It’s been a few weeks of COPs, not just the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 'Conference of Parties' COP28, which was the staggering disappointment of missed opportunities we have come to expect, but also the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) that has yet to be built from Uganda, Lake Victoria and down to the sea through Tanzania. 

Not only will a constantly heated pipeline destroy the African environment as well as the livelihood of millions of people, it would enable the continued extraction of fossil fuel, which is the last outcome we need in an impending climate catastrophe.

Understandably, the insurance companies are too canny to take on the risk, and for the last three years the uninsurable project has stalled. It is the lure of profits to be made that has governments clearing the land and imprisoning peaceful protesters.

Ham & High: Dorothea Hackman says if the promises made by COP21 had been kept we might be at the 1.5 degree global warming targetDorothea Hackman says if the promises made by COP21 had been kept we might be at the 1.5 degree global warming target (Image: Archant)

Seven young men are still in prison without trial two weeks later, despite the CEO of TotalEnergies undertaking to sort out their release with the Ugandan Government. And four more have just been arrested. It is chilling to think what their future holds without the eyes of the world keeping watch.

It is chilling too to think of the fate of the millions of people starving in drought, famine and war in the Sahel, in Yemen and neighbouring lands and drowning in India, Bangladesh and the surrounding areas. And of the death warrant rising sea levels bring to island states and coastal cities.

If the governmental promises made in Paris in 2015 (COP21) had been fulfilled, we might have kept global warming to 1.5 degrees and saved millions of lives instead of hurtling inexorably to 2 degrees. But there are still millions more lives to play for, and that was what we needed from COP28.

We can understand that fossil fuels must be phased out as cleaner energy is brought in, but what is incomprehensible is the massive subsidies governments give the coal, oil and gas companies - more than £10 million every minute last year - and that they continue to issue licences for new exploration, like the UK for the North Sea Rosebank.

What we need immediately is to stop funding fossil fuel and allow no new fossil fuel exploitation. And we need adaptation as well as mitigation, both of these in action plans with targets and timescales. 

Was this the result from COP28? No, not when oil executives outnumbered the Pacific Islander delegates seven to one. Nor where the venue was in oil-rich Dubai.

While there is profit to be made from selling oil and plastic, our economy will be driven by big business, supported by governments, and they will not act in the interests of the next billion people at risk. It is too late for business as usual and token greenwashing.

  • Dorothea Hackman is chair of the Camden Civic Society.