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Saturday, May 25, 2024

The 2023 U.N. Climate Change Convention sparks controversy

How an African-led carbon tax could slow the effects of climate change 

 

By MAYA KORNYEYEVA — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu

 

Every year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) is held with the goal of bringing together world leaders and reassessing the most necessary path of climate action. An individual is designated as the President-Designate each year – a leader that ensures rules are being followed and, most importantly, stirs pro-climate initiative sentiments amongst the gathered. 

This year, in a surprising announcement from the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, the President-Designate of COP28 is none other than Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the chief executive of the national gas and oil company of Abu Dahbi. While this decision shocked many climate activists around the world, I was not as taken aback. 

It has been quite obvious for some time that the world’s future is held in the hands of the fossil fuel industry. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, our technology, transportation and trade have been dramatically transformed by the presence of fossil fuels, mined directly from the Earth and used in an astonishing number of ways. While sending us a leap into the future, coal, gas and oil mining have resulted in pollution of the atmosphere, the release of toxic chemicals and the creation of plastic — and thus the problem of plastic contamination of virtually every corner of our planet.

According to a study of 180 countries by Climate Central, a U.S.-based research organization, 98 percent of the global population was exposed to higher temperatures this year, likely due to carbon dioxide pollution. On top of this, the rise of carbon in the atmosphere due to human influence is indisputable, as yearly data from the Mauna Kea observatory, beginning in 1957, has resulted in a “keeling curve:” a dramatic upward trend of atmospheric CO2 content.

Naturally, the answer to climate change and increased carbon emissions is to cut back significantly on fossil fuel usage and transform our means of production into a more sustainable one. This can be done both by slowly removing pollution from our air and our water and through the creation and widespread usage of “green” technology. 

Sultan Al Jaber’s nomination is a telling example of the global attitude towards the overconsumption of fossil fuels; while the 50-year-old CEO pledged billions of dollars towards renewable energy, he also leads an oil company that currently pumps four million barrels of crude oil a day, with hopes to expand. How can an individual lead global climate action in a direction away from fossil fuels, while having personal interest in maintaining crude oil mining for company profit? 

That being said, last month leaders in Africa put forth an intriguing solution to the fossil fuel problem — dubbed the “carbon tax” — which has the potential to incentivize countries to cut back on carbon emissions and create a pool of funding for the creation of green tech and environmental protection for those most severely impacted by the effects of global warming. While this concept is not a new one, Africa is pushing for the implementation of such a global taxation system to finally start spinning the wheels in the right direction in terms of fighting climate change. 

I believe that the carbon tax may be one of the most secure ways to encourage the phasing out of gas, oil and coal, as it will make any product or service derived from fossil fuels more expensive to produce and purchase. However, done inexpertly, a universal carbon tax can significantly increase costs for low-income families and slow the chugging of our economy. 

Without any strong global organization to police the correct implementation of the carbon tax, it is each individual country that must take this big step forward towards lowering global temperatures and ultimately saving our planet from the agonizing deterioration of our environment. As we draw closer to the start of COP28, I am skeptical that this conference will turn out better than any of the previous ones have been. Yet, I cannot help but hope that finally, after 28 years, 2023 will be a year of positive change. 

 

Written by: Maya Kornyeyeva — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu

 

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