By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | Oct 10, 2023
Delivering his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the MENA Climate Week in Riyadh, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President and the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, made a strident call for global unity and solidarity in the fight against climate change.
Hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the event was held in collaboration with the United Nations as well as local and global partners, marking the second out of four global Climate Weeks that will take place before COP28 in November 2023.
Dr. Al Jaber commenced his speech by acknowledging that the UAE is the fourth MENA country to host a COP climate change conference, following Qatar (Doha, COP18), which set the timeline for the world to reach a global climate agreement; Morocco (Marrakech, COP22), which established the framework for greater collaboration between cities, regions, businesses, and investors; and Egypt (Sharm El Sheikh, COP27), which resulted in the establishment of the Fund for Loss and Damage.
Addressing the gathered dignitaries, he said: “I have no doubt, with your help and support, COP28 will deliver transformational outcomes for this region and for the entire world.”
The UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change reflected on the region’s potential to drive forward effective solutions to combat climate change. He noted his first-hand experience witnessing the region’s transformative abilities, its resilience in the face of global challenges, and the key role played by forward-thinking leadership to develop the region’s young societies and economies, with the goal of driving real progress.
In particular, Dr. Al Jaber referred to the ambitious Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives, which are currently driving positive environmental impacts and improving the lives of multiple communities. The Initiatives, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, have a strong focus on climate action, energy security and economic prosperity by integrating environmental protection, energy transition and innovative sustainability programmes to achieve a green future for everyone.
“I can tell you that the track record, actions, and political will of the United Arab Emirates’ leadership and the COP28 team’s determination to build a better future is absolutely unwavering,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “For these reasons, I am filled with confidence that this region has the vision, the commitment, and the capacity to shape a better future, not just for the Middle East and North Africa, but for the whole world.”
With less than two months to go before COP28, Dr. Al Jaber highlighted the need for global leaders to rally the world behind a pragmatic, ambitious, and comprehensive climate agenda. He noted that such an agenda would require concrete action to ensure the goals of the Paris agreement can be achieved across mitigation and adaptation, and it would also need to develop a balanced response to the Global Stocktake to keep global warming to under 1.5°C while delivering pro-climate, pro-growth development.
“We live in a region of extreme heat, water scarcity, and food insecurity. We are also suffering harsh climate impacts, from droughts to the devastating floods of Derna,” he said. “To deliver for our region, we must put adaptation front and centre of the climate agenda. Donors must double adaptation finance and replenish the Green Climate Fund. Old promises must be kept, including the $100 billion pledge made over a decade ago. Institutions like the World Bank and the IMF that were built for the realities of the last century must update their mandates and their charters for the climate realities of today. And the private sector must step up to invest not just in the opportunities of the global North but also, and more importantly, in the needs of the global South.”
Dr. Al Jaber also noted that energy was crucial and cannot be ignored on the climate agenda. “Figuring out a fair, just, equitable, responsible, and well-managed energy transition is essential for economic and climate progress,” he said. “We must meet the energy demands of our growing populations while providing access to the 800 million people that don’t have access to energy today. We must rapidly build the clean energy system of the future when we decarbonise the system of today.”
To achieve this goal, Dr. Al Jaber outlined the requirement to enhance clean energy development, and referred to his global goal of tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency by 2030. “I am pleased that 85% of the world’s economies, including the G20, have endorsed this very important and game-changing goal,” he said, adding that global oil and gas companies would need to work to align around Net Zero by 2050 and Zero Methane Emissions by 2030.
He further explained that achieving the energy transition and cutting emissions at a gigaton scale would require serious engagement and partnerships with heavy-emitting industries such as steel, aluminium and cement, in order to expedite their clean energy transitions and drive down emissions.
“This cannot and will not happen without the support of governments. We need smart policies to scale up and commercialise hydrogen. We need to cut the cost of carbon capture and storage, and we need to incentivise all other new technologies to be adopted,” he said.
“A critical pillar of the COP28 agenda is focused on people’s lives and livelihoods,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “We must make the Fund for Loss and Damage that was promised in Sharm El Sheikh a reality in Dubai. In addition, I am calling for all countries to sign up to the COP28 transformative declarations to climate action.”
“This includes a declaration on food, agriculture, and climate aimed at feeding a growing population without overheating our planet. We are partnering with the United Nations Environment Program to deliver a global cooling pledge to reduce the energy used to cool our homes,” he continued. “COP28 will be the first to put Global Health on the climate agenda with a political declaration in partnership with the World Health Organisation.”
For game-changing progress to happen, the world needs to have a clear idea of the size of the goals to be achieved as well as the challenges being faced currently. “Climate change does not recognise political divisions or national boundaries; it affects everyone everywhere,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “The size of the challenge requires everyone to show up, to step up, and to up their game and to contribute.”
He added that the upcoming COP28 would host a special summit where 1,000 mayors from around the world have been invited to share their thoughts and learnings about what is working at the local level. The event will also host another special summit to engage the private sector, businesses, and philanthropies in driving practical, impactful climate solutions.
“We will include the energy and the voices of our youth, the wisdom of indigenous peoples, and the peoples of all faiths. In simple terms, I am calling for unity. I’m calling for global solidarity to deliver global breakthroughs,” said Dr. Al Jaber.
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber concluded his speech with a call for solidarity across the MENA region to take a leadership role in fighting climate change and ushering in a more equitable, sustainable future for everyone.
“This region has the resources, the leadership, and the experience to create a climate-positive future of new industries, new technologies, new businesses, new jobs, and, more importantly, new hope,” he said. “Let’s apply our capacities, let’s apply our capital and our know-how, and scale to deliver positive and game-changing outcomes at COP28.”
Calling for “maximum ambitions, zero emissions, success through solidarity”, the COP28 President said the region must show the world that it is a true climate leader that can deliver truly inclusive climate progress.
“COP28 is our moment; it is our opportunity. Let’s seize it together. Let’s unite, let’s act, and let’s deliver,” he concluded.
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