Good COP28, Bad COP28 | Crooked Media
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November 29, 2023
What A Day
Good COP28, Bad COP28

In This Episode

  • The UN’s 28th Conference of the Parties, also called COP28, kicks off today in Dubai. The annual climate change conference is set to take place through December 12th with an estimated 70,000 people in attendance. We’re joined by Naveena Sadasivam, senior staff writer from the climate outlet Grist, for what to watch at this year’s event.
  • And in headlines: Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their truce one more day to Friday, former U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died at 100, and Taylor Swift took the top honor of being the most streamed-artist on Spotify this year.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, November 30th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day. And I have got my ticket for today’s debut of Beyonce’s Renaissance film y’all I’m so hype. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Juanita is so excited. You make me feel like a slacker a little bit because I don’t have my ticket yet. But no spoilers anyone, please. I know you’ve all seen the concert. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But keep it to yourselves. 


Juanita Tolliver: I’m like I’ve been to the concert twice. I’ve definitely already spoiled this for you friend. [music break] On today’s show, Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend their truce one more day to end tomorrow. Plus, Taylor Swift takes the top honor of being the most streamed artist on Spotify this year. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No word on how many of those streams are from me. [laughter] But first, today kicks off the 28th Conference of the Parties, also known as Cop 28 in Dubai. That is the annual U.N. gathering to talk about climate change policies, which we spoke about briefly earlier this week. But we are going to break down exactly what you should be watching for as this conference kicks off. 


Juanita Tolliver: And the WAD squad knows how important it is to tackle climate change. This year we’ve told you that 2023 is on track to be the hottest year ever on record. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yep. 


Juanita Tolliver: We followed the devastating floods in Libya, the horrible wildfire that destroyed Lahaina and the Canadian wildfires that blanketed much of North America in smoke this summer. I know you’ll remember all of that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: We’re talking about real climate policy solutions that are needed for real people. I mean, what these nations agree to over the next two weeks could be the difference between a farmer being able to continue their work amid climate change or having to give up their job entirely. This annual conference is one of the biggest existing opportunities we have for global unity in the climate crisis. So Priyanka, what’s an important benchmark we should be keeping an eye on as this goes down? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we have said this number before a lot and we will say it again. It is 1.5°C. That is not a lot for us Americans. That is 2.7°F. It’s a small number. But at the COP in 2015, the pact known as the Paris Agreement came together. Countries signed on and committed to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Crossing that threshold is very, very bad. And if it happens, the U.N. says to expect even more droughts, heat waves and rainfall. All of the extreme climate events that we have been seeing just at an increased frequency, which I think is the opposite of what everybody needs. Our friends over at Pod Save the World got a chance to talk with America’s special envoy to the conference, John Kerry. Take a listen to a clip from their climate special where Kerry talks about that 1.5 degrees and what needs to happen at COP28 this year. 


[clip of John Kerry] One of the things that has to come out is an increase of ambition, that we have to get more people behaving with greater urgency, ready to raise their goals and try to move faster to do what we need to do, because frankly, we’re in serious trouble. I mean we just really are. And if we don’t address this faster and bringing new technologies to scale quicker, then we’re going to have a hard time keeping 1.5 degrees alive. 


Juanita Tolliver: And when he said getting more people engaged, I hope he also means corporations. Come on now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I thought it was important, though, that we get to know even more about what else to watch for as COP28 happens between now and December 12th in Dubai. So earlier, I spoke with a senior staff writer at the climate outlet Grist. Her name is Naveena Sadasivam. And like John Kerry, she is actually on the ground in Dubai right now at this conference. I started out by asking her what the biggest issues are that leaders will be discussing over the next two weeks. 


Naveena Sadasivam: The first big sort of issue that everyone’s going to be watching really closely is what’s called as the global stocktake. Now, that is a very technical term, but basically what it means is in 2015, a lot of these countries came together and agreed to certain goals under the Paris Agreement. And since then, they haven’t really assessed how well they’ve been doing against those benchmarks that were set in 2015. So for the first time ever, countries are going to be assessing whether climate finance flows are happening as they should be. Whether the 1.5°C goal that was set in the Paris Agreement in 2015 is still possible and within reach and what it might take to get there. And then the other thing that countries are going to be debating about is whether they can agree to fossil fuel phase out or fossil fuel phase down. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Naveena Sadasivam: And it basically is sort of an indication to the world about whether countries can decide that they are transitioning away from fossil fuels and the exact sort of language around that that they can agree to. So I would say those are the two sort of big contentious topics that will be um discussed at COP28. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So you very recently wrote about a new report released from the United Nations Environment Program that set some higher stakes for COP28. Can you talk about that report and you know why it’s so important this year? 


Naveena Sadasivam: What they found in that report is if countries meet the pledges that they have said they’re going to meet, if they follow through on these plans that they have to reduce temperature rise, we are still going to be at 2.7 or 2 point nine degrees Celsius. So that’s still way off from the 1.5°C goal. It’s still way above the two degrees Celsius goal that scientists are telling us is very much needed. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Naveena Sadasivam: So we need to do a lot more, is the takeaway from that report. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And just to get everyone up to speed, like, you know, clearly we have to do more to reach our targets. But have countries been kind of sticking to their pledges, what they have proposed in the past, or are people kind of making these promises and not really following through? 


Naveena Sadasivam: So it’s definitely a mixed bag, right? If you look at the European Union, for instance, their parliament has been coming forward with a number of new proposals that will help uh not only reach their goals, but in fact, exceed their targets. Um. At least that’s what the projections tell us. Uh. The US, on the other hand, while coming out with the Inflation Reduction Act, which is going to get us quite a ways to the goals that we have for the country. At the same time, the Biden administration is opening up new public land for drilling and so on. So fossil fuel extraction is increasing in the US. So it’s kind of a mixed bag depending on which countries you look at. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Naveena Sadasivam: Um. And it also depends on exactly which pledges you look at, because there are some goals that, you know, countries are committed to, and then there are some sort of net zero goals which are further off, extremely ambitious, but very difficult to meet and not very specific in terms of how countries are going to go about meeting those goals. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So a very interesting aspect or element of this year’s conference is its location. It is set in Dubai. You know, this is a climate conference. The UAE is a major oil producer. 


Naveena Sadasivam: That’s right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We actually talked earlier this week on the show about, you know, some reporting that they plan to use these climate talks to further oil deals. What has their response been to that and how do you think this backdrop sets the tone for this year’s conference? 


Naveena Sadasivam: Yeah. And this has been building all year, right? Ever since it was first announced that Dubai was going to host a conference. And in fact, the COP president, who was supposed to be a neutral arbiter of these proceedings and bring all these countries together, is, in fact, the head of the UAE’s national oil Company. Right. Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. Dr. Al Jaber responded to some of those media reports and said, it’s all rubbish. There’s no truth to it. And completely sort of denied um that there was any indication that he was going to use any of those materials talking points in uh negotiations to kind of help bring together these oil and gas deals. So they’ve completely denied it. But, you know, it does erode trust. It raises a lot of questions. And you can see how it does become kind of a distraction from the work that needs to happen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Naveena Sadasivam: For a successful COP. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Sure. It will be interesting kind of to see over the course of the conference how that continues to play out as well. But notably absent here is President Biden. He will not be at the World Leaders Summit this weekend. There are also another few world leaders who will not be there. Do we have any more information on what kind of impact that might have, you know, not having these very prominent heads of state there to participate? 


Naveena Sadasivam: Right. Both President Biden and the president of China, both of them will not be present at the meetings. And, of course, those are the leaders of the two largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Naveena Sadasivam: And so that does send a signal in terms of where their priorities lie at the moment. Obviously, there are other crises and other challenges both domestically and internationally that both presidents are likely dealing with that, you know, so COP28 might not rise to the top of their list. There is a certain message that’s being sent out to other countries in terms of their priorities. Now, of course, both of these countries and a lot of the delegations where presidents and prime ministers aren’t showing up do have very senior officials. Right. Um. So, for instance, the U.S. will be represented by presidential climate envoy John Kerry. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Naveena Sadasivam: Um. So those negotiations will take place. Those discussions will take place. But I think in terms of political messaging, that does take away a little bit to not have the heads of states here. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Certainly. What do you think is the mark of a successful, you know, conference this year? 


Naveena Sadasivam: There are four or five, maybe um sort of main issues that if countries can kind of agree to uh, it will sort of define whether the COP is successful or not. And one is whether countries can agree to language around phasing out phasing down fossil fuels or some sort of language that basically describes that transition away from fossil fuels. So just that has never been explicitly agreed to until just a couple of years ago. It was specifically agreed to around coal. But we don’t have any language like that for oil and gas. Another one is there was a climate reparations fund that was set up last year, and a lot of the nitty gritty details about how that fund is going to operate, it’s called the Loss and Damage Fund. Um. If those details are agreed to and if that fund is operationalized at this COP, that would be another massive, massive outcome as well. And then finally, I would say countries coming together and agreeing to triple renewables capacity and double energy efficiency, and those are sort of low hanging fruit. Those goals aren’t as contentious. And so if we see sort of language around that in a final decision text at COP, I think that would also signal a pretty successful outcome. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Naveena Sadasivam, a senior staff writer for Grist. An estimated 70,000 people are attending COP this year. Many of them are actually activists. Take a listen to one of them, Elizabeth Kite from Tonga, who is featured in that Pod Save the World Climate Special. 


[clip of Elizabeth Kite] I don’t think youth activists are taken seriously enough. And I also think it’s such a shame that leaders uh tend to always look to youth activists for hope. Don’t look to us for hope. You guys should be the ones providing youth activists hope. We are also not your answer to solutions. This is what your responsibility is as these leaders. And so it’s such a shame that youth activists have had, there’s a rise in them to fight this challenge. Um. But it’s come because our leader’s actions are not reflective of what we are wanting. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: Name it. Be the adults in the room. Stand up. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yes. Thank you for saying this. 


Juanita Tolliver: You can find that episode as well as more of Naveena Sadasivam’s work linked in our show notes below. COP28 goes from now until December 12th in Dubai. And that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Juanita Tolliver: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Juanita Tolliver: Starting with an update on the latest in the Israel Hamas war. The truce between the two sides has been extended one more day to Friday. The humanitarian pause lasted for six days and was set to end right when we’re recording this at midnight Eastern early Thursday morning. But with minutes to go, the sides agreed to pause the fighting another day to facilitate the transfer of more hostages. According to CNN, Israel was holding out for Hamas to offer several more hostages, but relented as the deadline neared. We’ll have more details as we learn them. Prior to this new deal. Israeli authorities said Hamas freed 16 more hostages late Wednesday night, including ten Israeli women and children and four Thai citizens. In return for the hostage release, Israel freed 30 more Palestinian prisoners. In total, more than 100 hostages have been released by Hamas during the truce, and 210 Palestinians have been released from Israeli prisons. The Israeli military said that more than 140 hostages remain in Gaza. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died yesterday at 100 years old in his Connecticut home. Kissinger is most known for shaping US global affairs under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Conservatives often credit him as one of the smartest secretaries of state in American history, but he leaves behind a disgraceful and deadly political legacy, to say the very least. During his time in office, Kissinger was responsible for expanding the Vietnam War into Laos and Cambodia. Experts say that Kissinger in particular bears responsibility for over 150,000 civilian deaths in Cambodia alone from 1969 to 1973. Kissinger was also instrumental in helping to overthrow Chile’s leftist government in 1973 and in turn ushering in a right wing authoritarian dictatorship in the Latin American country, as well as backing Pakistan’s war against Bangladesh that killed anywhere between 300,000 and 3 million people. To get an idea of Kissinger’s overall impact on U.S. foreign policy, Anthony Bourdain, the famous world traveling chef, put it best when he said, quote, “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.” 


Juanita Tolliver: Mmm. Federal officials yesterday charged an Indian national for allegedly plotting to kill a Sikh political activist in the United States. Authorities say the accused man, Nikhil Gupta, was recruited by an unnamed Indian government official in a murder for hire plot. The AP reports that the target was Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. He is described as a U.S. citizen and Sikh living in New York City and who advocated for a separate Sikh state in India. This is the second known time Indian officials were accused of plotting to kill Sikh separatists in North America. In September, Canada expelled an Indian diplomat after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said India might have links to an assassination scheme of a Sikh activist in his own country. India denied that claim and expelled a Canadian diplomat in return. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The third and final trial over the 2019 death of Elijah McClain started yesterday, and this time two paramedics are on trial. Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec both pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and several counts of assault. A Colorado state prosecutor said yesterday that the two paramedics, quote, “did nothing” to help 23 year old McClain as he lay on the ground pleading for his life. Instead, they injected him with an overdose of a sedative ketamine, a move that the prosecutor said was medically unnecessary. The prosecutor went on to say that McClain quote, “would have been alive if they had never come.” Defense attorneys, on the other hand, said that the police officers themselves were responsible for the death of Elijah McClain. One defense lawyer said that the paramedics decided to use ketamine based on how the officers described McClain, which pointed to signs of a condition called excited delirium. That is a quote unquote “condition” that we’ve talked about here on the show that critics aka us and many, many others say is often used by police to justify excessive force. It’s also been rejected as a diagnosis by some medical groups. Meanwhile, three officers in total have already gone to trial. One was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and third degree assault, and the two others were acquitted. City officials said this week Nathan Woodyard, one of the officers who was acquitted, will return to work at the Aurora Police Department, and he will be receiving more than $200,000 in back pay. Not only is he getting his job back, but he’s getting a prize? Like money like it’s disgusting. 


Juanita Tolliver: I feel like it’s a sad reality that that’s what’s deemed as justice in this country. But I can not wrap my head around or just let go of what the prosecutor said, that McClain would have been alive if these paramedics and police officers who are supposed to be there to help and care for individuals had never come like that is the truth. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. 


Juanita Tolliver: Some good news from the world of journalism. Paste magazine announced yesterday that the publication has acquired Jezebel and plans to revive the trailblazing feminist website just weeks after it was shut down. We told you earlier this month that Jezebel closed up shop and laid off its entire team, much to the dismay of fans who have loved the iconic publication for the past 16 years. The website’s owner said that they tried to sell the website to keep it alive with no success. But now it seems that they finally found a buyer. It’s unclear how much Paste paid to seal the deal or why they waited until now to do it. But when asked about the acquisition, the outlets co-founder and editor in chief Josh Jackson told The New York Times, quote, “The idea of there not being a Jezebel right now just didn’t seem to make sense.”


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: According to Jackson, Paste could start posting on Jezebel’s website again as soon as this week. And again, I just need this editor in chief to hire every single Jezebel staffer who was laid off just a few weeks ago so that it’s more than just the name. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. Do it right. Yes. So it’s not just the name. So they are contributing the work that made Jezebel so iconic and indispensable in the first place. And finally, tis the season of Spotify wrapped. On Wednesday, users of the streaming platform got their annual individualized reports of their listening history for 2023. Some of us proudly posted our most listened to artists, genres and songs on Instagram stories. Others were too embarrassed to tell the world that their top five songs were all by Taylor Swift. This feels um targeted, but I would have [laughter] you know that that mine was only two of five. The pop star was the most streamed artist in the world, with 26.1 billion Spotify streams in 2023, a title that was previously held by rapper Bad Bunny for the past three years in a row. But interestingly enough, Swift did not put out the most streamed song of the year. That award went to Miley Cyrus for her hit song, Flowers, that debuted in the summer. While Spotify’s annual wrapped campaign is a beloved occasion, this year’s drop has renewed discourse about how little artists like Cyrus and Swift actually make off of the platform, despite driving most of its traffic. If you have a track on Spotify, you only make anywhere between one third and one half of a cent per stream. And according to Billboard recently, Spotify is changing its business model to pay artists even less in 2024. Starting next year, a track must have at least 1000 annual streams before it can generate any revenue. Any track that falls short of that threshold will be demonetized. Making it hard for smaller musicians, podcasters and artists to make money even if they are getting streams. 


Juanita Tolliver: I guess that only applies unless you’re Joe Rogan, who apparently is living it up in terms of the streaming because he’s one of the top podcasts in the world right now played on Spotify and that is alarming. I don’t think we’ll start peddling in white supremacy to match that but uh– 


Priyanka Aribindi: No, but I just WAD squad, listen post your wrapped. I want to see them, please. We’re feeling a little depressed about seeing Joe Rogan up at the top, but you can bolster our spirits by posting your wrapped tagging us on the stories. We want to see it. 


Juanita Tolliver: My homegirl did tag she was like, this is for you JT. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes I saw that! 


Juanita Tolliver: I’m like yes friend, please tag us. We would love to see the love. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Love to see it. 


Juanita Tolliver: And shower our love on you. Let us call you out and shout you out for supporting us. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. And those are the headlines. 




Juanita Tolliver: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Go get your COP28 on and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just looking at everyone’s Spotify wrapped and then judging them like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


[spoken together] And WAD better be on your Spotify wrapped. 


Juanita Tolliver: Rather. It’s not a threat y’all. I hope to make an appearance on your Spotify wrapped. 


Priyanka Aribindi: If you listen on other platforms, it’s okay. You can just photoshop a wrapped for us. That’s fine. We’ll accept it. [laughing] It’s fine. Just put it on stories. What’s the worst that happens? People are going to call you out for an AI Spotify wrapped? What’s the worst that happens? [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers. And our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.