By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | Sap 25, 2023
NEW YORK – In order to successfully fight climate change, the world needs to unite and work in solidarity, said Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the President of the upcoming 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), during a closing session of the recently concluded UN Climate Ambition Summit.
The Summit was convened by the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on the side-lines of the 78th UNGA (the United Nations General Assembly), taking place at the intergovernmental organisation’s HQ in New York City. The event brought together top government officials and leaders from the private sector and civil society, aimed a spotlight at the ‘first movers and doers’ who have implemented steps to keep global warming to the 1.5°C threshold, set at the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.
Dr. Al Jaber, who is also the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, opened his speech by referring back to the founding principles of the UN – peace, security, and human dignity on a healthy planet. Today, he stressed the need for world leaders to reaffirm those same principles in fighting climate change, adding that the founders of the UN worked to usher in a world where everyone thought “beyond borders, beyond politics, and beyond our own lifetimes”.
Referring to the recently published UN report on the first Global Stocktake, Dr. Al Jaber emphasised that the results show that the world is falling short when it comes to efforts to combat the devastating effects of climate change. “We are running short on time, but it’s not too late to correct course,” he said. “Climate change is our common enemy, and we must unite to fight it.”
He also said that the size of the problem facing the world was clear: across industries and sectors, 22 Gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut in the next seven years if we are to strive to keep to the set Paris Accords limit of 1.5°C as the maximum global warming the planet can tolerate without catastrophic consequences.
In the past few years and months, several regions have already witnessed multiple damaging weather events that have been at least partially attributed to climate change, with the most recent being the destructive floods in the Libyan city of Darna, which resulted in several thousands of deaths and an equal number of missing or displaced individuals.
While it is easy to feel overwhelmed, Dr. Al Jaber stressed that, working in unison, it is possible to conquer even the most pressing situations. “We must remember that we are not powerless,” he said. “When we act with solidarity, we can overcome even the most daunting challenges. That is what gives me hope.”
He went on to add: “I believe, in the face of the climate crisis, we can and will reinforce and rediscover humanity’s greatest strength: our capacity to collaborate, to overcome differences, and to harness the power of collective action.”
The upcoming Climate Change Conference’s COP28 comprehensive action agenda is primarily focused at achieving the required amount of reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, for which the world needs to work together, the UAE Special Climate Envoy said.
“The first pillar of [the COP28] agenda is aimed at eliminating those 22 Gigatonnes as part of a fair, just, responsible, and well-managed energy transition,” he noted, adding that there must also be an equally rapid phase-up of zero-carbon alternatives that goes hand-in-hand with the previous aspect.
“Our plan calls for a massive expansion of renewable energy, tripling capacity by 2030 – and this call to action is gathering real and serious momentum,” he continued. “First, the European Commission presidency signed up, then Kenya, then the African Union Commission, and most recently, the G20. This is a very good start that we must capitalise on and build on.”
For this goal to be met, all the planned timeliness need to be slashed, said Dr. Al Jaber, adding that global investments in battery storage technology need to be supercharged, while also focusing on increasing efficiency as a key measure.
“We must not overlook the power of efficiency - it is, in fact, the simplest, cheapest, and fastest way to bring down emissions,” he said.
He also highlighted that there continue to be certain sectors of industry which are heavy emitters, and it is necessary to work on decarbonising them as quickly and efficiently as possible. He noted that renewables alone cannot solve the problem, and said other technologies like hydrogen fuels must be looked into.
“Hydrogen can and should help if governments set smart policies to bring costs down, scale up technologies, invest in the scaling up of infrastructure, and put unifying market standards and specifications in place,” he explained.
He also said: “We must rapidly and comprehensively decarbonise the energies we use today. That is why I have called on all oil and gas businesses and industry to step up and up their game, eliminate methane emissions by 2030, and demonstrate clear, measurable net-zero pathways and roadmaps by or before 2050.”
In the next part of his speech, Dr. Al Jaber stressed on the importance of world leaders honestly and transparently recognising the scale of finance needed to fund current and future efforts to fight climate change.
He touched on the fact that, while some could believe that zero-carbon economic growth is possible with no upfront costs, that is not what the reality reflects, and this fact is something that everyone must come to accept.
He said that it has become common knowledge by now that the world requires nearly four to five trillion dollars annually to make significant progress in the fight against climate change.
“It will mean we have to make some tough choices. But doing nothing – or not doing enough – will dramatically come at greater costs in human life and socio-economic development,” he emphasised. “That’s why I have been consistently calling for a pro-climate and pro-growth approach. This makes fixing climate finance a critical success factor.”
He added: “This must be the year that the $100 billion pledge is finally fulfilled and delivered, and we must go much further if we are to unlock the trillions we need to unleash the full potential of private capital.”
He explained that, in order to achieve this goal, there is a necessity to overhaul outdated international financial organisations. “We must recapitalise their balance sheets and unlock more concession and finance. We need to create an ecosystem where finance is made more available, more accessible, and more affordable.”
Moving on to the third pillar of focus, Dr. Al Jaber noted that safeguarding the future livelihoods of humanity is paramount. “Over the past 10 months, I have seen firsthand that climate action is primarily about people, about lives and livelihoods, from the young entrepreneur I met in Nairobi to the bright young students of Bangladesh, from the indigenous community leaders of the Amazon to the shop owners here right here in New York City,” he said.
“People everywhere want the same thing: they want clean water, clean air, economic opportunity, prosperity, and safety,” he noted. “In other words, it’s not enough to focus on future climate risks; we need to deal with the climate impacts that are with us here today and right now.”
This, he explained, was the key reason why there is a need for nature-positive investments to be embedded into all National Climate strategies. Dr. Al Jaber also hinted at nature’s power to heal itself, provided the world makes stringent efforts to minimise ongoing environmental damage through industrial activities.
“Nature can help. When we protect our ecosystems, they will protect us back,” he said.
“COP28 will be the first to put global health on the climate agenda by hosting the first Climate Health Ministerial in partnership with the World Health Organisation,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “At the same time, we must find a way to feed a growing population without overheating the planet. I call on all countries to sign up to the COP 28 Declaration on Food, Agriculture, and Climate to help transform food systems for the health of the planet and its people.”
He added that just by increasing efforts to reduce air pollution, almost one million lives could be saved worldwide each year by 2050. However, he noted, this needs funding – and that must be seen as investments into humanity’s future, not as a cost.
“That is why we are calling on all countries to help, advance and progress to double adaptation finance by 2025, replenish the Green Climate Fund, and help operationalise the Fund for Loss and Damage with real and early pledges,” he said.
Every single action that is being planned currently must be undertaken with full inclusivity in mind, said the COP28 President, noting that this was the final pillar on his action agenda.
“Climate change does not recognise political divisions or national borders; it affects everyone everywhere. The size of the challenge requires everyone to show up. That is why, in partnership with Mike Bloomberg, I’m inviting 1,000 Mayors to share what’s working at the local level at a very special Summit at COP28.”
He added: “We need the energy and voices of our youth; we need the talent and capital of businesses and philanthropies; we need the wisdom of indigenous peoples, all faiths, all communities, all industries, all businesses, all peoples working together for one planet and one ambition.”
He ended his speech by welcoming all attendees planning to attend the upcoming Climate Change conference in Dubai to arrive with hope, optimism and the will to deliver real, actionable, tangible results.
“Together, let’s turn pledges into projects, and let’s turn ambition into action. Let’s be brave, and let’s be bold,” he said in conclusion. Let’s activate a truly global response to the global stock take. Let’s unite, let’s act, and let’s deliver.”
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