Letting the World’s Poorest Freeze in the Dark: The COP28 Promise

By Jason Scott Jones Published on December 11, 2023

In the Western world, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of Christmas Day and the winter break, a season filled with joy. However, for millions of our fellow earth dwellers, it will be a season of darkness and cold. Throughout my journey, I have encountered thousands of families who lack the necessities of life that we often take for granted.

In our world’s impoverished and conflict-ridden areas, the lack of food, clean water, and rudimentary shelter continues to pose a significant challenge. Access to energy becomes particularly crucial during winter, as many of these communities find themselves vulnerable.

Astonishingly, there seems to be a striking neglect of addressing the urgent energy needs of the most vulnerable at the ongoing United Nations climate conference — the 28th chapter of the Conference of Parties (COP28) – as attention is fruitlessly absorbed by futuristic climate forecasts, and policies that hold little relevance to the socio-economic well-being of people.

COP28: Climate Conference or Assembly of Hypocrites?

Dubai is currently playing host to COP28 climate meet, attracting a swarm of private jets and an assembly of politicians, along with approximately 65,000 other participants. This gathering marks the most emission-intensive climate conference of the calendar year.

It’s quite ironic that these individuals, who frequently travel on private jets and commercial airlines across the globe, are advocating for some of the world’s most impoverished people to relinquish their basic right to access energy for survival.

A Sultan Who Speaks for the Poor

The call for ending fossil fuel use has been around for a while and there are finally some people who have voiced their strong displeasure towards policies that are disastrous to the energy security of the world.

One of them is Sultan Al Jaber, the host of this year’s UN COP28 event. In an event at the conference, the Sultan said, “There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C (referring to the temperature warming mark which policymakers want to achieve).”

He further questioned the apparent lack of solutions to meet the energy needs that are currently being met by fossil fuels. “Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves,” asked the Sultan.

Leaving the Poorest to Scramble for Sticks to Burn

The comments made by the president of COP28 are indeed accurate. Take, for example, the plight of the impoverished residents in the conflict-affected regions of Gaza, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. They endure highly unstable economic conditions and lack access to essential resources for survival. As winter sets in, they are left to fend for themselves in the bitter cold.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 2.6 billion people in the world still lack access to clean cooking facilities, and 1.4 billion people lack access to electricity. Most of these individuals reside in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where energy poverty is a pressing issue and rely on traditional biomass fuels, such as wood, charcoal, and animal waste, for cooking and heating.

Winters can be extremely harsh, with temperatures plummeting well below freezing. For those living in poorly insulated homes, particularly in mountainous regions or high-altitude plateaus, coal-fired stoves provide a crucial source of warmth, preventing hypothermia, respiratory illnesses, and even death. For instance, in Mongolia, where temperatures can drop to as low as -40°C (-65.2°F), coal is the primary source of heating for nearly 90% of the population.

For these communities, coal remains a lifeline, providing an affordable and accessible source of energy for heating during harsh winters. Coal is relatively affordable and readily available, making it an essential lifeline for millions of families struggling to meet their basic heating and cooking needs.

Ignoring the significance of coal in these regions not only risks exacerbating energy poverty but also endangers the lives of millions who are defenseless against the harsh realities of cold weather.

We’re Giving Kids Coal for Christmas

This is why the Vulnerable People Project, an international non-profit, is launching its third annual Coal for Christmas campaign. This year, they will supply over 20 million hours of heat and over two million meals for poor and forgotten communities in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Malawi, Mongolia, Pakistan, Gaza, and more.

The campaign launched on the feast of St. Nicholas, Wednesday December 6th, and will run through Christmas and into the New Year. More information on it can be found at Coalforchristmas.org, vulnerablepeopleproject.com.

Champion the poorest. Speak up for the vulnerable. Support the underprivileged. The well-being of the weak must come before empty gestures of environmental virtue in our world.


Jason Jones is a film producer, author, popular podcast host, and human rights worker. He is president of the Human-Rights Education and Relief Organization (H.E.R.O.), known for its two main programs The Vulnerable People Project and Movie to Movement. His latest book, The Great Campaign Against the Great Reset, will be released in Spring 2024.

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