November 28, 2023, ahead of the United Nations climate summit. – AFP
Climate change already shaving billions off global GDP: Report
COP28 talks in Dubai a ‘key event for tackling climate change’

PARIS: Climate change is already shaving billions off the world’s economy, with developing countries hardest hit, according to a new report published Tuesday ahead of COP28 climate negotiations. The report by the University of Delaware estimated that impacts from human-caused climate change cut 6.3 percent from global economic output last year, when weighted across populations.

The figures reflect both direct consequences of climate change—such as disruptions to agriculture and manufacturing, and reduced productivity from high heat—as well as spill-over impacts on global trade and investments. “The world is trillions of dollars poorer because of climate change and most of that burden has fallen on poor countries,” said lead author James Rising of the University of Delaware.

“I hope that this information can clarify the challenges that many countries already face today and the support they urgently need to address them,” he added. When calculated without taking into account impacts borne by the average person, the global GDP loss was 1.8 percent of GDP—or about $1.5 trillion dollars—in 2022. “The difference between those two numbers reflects the uneven distribution of impacts, which concentrate in low-income countries and tropical regions that typically have more population and less GDP,” the authors said in a statement.

Least developed countries experienced higher population-weighted GDP loss of 8.3 percent, with Southeast Asia and Southern Africa particularly affected—losing 14.1 percent and 11.2 percent of their GDP respectively. On the other hand, some developed countries benefited. Thanks to warmer winters Europe saw a nearly five percent net gain in GDP last year.

But such gains are “poised to erode” as hotter summers offset milder winters, warns the report. At last year’s COP27 talks in Egypt, nations agreed to set up a dedicated fund to help vulnerable countries cope with “loss and damage” from climate disasters and extreme weather. While some details were recently agreed, the fund—and in particular who contributes to it and how much—will be a key point of negotiation at this year’s COP28 talks in Dubai, which begin on Thursday.

Low- and middle-income countries have experienced a combined loss in capital and GDP totaling $21 trillion, about half of the total 2023 GDP of the developing world, in the last 30 years, the report said.

The authors specify that losses are “conservative estimates” because the analysis does not account for non-market losses and impacts.

After having the world’s tallest tower and the biggest shopping mall, Dubai, the city of records, is gearing up to host the largest COP ever—a feat that in itself comes with an unprecedented carbon footprint. “Ensuring COP28 UAE is a sustainable and carbon neutral event will be pivotal to its success,” states the COP28 official website—without further explanation of how such carbon “neutrality” is achieved.

But to dwell on COP’s greenhouse gas emissions is “pure distraction” said Laurent Morel, engineer and partner at Carbone 4, a French firm specializing in energy and climate consultancy.

“What will be interesting to see is how the governance of this COP will manage its own contradictions,” he said, specifically “whether or not oil companies and oil-producing countries commit to production cuts.” At every COP, critics point to the number of flights taken by negotiators and NGOs and denounce private jets shuttling high profile attendees.

In the UN’s official document on “How to COP” it acknowledges the media and NGO scrutiny regarding the “apparent irony of the emissions generated by thousands of participants flying in from all around the globe to discuss how to reduce worldwide GHG emissions”.

Since COP13 in 2007 in Bali, most host countries have “considered it part of their hospitality to offset also the travel-related carbon emissions of all registered participants,” it writes. But those offsets are thanks to highly controversial tools for “cancelling out” emissions, known as carbon credits.

During COP27 held in Egypt last year, emissions linked to the international travel of 46,000 participants accounted for 44,104 tons of CO2, according to the organizers—or around one millionth of global annual emissions.

In Dubai, organizers expect more than 70,000 people in the conference’s “blue zone” designated for negotiators. And just as at previous COPs, its tallied carbon footprint is not expected to include the emissions of flights related to companies, observers, activists and others participating in the climate fair-like space known as the “green zone.”

COP26 in Glasgow set a carbon footprint record at 38,000 participants emitting more than 130,000 tons of CO2 -- but its calculations were broader in their scope, including counting parts of the green zone’s emissions.

Last year, the COP27 sustainability report recommended that accounting standards for emissions be “reviewed and raised” to support “comparability” among COP events. But COP28 remains set to break records, with travel responsible for “70-80 percent of conference emissions” said Marc Halgand from the climate consultancy group EcoAct. He recommends travelling economy class rather than business or private jets, but “scale and frequency” prevail as the key factors involved in reducing emissions—as they are for any international event, be it COP, the Olympics or a World Cup.

The COP27 sustainability report proposed reducing the number of accreditations, while extending their duration—advice already disregarded by the Emirates, which held the record for the largest delegation (1,073 people) at COP in Egypt.

COP remains a “key event for tackling climate change” said Halgand, emphasizing the essential nature of the negotiations in the face of international trade fairs organized by emitters. - AFP

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