The Soapbox: UAE climate talks, drought in Argentina, Australia’s pledge

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN covering major news developments at NYU’s campuses and study away sites abroad. Global consciousness for a global university.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Yezen Saadah, News Editor

In the UAE, minister calls for a sustainable future

Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of the UAE’s state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the country’s minister for industry and advanced technology, called for a global fight against climate change at the World Government Summit in Dubai, an annual meeting of government officials organized by the United Arab Emirates. He noted that the relationship between oil companies and climate activists needs “a major course correction.”

Al Jaber will also be leading the upcoming Conference of the Parties — a yearly conference for climate change held by the United Nations. Earlier this year, his appointment as president of COP28 was met with backlash and criticism from climate activist groups, calling it a conflict of interest with his role as head of one of the world’s largest oil companies. In response, Eric Njuguna — an African youth climate activist from Kenya — called on the United Nations to implement a conflict of interest policy. 

At the Dubai conference, Al Jaber said the main goal of this year’s climate summit is to commit to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a goal that was set as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. During discussions at last year’s conference, the 1.5-degree target was avoided, leading some to believe that officials have given up on the temperature limit.

Al Jaber, who has been advocating for action against climate change for 49 years, has pledged tens of billions of dollars toward renewable energy. At the same time, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company exports 4 million barrels daily, a number it hopes to increase to 5 million, according to the Associated Press. Al Jaber said that one of his goals is to make the loss and damage fund — a fund established by Egypt at last year’s climate conference to support poorer countries affected by global warming — fully operational. It currently remains empty.

“There are moments in history when humanity comes together to fight a common threat. Let’s prove to ourselves that we can do it once again,” Al Jaber said. “Let’s put our differences aside. Fight climate change, not each other.”

In Argentina, an intense drought hits fields and the economy

Argentina is suffering its worst drought in 60 years, which is killing cattle, and harming soy, corn and wheat crops.

Gustavo Giailevra, a farmer in Santa Fe, told Reuters that the drought affected his livestock and that a third of his 900 cattle died from dehydration. Due to the drought, Giailvera lost most of his cotton and corn crops.

Argentina’s relationship with global food markets, including in the inland Port of Rosario, was affected by the drought, forcing farmers to cut soybean harvests and halt corn, wheat and beef exports. The losses comprise $8 billion worth of exports and $3.5 billion in government revenues, according to Reuters.

In a study conducted by the World Weather Attribution initiative, scientists found that climate change and high temperatures did not directly affect rainfall but did contribute to the lack of water availability and exacerbated the effects of the drought. The report added that climate change has increased Argentina’s frequency of heat waves and extreme temperatures.

World Weather Attribution also found that precipitation in the area was most likely affected by La Niña, a climate pattern in the Pacific that influences weather. La Niña, which typically occurs every three to five years, and affected the dryness of central South America, with the drought becoming especially severe in the last three months of 2022.

“Higher temperatures in the region at the end of 2022, which have been attributed to climate change, reduced available water in the models, indicating that climate change probably reduced the availability of water during this period, making the agricultural drought worse,” the World Weather Attribution report said.

In Australia, the government pledges funding for Indigenous people

The Australian government announced that it will add $293 million in funding to improve the lives of the country’s Indigenous population, on top of the $1.2 billion it allocated in October. 

The country also pledged to close the gap in life expectancies between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the country. This decision was part of the Australian Parliament’s 2008 national apology for its transgressions against Indigenous people, including forced child removal and forced assimilation.

Indigenous Australians accounted for 3.2% of the country’s population in the 2021 census and were the most disadvantaged ethnic group, according to the Associated Press.

The new fund includes 150 million Australian dollars over the next four years to provide clean drinking water to Outback Indigenous communities. It also allocates 22 million Australian dollars over five years to combat domestic violence, which is 34 times more likely to happen to Indigenous women and children, according to the Australian government.

“These aren’t gaps, they’re chasms,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia said.

Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected]