Flemish Environment Minister to skip COP28 and takes a dig at Dubai

Flemish Environment Minister to skip COP28 and takes a dig at Dubai
Demir spoke digitally at COP26 due to a Covid-19 infection in her cabinet, and boycotted COP27. Credit: Yoeri Maertens

After boycotting COP27 in Egypt due to concerns about the human rights situation there, Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir has already confirmed she will not be attending next year's climate summit in Dubai, either.

On Wednesday, Demir announced she will not be attending the 28th UN climate conference (COP28), which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next year. In her statement, she mainly referred to practical issues rather than a moral explanation as she did this year when announcing she would not be attending this year's edition in Sharm-el-Sheikh.

"As I will not be chair of the National Climate Commission next year and will also no longer be a spokesperson on behalf of Belgium for the European Environment Council, I would have no formal duties during the COP," she said. "Consequently, I will not travel to the UAE."

However, in her announcement, she made a subtle dig at the conference and the fact it was being held in the major oil-producing country on the Arabian peninsula, which is the world's fifth largest emitter.

Still opting for fossil

Our World in Data figures showed 23 tonnes of CO2 emissions per capita was emitted in the UAE last year, more than three times higher than the global average (around five tonnes per person).

"Fortunately, the strength of good climate policy is not determined by how many hands you shake in the desert, but by the policy you implement yourself," she said, adding that Flanders will be able to present a solid record of bold measures in which it leads the way in Europe.

"We are thus doing more than some other governments that even in the current circumstances opt for more fossil subsidies or governments that still do not have a concrete climate plan. So above all, we continue to work and urge each trade minister to take sufficient measures," Demir concluded.

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This year, she cited concerns about Egypt's lack of response to its dire human rights situation for boycotting the event, instead conducting digital consultations remotely.

"Climate summits are not Eurovision song festivals. They, unfortunately, seem to have become grand shows for the outside world and are sometimes more about prestige and being seen attending it," she said when making her announcement.

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