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The Maastricht Diplomat

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The United Nations Climate Change Conference began this Thursday (COP28) in Expo City, Dubai. It is hoped that the conference will consolidate international commitment to limiting long-term global temperature rise to 1.5 C, which was agreed on by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015. Yet, the window for keeping this limit is narrowing quickly, and the air of urgency is increasingly apparent. On opening day, King Charles III expressed concern about how “off track“ the world is, emphasising that “the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.“ In his speech on Saturday, Pope Francis called for an end to coal, oil, and gas, as well as lifestyle changes to save the planet and debt forgiveness for poorer countries that are less responsible for greenhouse gasses but suffer more.

There have been a few hopeful developments early on in the conference. On the first day, delegates agreed to launch a fund to pay for climate-driven storms and drought damage. Despite richer countries opposing this idea for decades, the fund was initially set up last year at COP 27 in Egypt. Considering past trends, days of negotiation at COP28 were expected before an agreement would be reached, but in a surprising move, COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber brought the decision to the floor on the first day. The delegates agreed on the fund, and the EU, UK, US, and others immediately announced their contributions totalling around 400 million USD.

The next few days saw further positive developments at the summit. On the second day, a major declaration on the future of food and farming was made, agreed upon by more than 130 countries, in which it was recognised that what people grow and eat is a crucial factor in global warming. On the third day, In one of the most widely supported initiatives, 118 governments pledged to triple the world‘s renewable energy capacity by 2030 to help remove CO2-emitting fossil fuels from the world‘s energy system by 2050, the latest.

Given the summit is ongoing, there are undoubtedly many notable developments to come between now and the end of the conference on the 12th of December, but it is clear that these discussions are not divorced from current events, nor should they be separated from the purpose of alleviating human suffering, as indicated by the agreement on the very first day. One such key event is the end of the humanitarian pause in Gaza, which ended at 05:00 (GMT) on Friday morning following the expiry of the ceasefire, despite ongoing efforts to prolong it.

On the second day of COP28, this Friday, which coincided with the end of the humanitarian pause in Gaza, there was a notable change in tone, with some leaders using their speeches to draw attention to the war, including Jordanian King Abdullah II, who urged that “this year‘s COP must recognize even more than ever that we cannot talk about climate change in isolation from the humanitarian tragedies unfolding around us“ and pointing out the threat that the Palestinian people are facing to their lives and wellbeing at that very moment. There were also rising tensions on Friday, including the Iranian delegation announcing that it was walking out, giving the reason of the “political, biased and irrelevant presence of the fake Zionist regime“ for their departure.

Since the end of the ceasefire, the Israeli army has resumed its offensive in Gaza, targeting residential areas and refugee camps, including eastern areas of the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, which came under extreme bombardment shortly after dawn on Friday. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled to Khan Younis over the last month, but on Friday, residents took to the road with their belongings on carts, seeking shelter further west. Concurrently, leaflets were dropped over Gaza City and southern parts of Gaza, demanding evacuation, signalling Israel‘s intent to expand their offensive. However, both Gazan civilians and rights groups have repeatedly said that there are no safe destinations for them to go to.

According to Gaza‘s Ministry of Health, the number of people killed in Israeli attacks since the expiration of the truce reached 193 on Saturday afternoon, with 652 wounded. This means that the number of Palestinians killed since October 7th has risen to 15,207, with 40,000 wounded, 70 per cent of whom are women and children. Since the end of the pause, the humanitarian aid entering Gaza has reduced, with the Rafah crossing being entirely sealed on Friday and 50 trucks passing into Gaza on Saturday. According to the UN, the current flow of aid is in no way sufficient for the needs of civilians. In response to the situation, Gaza‘s government media office called on Arab and Muslim states to establish field hospitals in the besieged enclave to save the tens of thousands of injured people, also calling for a large number of aid trucks and urging that an „urgent rescue plan“ is needed.

On Saturday, Israel announced that its ground, air, and naval forces had struck 400 targets in Gaza in its latest attacks. The United Nations has expressed its regret of the resumption of the hostilities and has called the situation “catastrophic,“ expressing concern over Israel‘s potential expansion of its military offensive, with the spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office, Jens Laerke, saying that “hell on earth has returned to Gaza.“

Also on Saturday, a team from Israel‘s Mossad intelligence services was in Doha for talks with Qatari mediators for another pause in fighting, in which the talks focused on the potential release of Israeli hostages that did not belong to the category that was agreed on during the first truce agreement which collapsed on Friday. But soon after, Israel ordered the negotiating team to return to Israel because of what it called an ”impasse“. On Sunday morning, a Hamas official declared in an interview with Al Jazeera that talks of a truce or a prisoner-captives exchange will not happen while Israel continues its attacks on Gaza.

While negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza are currently on hold, COP28 is still ongoing, where numerous world leaders have publicly announced that they are utilising the summit to hold talks on the war, including the U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken telling reporters on Wednesday that he intended to use the opportunity to meet with Arab partners to discuss the conflict, Israeli President Isaac Herzog meeting with ‘dozens‘ of leaders at the summit, and U.K Prime Minister Rishi Sunak making it clear that his visit would include discussions regarding regional security. While the first days of COP28 may have shown a new trend of quick negotiations and cooperation, it remains to be seen what the unofficial ‘second conference’ meetings will yield. For now, truce negotiations are still on hold, and the bombardment of Gaza continues.

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