Some parts of the world are only known from geography lessons or from seafaring stories. Vanuatu and Tuvalu, for example, Palau and Saint Lucia. We've heard of Barbados and Samoa, but even these names convey exoticism and wanderlust rather than political weight. Nevertheless, these and other small states regularly attract attention at the world climate conferences, as is currently the case again at the major United Nations meeting in Dubai, called COP28.

Christian Geinitz

Business correspondent in Berlin

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The islands have joined forces with other developing, emerging and industrialised countries to form a group that poetically calls itself the "Coalition of the Highly Ambitious", abbreviated HAC in English. The circle was launched by the Marshall Islands in 2014 in order to be heard more in the Paris Climate Agreement a year later. The archipelago in Micronesia still leads the informal alliance today, and the HAC Secretariat is also based in the Marshall Islands.

On the one hand, the credibility of the association is based on the visible and measurable vulnerability of island states at risk of flooding to climate change. On the other hand, closing ranks with large and rich countries provides the necessary assertiveness in the climate negotiations.

Formerly a supporter, now conspicuously on the sidelines

The ambitious heads of state and government's latest declaration on strengthening climate protection, which they made to the UN General Assembly in New York in September, was signed by the presidents of France, Finland and Austria, Emmanuel Macron, Sauli Niinistö and Alexander Van der Bellen, among others. The heads of government of Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Iceland were also present: Pedro Sánchez, Mark Rutte, Leo Varadkar, Alexander De Croo, Mette Frederiksen and Katrín Jakobsdóttir. New Zealand, Kenya, Chile and Colombia have also endorsed the declaration.

It is interesting to see who was not there, namely Germany, which is otherwise so ambitious about climate change. In the past, the German government had often strengthened the HAC group – which enjoys a great deal of sympathy among non-governmental organisations and the public – and co-signed its appeals. Lately, however, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has been conspicuously keeping aside. Environmentalists suspect divergent interests over fossil fuels as the reason. While HAC wants to phase out coal, oil and gas sooner rather than later, Scholz continues to support these technologies, at least for the time being.

He did not want to slam the door in the face of the producing countries, because on the one hand their fuels could still be needed in an emergency, as the unexpected upswing of coal and gas in the recent energy crisis had shown. On the other hand, poor nations with raw material deposits that do not yet have sufficient green energy should not be deprived of their opportunities. It is difficult to say to developing countries: "Please wait now until renewable energies have established themselves everywhere to such an extent that they also reach you," Scholz's spokesman Steffen Hebestreit recently clarified. "That's why, to a very limited extent, we are not completely opposed to further exploitation of fossil fuels."