By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | Oct 31, 2023
ABU DHABI – With more than 70 minsters and 100 global delegations gathered for the pre-COP opening ceremony in Abu Dhabi, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President and the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, opened his keynote speech by remarking that the event had more than double the attendees for a normal pre-COP. He added that this showcased the commitment of world governments to mitigate the effects of climate change, a fact that gave him and his COP28 team great confidence.
The Pre-COP event’s key objectives are to bring together stakeholders to discuss various pressing issues and ideate solutions to existing challenges, as well as to set the tone and pace for the upcoming COP28 conference in Dubai.
Reassuring those present of his and his team’s determination to aid the process to find solutions in the fight against climate change, Dr. Al Jaber said: “I am determined to do all I can to make you and this process a success. We have to come through. We must unite. We must act, and we must deliver in Dubai.”
Currently, the various climate-change-related effects being witnessed all over the world will only keep growing in size and severity if global leaders do not choose to act immediately and instead “keep kicking the can down the road”, warned Dr. Al Jaber.
“We must find common ground, ensure consensus, and resolve differences. If we succeed in coming together now, we have a huge opportunity in front of all of us. We can reimagine entire economies and put every nation on the path to a prosperous and sustainable future,” he explained.
He continued: “As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. In such challenging times, our responsibility is only greater. Now more than ever, we need to unite on climate and deliver a clear message of hope, a message of solidarity, stability, and prosperity.”
At the upcoming COP28 conference, it is imperative for the international community to unite and show to the world that significant progress can be made, and that multilateralism is a powerful force that still works. This is all the more important for the world to be successful in preventing global warming from crossing the 1.5°C limit.
“Before the Paris agreement, the world was heading for more than 4°C of warming. Today, according to the IPCC’s latest report, the world is heading for between 2°C and 3°C. We are heading in the right direction, but nowhere near fast enough,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “We need to send a clear signal that keeps 1.5°C within reach.”
In the next part of his speech, Dr. Al Jaber referred to the recent Bonn Climate Change Conference in June, and the Aswan Conference in October, where parties failed to reach a consensus on, respectively, the First Global Stocktake (GST) and the Loss and Damage Fund. “We must do better. All the indicators are telling us we are far behind – we have no time to waste on disunity. We must look beyond short-term thinking,” he said.
He emphasised that COP28 must deliver a robust GST with a strong mitigation outcome, a comprehensive adaptation agreement, and innovative solutions on climate finance, which must include funding arrangements for the Loss and Damage Fund.
“We will do everything possible to give you the opportunity to find an outcome that works, an outcome that will ensure progress – because what was promised in Sharm El Sheikh must be delivered in Dubai,” he stated.
Speaking of climate change mitigation, the UAE Special Envoy said: “We need rapid progress to deliver a 43% cut in emissions by 2030 – that is exactly what the science is telling us. This starts with a forward-looking GST that will shape economy-wide NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions] with absolute emission reduction targets that address all greenhouse gases. This can only work if we implement a fair, responsible, and just energy transition on the basis of equity.”
For this to be achieved, all parties need to work together to propose solutions about which everyone involved can come to an agreement and find common ground. “We must be responsible, we must be real, we must be true to the facts, we must be pragmatic, and we must leave no one behind,” he stressed. “We need to decarbonise the energy system of today, triple renewable energy, and double energy efficiency. And on this, I am seeing some encouraging signs.”
He noted that nearly 85% of global economies have now signalled their commitment to triple renewables by 2030, but also emphasised that every country would need to sign up to similar goals, in keeping with individual national circumstances.
In order to make progress, he said: “We are engaging with all high-emitting sectors like heavy transportation, cement, steel, aluminium, and working with them to lay out credible decarbonisation plans that make real sense.”
Dr. Al Jaber next turned his attention to the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), which was an outcome of the 2015 Paris Agreement, where parties agreed to improve the state of climate change adaptation by boosting funding towards the adaptation needs of different countries, in order to keep overall warming to under 1.5°C.
Dr. Al Jaber noted that success in this endeavour depends on the world establishing a robust framework that sets out clear indicators that will serve as a guideline to enable the implementation of the GGA.
“We must end deforestation and preserve natural carbon sinks, and remember that our greatest ally in the fight against climate change is, in fact, nature,” the COP28 President said. “It’s time for every nation to embed nature-positive investments in their National Climate strategies. It’s time for well-funded and strategic national adaptation plans, time for every nation to sign COP28’s Declaration on Food Systems and Health.”
Various efforts around the world to prepare societies to adapt to climate change and fight the multiple challenges and repercussions of a warming planet, will require extensive financing. This is why climate finance is one of the key factors that would determine the success of national and global climate agendas, Dr. Al Jaber elaborated.
“Finance must be balanced between adaptation and mitigation. It is critical for the energy transition, which must work for everyone everywhere, or it will not work for anyone anywhere,” he said. “That is why the money must flow smoothly and fast to where it needs to go, so that the global South does not have to choose between climate action and development. They should do both in parallel at the same time.”
He reiterated that this would require trust to be rebuilt, faith and confidence restored, and transparency to be demonstrated. Along with this, promises made earlier need to be kept, he added – referring particularly to the pledge that developed countries would give $100 billion each year to help developing nations fight climate change impact, which still hasn’t come to fruition.
In the same vein, the COP28 President said that the Green Climate Fund’s second replenishment hadn’t met its target yet, and there was a need to double adaptation finance – these tasks need to be achieved, and there is still time to fix these gaps.
“We need early pledges on loss and damage – there is still time to fix that. We also need to transform international financial institutions, build carbon markets, and incentivise private investment to turn billions into trillions. This is how we will rebuild confidence, trust, and restore faith in this very important and relevant process,” he emphasised.
“I know what it takes, and I know we can do it. In fact, we have no choice but to do it – no choice but to make it happen. And the way we will do it is by trusting each other, recognising we share the same future, and bringing everyone who can make a difference to the table.”
Highlighting the importance of listening to every voice at COP28, Dr. Al Jaber said inclusivity would be a defining principle at the event. Not only would this include opening up to the private sector on a grander scale than ever before, but it also means that the event will bring together decision-makers, leaders and key figures from “every significant industrial sector of the global economy”.
“We need to include everyone for all of us to move forward together. All views are welcome and, in fact, needed. That is why we will include 1,000 mayors and subnational leaders. That is why we are determined to empower all those who suffer the most from climate change, including women and the young. And that is why we will have a day dedicated to the wisdom and experience of indigenous peoples. I ask you to commit to the spirit of hope and the spirit of openness, collaboration, and inclusivity,” said Dr. Al Jaber.
In concluding his speech, Dr. Al Jaber thanked the tireless work done by his COP28 team, including the UAE’s Climate Champions, and exhorted all present to unite and work as one.
“My friends, it is time for all of us to get to work,” he said. “Every day that passes, every moment we waste, we make our task even harder and more complex. Everybody must use this time wisely. Let’s have the difficult conversations now – don’t delay. Let’s show flexibility, and build mutual trust.”
He concluded his speech by saying: “The world is watching. Our nations, our communities, our families, and our kids, they are all watching. I will roll up my own sleeves and be by your side. Together, let us show that humanity can find solidarity again. Let’s unite, let’s act, and let us deliver in Dubai.”
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