COP28 gains agreements, yet leaves many environmental questions remaining

This week has seen the conclusion of the COP28 event in Dubai, which has aimed to unite the world in seeking solutions to the most urgent environmental issues facing our planet, with a breakthrough declaration being achieved to acknowledge that food chains need to be considered in any action by governments around the world.

Notably, this clearly extends to the cocoa trade and by definition, confectionery industry, with the sector’s well-documented negative impact on deforestation in West Africa and other areas of the globe over the past five decades or more, a factor that cannot be ignored.

So what was the upshot of the agreement? Well, as environmental campaigners have noted, the agreement or declaration such as it is, does not legally bind any one government to take action on its operation, so it has been argued by some that this makes such collective statements relatively week in terms of actually delivering on their stated goals. Without the ability to take action against those nations or regions that show scant regard to its protocols, then it’s actual real-terms value is somewhat limited.

Hence, the event was met with protesters calling on nations to sign up to a global plant based treaty in order to radically bring down energy outputs around the world (see main image) – an entirely worthy proposition, but one that would be hard to see countries sign up to given present global financial challenges.

Tellingly, environmental group Mighty Earth, while expressing a note of optimism that at least some overall agreement on a direction of travel had finally been thrashed out in the dying embers of the event, its view was that positive affirmations would have to be met with tangible results on the ground.

However, there are those that will claim that progress is in fact being made, and as we reported this week – major food groups including Nestle have gone on record to acknowledge that this is in its view, a landmark moment for industry and governments in recognising that the status quo cannot continue in how we approach our natural world’s resources. Such sentiments need to be backed up by actions.

Related to this, the other headline announcement at the close of the event was a shared global goal of phasing out of fossil fuels – it was not surprising to hear the pushback against this from leading oil-based economies lobbying against such wording. In the end, an agreement was struck on ‘transitioning away’ from fossil fuels – but frankly, this is sufficiently vague, and without a timeline as to render it relatively ineffective. The harsh reality underlying all such events is that the world as a whole, very much remains wedded to the energy systems, dominated by coal, oil and gas, that we have had in place for the past century. It has been widely acknowledged by the scientific community and many governments around the world that this will have to change rapidly, with the future of the planet clearly at stake.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production

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