As the first country in the Middle East region to ratify the Paris Agreement, it is perhaps fitting that COP28 should be held in the UAE.
The wealthy Gulf nation was the first regionally to commit to an economy-wide reduction in emissions, the first to announce a Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, and was just one of 25 countries in the world to revise its climate targets at Glasgow’s COP26 – raising its 2030 reduction target from 23.5% to 31% by 2030.
The decision to hold the conference in the UAE and appoint the CEO of an oil company as President, has not been without criticism. However, in the months since that announcement, Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP-28 President-Designate, has been travelling around the world meeting global leaders and leaving no stone unturned when it comes to addressing the four pillars he has set out for COP28.
Thos pillars are fast-tracking the energy transition, fixing climate finance, focusing on adaptation to protect lives and livelihoods, and underpinning everything with full inclusivity.
Pillar 1 – Fixing climate finance for COP28 and beyond
One of those key pillars was addressed closer to home, with economists from the Independent High-Level Expert Group (IHLEG) meeting with prestigious organisations as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital, for two days of talks.
The experts will bring recommendations on a new framework for international climate finance to COP28, as well as a roadmap on how to implement the recommendations to deliver progress at COP29 and COP30.
"For too long, climate finance has divided the international community and held back progress in tackling climate change and supporting countries most impacted by it,” said Dr Al Jaber. “But climate finance is the issue that lies at the core of the COP28 agenda because finance is how we transform goals into reality.
"The time for action is right now.”
Pillar 2 – Fast-tracking the transition to clean energy
The time for action is indeed now, and the transition to clean energy and reduced emissions needs to be rapid, as recent weather events have clearly demonstrated. However, Dr Al Jaber has also emphasised the need to take an integrated approach that considers supply and demand.
Speaking at the Ministerial on Climate Action in Brussels recently – an event convened by the environment ministers of the European Union, Canada, and China – Dr Al Jaber reiterated his view that the phasing down of fossil fuels is inevitable, and essential, but should also be responsible.
“Let us end the reductive discussion of scope 1 versus scope 2 versus scope 3. We need to attack all emissions, everywhere. 1, 2 and 3,” he said.
“This will require us to redesign the relationship between policymakers, the biggest energy producers and the biggest industrial consumers. We will co-create a practical action plan, based on the science, around pathways consistent with keeping 1.5 within reach.”
The transition plan aims to triple renewables and double hydrogen production by 2030, with oil and gas companies being urged to diversify into these opportunities.
“We need to use every emission-busting tool available, including nuclear, battery storage and carbon capture and removal technologies, especially for the hardest to abate sectors,” said Dr Al Jaber.
Pillar 3 – Adaptation to protect lives and livelihoods
Dr Al Jaber has been travelling the world in the last six months, meeting with leaders of the most vulnerable nations when it comes to climate change, and calling on donors to double adaptation finance by 2025. He also expressed the urgency for donor countries to honour their existing commitments, totalling US$100 billion.
Nature, health, food and resilience are part of the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation.
It is estimated that US$2.4 trillion will be needed annually by 2030 to address climate change in emerging markets and developing economies.
Pillar 4 – Full inclusivity from wider society
Having a voice at COP has not always been easy, and Dr Al Jaber is keen to address that by making COP28 the most inclusive climate change conference yet – including a youth delegate programme, a pavilion for indigenous people, and higher numbers of regional and local leaders.
“We are inviting every segment of society to join us at COP28 – policy makers and passionate advocates, engineers and entrepreneurs,” said Dr Al Jaber.
“We need both activism and what I call actionism. We need everyone around the table to claim their rightful share of voice in the conversation and ready to deliver a truly inclusive COP.
“We must ensure energy access, security and sustainability, while creating jobs and prosperity. In short, we need to make climate and economic progress at the same time. It is not one or the other. It is both.”
COP28 takes place in Dubai, UAE, from 30 November to 12 December 2023.