By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | Feb 19, 2023
ABU DHABI – “There are moments in history when humanity comes together to fight a common threat. Let's prove to ourselves that we can do it once again,” said Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the President of COP28 and the UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change, said in his keynote speech delivered at the World Government Summit 2023 in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
The World Government Summit (WGS) 2023 was centered around the theme of “Shaping Future Governments” and saw the participation of over 20 presidents, more than 250 ministers, 10,000 businessmen, government officials, thought leaders, and international experts in various fields.
In more than 220 sessions, delegates discussed future opportunities and challenges, the objective being to develop strategic plans and seek creative solutions to guide global policies.
Dr Al Jaber in his speech remembered the prescient words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates, who said back in 2015, “If we make the right investments today, there will come a time when the UAE would celebrate the last barrel of oil.” He noted that this urgent call to action was very impactful and made a deep impression upon him.
“Advancing humanity has always been one of the core principles of our leadership in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has always made progress by getting ahead of the future, and the advances we have made in 50 years have been anchored by the principle and practice of true genuine partnership,” Dr Al Jaber said. “We have been blessed with the leadership that invested the wealth of the nation and the health of the nation, balanced economic growth with environmental responsibility, and put climate action at the heart of our development agenda.”
He further noted that the UAE was proud to be the host country of the International Renewable Energy Agency, becoming the first nation in the region to commit to the Paris Agreement and the first to submit a National Determined Contribution as well as setting up a clear roadmap to Net Zero. Referring to the country being the host for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, he said, “We have chosen to face global challenges head-on, adopting a positive mindset and working on solutions and the pursuit of progress with like-minded partners. It is this mindset that we will bring as hosts of COP 28.”
He spoke about the importance of the first Global Stocktake, which will take place at COP28, calling it “a comprehensive assessment of progress against the goals and objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement”. Dr Al Jaber also sounded a strident warning about the current situation worldwide, saying: “We already know that we are way off track. The world is playing catch-up when it comes to holding global temperatures down to 1.5 degrees, and the hard reality is that the global emissions must fall 43 percent by 2030. That's just seven years away. We need a major course correction.”
Continuing his speech, he elaborated that the approaches currently being utilized to combat climate change are remnants of a different era, one that is no longer suitable for the current circumstances. He stressed that some of these methods are no longer effective, and there is a pressing need to expedite action, given the prevailing economic uncertainty, geopolitical tensions, and energy security concerns.
“We have to transform entire industrial systems that still rely and run on the energies of the first Industrial Revolution. In short, we need to shift from incremental steps to transformational progress across mitigation, adaptation, finance, and loss and damage,” he explained.
He outlined the following as required steps to mitigate the effects of climate change: triple renewable energy capacity, double hydrogen production, expand nuclear power, improve battery storage, and scale up and commercialize carbon capture technologies.
“Artificial intelligence is a critical success factor in the way forward. All of this while minimizing the carbon intensity of the energy we use today. We also need to transform our food and agriculture systems that account for one-third of global emissions,” he added.
Dr Al Jaber also elaborated on the important role finance plays in helping move climate goals from plans to activation. “One of the most critical enablers to bridge from goals to actually getting it done is capital - in fact, lots of capital,” he said. “We must make sure that this capital is available, accessible, and affordable. We need to ramp up investments across every area of decarbonization, and we should view these investments as a true opportunity rather than a burden.”
He continued that according to estimates by economists, decarbonizing industry, the energy sector, power generation, transportation, and food systems could create an additional 12 trillion dollars in economic value by 2030. He said adequate capital is vital for adaptation efforts and noted that annual funds need to be doubled to protect vulnerable communities, and increased investment was needed towards nature-based solutions, preserving rainforests, and safeguarding biodiversity.
“Capital is critical to make the loss and damage fund real and operational, and it is the key to a fair deal on climate finance for the global South. The international community must follow through on pledges made over a decade ago,” he stressed. “We need real reform of international financial institutions and multilateral banks to unleash more concessional dollars, lower risk, and attract more private finance for vulnerable communities.”
Speaking about the upcoming climate summit, Dr Al Jaber said: “The COP 28 presidency views that addressing the climate challenge represents the greatest opportunity for inclusive growth and prosperity since the first Industrial Revolution – the key word here is inclusive. The strategies we pursue must leave no one behind. The policies we adopt must be pro-growth and proclaim it at the same time.”
He also noted: “We must enable an energy transition that includes the 800 million people who are excluded from access to energy today, and we must urgently address the needs of the 2.6 billion people who have no access whatsoever to clean water. We must eliminate energy and water poverty while keeping 1.5 alive, and we must cater for a world that will be home to an additional 2 billion people by 2050. In short, we need to hold back emissions, not progress.”
He promised that, as the President of COP28, he would work to lay out an inclusive, results-oriented roadmap that would be “very far from being business as usual”. He also pledged that he would work together with HE Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, who has been named as the Youth Climate Champion; and HE Razan Al Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and managing director of Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, who is the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion.
“We will mobilize every segment of society. We will capitalize on our experience and our network of partners to engage with governments, civil society, youth, and the financial community and industry and technology companies. Never before have we been able to use technology to help us scale and level up our innovations to achieve real impact, and deliver tangible results. Artificial intelligence is reinventing the relationship between people and machines. It is making industrial processes faster and smarter, and it is making energy much more efficient and much cleaner.”
He added: “We have an unprecedented opportunity to engage the energy industry in a technological revolution that gets us to a climate-positive future, and yes, it is in our common interest to have the energy industry working hand in hand and alongside everyone on the solutions that the world needs today.”
Dr Al Jaber stressed that the COP 28 presidency team is committed to engaging with a diverse group of stakeholders, including developed countries, the global South, the business community, civil society, academics, engineers, women, and youth. He noted that the planned approach would be inclusive, open, constructive, and positive, recognizing that only through such engagement can the breakthroughs necessary be achieved.
“We all remember COP 21 in Paris for uniting governments and agreement, and we want COP 28 UAE to be remembered for uniting everyone in action – action made more powerful through the meaningful partnerships that we hope to create, action that will make real transformational progress and deliver real and tangible results.”
He ended his speech by issuing a call for unity: “Let's cooperate, collaborate, and share ideas. Let's unite in solidarity for the sake of humanity. Let's live up to the responsibility that we have been entrusted with. Ladies and gentlemen, climate change knows no boundaries. It affects us all. We believe that game-changing solutions can be achieved if the collective political will is there, and I promise you it certainly is from the United Arab Emirates. We in the UAE are not shying away from the energy transition, in fact, we are running towards it.”
“ Let's put our differences aside, fight climate change not each other. Let's stop deliberating and start focusing on delivery. Let's make COP28 a COP of unity, a COP of action, a COP for all, a COP that will shape a better future,” he concluded.
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