The number of the day
4.7 billion air passengers expected in 2024
It’s difficult to miss this figure published this Wednesday, December 6 in the middle of COP 28 on the climate. According to the International Air Transport Association (Iata), airlines expect to carry 4.7 billion passengers worldwide next year. The highest level ever recorded. The previous record was set at 4.5 billion passengers in 2019. Before the health crisis.
After losing some 183 billion dollars (170 billion euros) between 2020 and 2022, airlines are expected to return to profit this year. Good news for the economy and tourism, but not for the climate.
As a reminder, air transport emits less than 3% of global CO2 (6.8% of France’s emissions), but is singled out for only benefiting a small minority of the world’s population. Its effects on warming are also likely greater because it also produces nitrogen oxides and condensation trails.
While the airline industry is flat, global warming continues unabated. On Wednesday, the European climate monitoring service Copernicus confirmed that the year 2023 would indeed be the “hottest” in history after six months of record temperatures. The month of November was “extraordinary” with notably two days with temperatures two degrees higher than in the pre-industrial era.
The man of the day
The new climate commissioner, the Dutchman Wopke Hoekstra, arrived this Wednesday, December 6 in Dubai for his first COP, two days before talks at ministerial level begin. In office for less than two months, the former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance has been heavily criticized for his lack of experience in international climate negotiations. But also and above all for having worked for almost 15 years for the oil giant Shell, then for the consultant McKinsey, recently accused of playing a double game on the climate.
Wopke Hoekstra during a hearing during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 2, 2023. / AFP / Archives
Despite the criticism, the successor of Frans Timmerman, architect of the European Green Deal, has not wavered on his roadmap: “I want this COP to mark the beginning of the end for fossil fuels,” declared Wopke Hoekstra, upon his arrival in Dubai. While the European Union’s position on the future of fossil fuels remains subject to wide interpretations (because it opens the way to carbon capture techniques), the commissioner’s unambiguous intervention comes at a pivotal moment in the negotiations, five days after the start of discussions.
Seen from Dubai, by our special correspondent
When we have never broken the slightest established rule, we tell ourselves that we are not going to start in a country like the United Arab Emirates. However, we start to be tempted, when we spend an hour every day in the queue to enter Expo City Dubai, where COP28 is being held.
To understand clearly: the entrance is at the metro exit, where in theory it would be enough to simply cross a road. But instead of going directly there, you are invited – by technicians in yellow vests who are shouting – to walk along the sidewalk on the right, for about a hundred meters. You then cross under the watchful eye of Emirati police officers, in order to be able, on the sidewalk opposite, to return to the left in an onion row, and thus join the serpentines of the “real” queue. All this probably, to streamline the circulation of some 90,000 participants at the summit.
At the exit of the metro, the most daring pretend to follow the group, before suddenly crossing the two or three lanes, thus avoiding traveling these additional hundreds of meters. We also saw a man in a suit playing it more discreetly, walking along the line absent-mindedly, before slipping in furtively, as if nothing had happened.
But most of this crowd is patient, the general opinion is rather that the whole thing is rather fluid for a conference which welcomes almost four times as many people as in Glasgow, two years earlier. There’s chatter in all languages, grumbling in others (grumbling is a universal language) when suddenly we hear a woman exclaim, in a joyful British accent: “What’s extraordinary about the COPs , is that there is the whole world in one place.”
Indeed. We see colorful boubous, veils of all colors, tied in all different ways, Saudis in white tunics and white and red keffiyehs on their heads, held together by a ring, suits (lots of suits), slicked back hair and wild locks, men in traditional Pacific skirts, women from the Amazon, whose feather headdresses extend all this width, those who came alone and look at their phones, the joyful groups taking photos of themselves, those who walk with a proud air and those who are frankly bored, young African activists and white hair. At the security gates, we chat briefly with a member of the Malian environment minister (finally delighted to find someone with whom to chat in French).
And above all, that’s where I met Yaryna, Victoriya and Valeriia, three Ukrainian women in their twenties, who were chatting energetically among themselves when I interrupted them. Since we had time to kill, I asked them how we campaigned for the climate in a country at war. They spoke to me about their environment and their lives undermined by the Russians, but above all about the future and reconstruction. We will tell their story in a few days, in La Croix. In the meantime, we say to ourselves that it’s not so bad, the queues…