The incoming UAE COP28 President Designate, Sultan Al Jaber, has outlined his focus areas for the UN climate conference, including “fast-tracking the transition, fixing climate finance, focusing on people, lives and livelihoods and underpinning everything with full inclusivity”.
There is less than five months to go before the next COP summit and the UAE has made it clear that it intends to lave its mark on the ongoing fight against climate change. However, whilst there is some fighting talk, the incoming president is not with out controversy. He is the chief executive of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation (ADNOC) and there have been concerns raised of a conflict of interests in the official negotiations which could undermine the delivery of a science-based agreement around the energy transition. In order to keep 1.5 degrees within grasp, definitive agreements to phase out fossil fuels, scale up renewables, accelerate financial system reform to unlock funding for adaptation are needed at COP28.
The UAE team has sought to calm some fears, while also setting the tone for pre-COP meetings, by publishing their action plan for the conference. They have confirmed that they will advocate for an agreement to double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements in line with the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) research. There is also backing for a new global undertaking to treble renewable energy capacity this decade.
Sultan Al Jaber has also emphasised the need for a reduction in fossil fuel production and combustion, stating this is inevitable and essential if there is to be successful delivery of the Paris Agreement. It is notable that the UAE was a key player which pushed for the wording to be amended to ‘phase down’ fossil fuels rather than to ‘phase them out’. There is o indication that they will change their position during their host year.
Another key aspect of the UAE’s COP28 action plan is advocacy for countries to improve their commitment to cut emissions from food and land use. Nations are being asked to put forward National Food System Transformation Plans ahead of COP28 and embed these in their National Climate Adaptation Plans and in carbon accounting plans.
It is unsurprising that, as other hosts have in the past, the UAE has stated that it intends to host the most inclusive COP to date including a space for Indigenous People and a significant youth programme.
With the Climate Summit fast approaching, the world focus will be on how the 1.5C can be achieved. There has been much discussion of this ambition in recent years but what is needed is a focus on specific actions to deliver a sustainable and resilient future for the planet and all its inhabitants. Without commitment and action, we risk yet another year passing, without progress or clarity on the way forward. The UAE has made it clear it wants it presidency to count – let us hope the succeed.