By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | Dec 03, 2023
At a plenary session on the opening day, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the President of COP28 and the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, delivered his keynote speech welcoming all delegates and setting forth the agenda for the landmark climate change conference.
Under the slogan ‘Unite. Act. Deliver.’, the conference’s key objective is to encourage global cooperation and collaboration to take collective action and outline tangible solutions to mitigate the growing effects of climate change, in an effort to create a sustainable future for coming generations and attempt to reverse the damage done this far.
Dr. Al Jaber commenced his speech by thanking all attendees, and noting that the UAE was proud and humbled to be the host of COP28, which comes at a critical time in the fight against climate change.
Dr. Al Jaber stressed the importance of acknowledging the scientific evidence provided by climate experts, emphasising the need to use such information to drive positive change despite the obstacles and challenges.
“The science has spoken, and it has been loud and clear. It has confirmed that the moment is now to find a new road – a road wide enough for all of us, free of the obstacles and the detours of the past,” he said. “That new road starts with a decision on the Global Stocktake, a decision that is ambitious, corrects course, and accelerates action to 2030.”
He also issued a call for each person, entity, and sector to face the important roles they have to play in this landmark journey, and noted that each individual, party and entity must accept their responsibility to drive change.
“Through the Global Stocktake, we have a chance to unite the three core elements of the climate agenda. We can finally bring mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation, which includes finance, under one umbrella, united around higher ambition, giving clear direction on nationally determined contributions, and connecting everything we agree here to practical action in the real world,” said Dr. Al Jaber.
The COP28 president also emphasised the need for world leaders to adopt a more nuanced but at the same time concrete approach in order to effect real change. “I ask you to start this COP with a different mindset. I ask you to adopt a different way of thinking, and I ask you to be flexible,” he stated. “We must ensure that this COP delivers the most ambitious global stocktake possible.”
Dr. Al Jaber will lead the conference on the first ever Global Stocktake (GST), which will then take place every five years. The stocktake will look at global efforts to combat climate change, and where every country and region has reached in this planned path. This will be done by identifying and closing any major gaps to put the global effort back on track to reach what was mandated in the Paris climate agreement of 2015.
“We collectively have the power to do something unprecedented. In fact, we have no choice but to go the very unconventional way. I ask you all to work together, be flexible, find common ground, come forward with solutions, and achieve consensus. And never lose sight of our North Star of 1.5,” he said, referring to the goal of keeping global warming to under 1.5°C.
He underlined the importance of values like dedication, innovation, and hope, referring to the spectacular growth the UAE has witnessed since its birth, owing it to the determination and foresight exemplified by the country’s late founding father, HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a leader with great vision and conviction.
“We may be a young nation, but we have big ambitions and hold fast to principles like collaboration, optimism through partnership, determination, and commitment,” he said. “These are the ingredients that make up the DNA of the United Arab Emirates, and it's these core values of trust, purpose, partnership, and pragmatism that I believe must define the DNA of COP28. That means it is essential that no issue is left off the table.”
Next, Dr. Al Jaber moved on to the topic of climate finance, which, he reiterated, has not been available, accessible or affordable for a long time. “This presidency is committed to unlocking finance to ensure that the global South does not have to choose between development and climate action,” he said.
He also underscored the importance of delivering on the $100 billion Loss and Damage Fund, which was first proposed during COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. Importantly, the Fund was instituted on the very first day of COP28, marking a huge milestone that has been discussed for several years, but never actioned before.
Several countries have already contributed to the Fund, with the UAE and Germany both chipping in at $100 million. The goal now is to ensure the Fund mobilises at least $100 billion per year by 2030. The management and distribution of the Loss and Damage Fund will be handled by the World Bank.
However, the Fund alone will not cover all the requirements for climate finance around the world. The crucial aspect is to prepare all countries to adapt to forthcoming challenges posed by climate change.
“Adaptation must be at the heart of our action. We must bridge the finance gap and agree on a robust framework for the global goal. Let's put nature, lives, and livelihoods at the core of our national plans. Let's finally face the issues that are critical to adaptation like water, food, agriculture, and health,” said Dr. Al Jaber, adding that COP28 would be the first to host a Climate Health Ministerial.
Another critical milestone would be to ensure a quick energy transition towards renewables and clean energy sources. “Today, countries representing more than 85% of the world's economy are behind COP28's goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030. And we are reaching critical mass on the goal to double energy efficiency by 2030, said Dr. Al Jaber.
“Let me also encourage countries to establish net-zero methane emission targets as part of their next round of NDCs. Zeroing out methane emissions can make a huge impact in the shortest timeframe,” Dr. Al Jaber added.
At the same time, the COP28 Presidency is also engaging with high-emitting sectors, such as steel, construction and transportation, to both accelerate their decarbonisation efforts and invest in clean technologies.
The COP28 President again highlighted the need for collective action to work for collective betterment for all the people in the world.
“Our task is not only about negotiating text or putting words on paper. It is about improving lives. It is about people, from the students I met in Bangladesh to the young entrepreneurs I saw in Nairobi, to indigenous communities I visited in the Amazon basin. All of us want and need the same things: clean air, clean water, healthy food, economies, and opportunities for ourselves and our families. And, of course, we want a safe and a secure future,” he said.
Speaking of the commitments made until today, he said: “Today, we need to follow through, take that new road, and let's bring everyone on board with us. If we want to accelerate progress across the climate agenda, we must apply a positive can-do vision to get a GST decision with the highest ambition. We must translate the negotiated outcomes into real results in the real world.”
He concluded his speech by reiterating the importance of hope and positivity in enabling much-needed change and spurring tangible progress. “Let's rise above our differences to make the difference for future generations right now, here in the United Arab Emirates. I'm calling you all to unite, to act, and to deliver”
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