Focus on lower emissions to reduce global warming, COP28 President urges

Al-Jaber COP28

Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber has been named as president of this year's COP28 climate talks to be held at Expo City Dubai from November 30th to December 12th.

Photo credit: AFP

This year's United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) will take place at Expo City Dubai from November 30th to December 12th, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who are the hosts have announced.

This comes barely days after Kenyan climate activists and experts expressed shock and fury after UAE  settled on Dr Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber-the CEO of  Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation (ADNOC) to serve as COP28 president .

“COP28 UAE will take place at Expo City Dubai from November 30–December 12, 2023. Over 70,000 participants are expected to attend, including heads of State, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth, and non-State actors," the hosts said in an official statement.

"As mandated by the Paris Climate Agreement, COP28 UAE will deliver the first ever Global Stocktake — a comprehensive evaluation of progress against climate goals,” the statement said adding that "the UAE will lead a process for all parties to agree on a clear roadmap to accelerate progress through a pragmatic global energy transition and a “leave no one behind” approach to inclusive climate action."

Last Friday, the Pan African Climate Justice  Alliance (PACJA) in an official statement expressed disappointment over selection of COP28 President .

“ We have learnt with consternation, and are profoundly appalled that a fossil fuel executive will lead 2023 climate change negotiations. Ominously, never again have we ever witnessed a quasi-government Executive being appointed to lead such a crucial multilateral process, and this, infamous as it may sound, marks the lowest moment for the UNFCCC, which is exceedingly veering off from its mandate to an international Expo where Corporates with dubious environmental-climate integrity greenwash their fossil-fuel credentials,” the official statement reads in part.

Global temperature

“ Curiously in 2020, the country has discovered over 80 trillion cubic feet of gas resources at Jebel Ali. Without understating the fact that a 5-year business plan and capital expenditure of 550 billion dirhams ($150 billion) for the period 2023-2027 was also approved last year by the board to enable his company's growth strategy in order to bring forward oil production capacity expansion to 2027. We see this as a threat to the global commitment of divesting dirty energy for the sake of limitation of global temperature to 1.5 degrees of global warming.”

Mr Mwithika Mwenda who is the executive director at PACJA said that the appointment is a textbook definition of impunity and conflict of interest.

“ Addressing the climate crisis requires deep cuts in the production and use of fossil fuels, that course of action is squarely at variance with al-Jaber’s business interests.

It is hard to see al-Jaber leading objective, science-backed negotiations in the interest of the most vulnerable,’’  Mr Mwenda said then.

However , in his first speech since being appointed as COP President-Designate, Dr Al-Jaber has emphasized on the need for an inclusive, action-oriented approach to transform systems and accelerate trajectories in the fight against climate change. 

While speaking at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum, Dr al-Jaber highlighted  that the UAE has “a clear sense of responsibility and a great sense of urgency” when it came to hosting COP28 and helping to build global ambition and accelerate action on climate change.

He further underscored the critical need to make up progress to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“ We don’t need to wait for the Global Stocktake to know what it will say. We are way off track. The world is playing catchup when it comes to the key Paris goal of holding global temperatures down to 1.5 degrees. And the hard reality is that in order to achieve this goal, global emissions must fall 43 percent by 2030," he said.

While recognising the threat of climate change, the incoming COP28 president  emphasized the immense economic benefits of investing in clean energy and climate action, pointing to the UAE as a success story in that regard.

He also noted that the UAE is the host country of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the first in the region to commit to the Paris Agreement, the first in the region to submit a Nationally Determined Contribution, and the first to set out a roadmap to net zero.

“Today, over 70 percent of our economy is generated outside the oil and gas sector. And as the CEO of ADNOC and the founding CEO and Chairman of Masdar, I will continue to follow our leadership’s vision and guidance in making today's energy cleaner, while advancing and investing in the clean energies of tomorrow. And we will use our experience, our ambition and deep network of partnerships to inform our approach to COP28,” Dr Al-Jaber assured.

He added: “Over the last 15 years, the UAE has invested a total of $50 billion in renewable energy and clean tech globally and plans to invest another $50 billion in the years ahead.

We want COP28 to transform systems and accelerate 2030 trajectories through game-changing partnerships, solutions, and outcomes,’ he said.

“We want it to be a COP of Solidarity that bridges the Global North and South, and includes public and private sectors, scientists and civil society, women and youth.

And we want it to be a practical COP, a COP of action that raises ambitions and moves from goals to implementation across mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage.”

On mitigation, the incoming COP28 president  called for scaling up of renewables, nuclear energy, hydrogen, carbon capture, energy efficiency, the least carbon intensive oil and gas as well as new technologies yet to be deployed.

“Wind and solar added record growth of 550 gigawatts between 2020 and 2022 and are on course to grow more over the next five years than over the last twenty combined, the market is telling us something and we are at a turning point in history. Low carbon growth is the future. But we must get there much faster,” Dr Al-Jaber pointed out.

“We must triple renewable energy generation from 8 to 23 terawatt hours by 2030, we must more than double low carbon hydrogen production to at least 180 million tons for hard to abate sectors. We also need to transform our food and agriculture systems because we know that agriculture accounts for one-third of global emissions,” he said.

The incoming COP28 President further called for adaptation finance to the global south which includes African countries like Kenya to be doubled to $40 billion annually by 2025 apart from asking the world  to do more to protect our most vulnerable communities and our most critical systems from extreme weather and biodiversity loss.

“We need to ensure that every concessional dollar is matched by 2 or 3 dollars of private capital. To make this happen, we need to answer the call from the international community for inclusive reform of the multilateral development banks and international financial institutions. And to encourage this process, the UAE, as chair of the World Bank-IMF development committee, intends to play a proactive, supportive and facilitating role,” he said while reminding that climate finance needs to be more affordable and accessible.

He further stressed on the need to invest in nature-based solutions like mangroves that act as powerful carbon sinks, while protecting coastlines and preserving natural ecosystems while explaining that  global food systems need to be resilient to the changing weather patterns that threaten farmers around the world.

He assured the world that with UAE as hosts of COP28, and at the crossroads of North and South, East and West, will listen, engage with all those who want to engage, build bridges and pursue global consensus in this collective effort.

“Alongside the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion Her Excellency Razan al Mubarak, and Youth Climate Champion Her Excellency Shamma Al Mazrui, we will work very closely with the UNFCCC to move from ambition to action. And we will mobilise the private sector and all other sectors to deliver greater impact. So let me extend an open invitation to all parties across government, the private sector and civil society. Cooperate, collaborate, share your ideas and talk to us, “ Dr Al-Jaber said in his concluding remarks.

“ Together, let’s create a paradigm shift for tangible progress. And let’s remember that reaching net zero emissions will deliver the biggest market transformation with the greatest economic and human promise since the first Industrial Revolution,” he said.

A climate expert  working with government who sought anonymity due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the matter is of the view that Dr Al-Jaber might just be what the world needs considering that the agreement struck in Sharm el Sheikh , Egypt during COP27 last year did nothing to address how the  use of fossil fuels is not only destroying mother nature, but also  frustrating a global and just transition to clean energy as well as global health systems apart from countries failing to agree to a phasedown of all fossil fuels, building on a call to phasedown coal at COP26 in Glasgow.

“ Look back at history, those who made the most decisive decisions to move the world forward were those perpetuating the crime, See slave owners like George Washington banned slavery and so the big oil CEO might just be what the world needs to reach such a decisive action on climate change,” he said .