By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | Feb 28, 2023
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President-Designate, delivered the keynote speech at the recently concluded World Sustainable Development Summit 2023 (WSDS 23) in New Delhi, India.
The 22nd edition of the annual event was organized by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India’s premier independent environmental organization. The three-day summit was organized under the theme of ‘Mainstreaming Sustainable Development and Climate Resilience for Collective Action’, and ran from February 22 to 24, 2023.
Dr. Al Jaber joined the Indian Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav, as well as the Vice President of Guyana, the Hon. Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, to inaugurate the summit.
Dr. Al Jaber began his speech by recognizing the leadership of India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in guiding the country’s sustainable development agenda. “It was indeed a great honor for me personally and a testament to the UAE leadership’s commitment to embed the principles of sustainability and to our development as a nation. I would like to recognize the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who continues to guide India on its path to a prosperous and sustainable future,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “This great country is well on its way to becoming the third largest economy in the world, and this makes it one of the largest consumers of energy. Such enviable sustainable development is critical not just for India but for the whole world.”
He further elaborated that the South Asian nation’s stated goal to add 500 GW of clean energy capacity over the coming seven years was “a true and powerful statement of intent.” He said: “As one of the largest investors in renewable energy, the United Arab Emirates and Masdar will explore all opportunities of partnership with India to contribute to its high growth, low carbon pathway. As India takes forward its presidency of G20, the UAE supports and is focused on transformative actions for a cleaner, greener, and bluer future with just and sustainable development forward.”
In his speech, Dr. Al Jaber highlighted how the Summit’s chosen theme was an important call to action for everyone, adding that it will also be central to the agenda of the upcoming COP28 climate change conference, which will take place in Abu Dhabi this November.
“The UAE takes on the role of hosting COP 28 with humility, a deep sense of responsibility, and a great sense of urgency,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “We aim to unite all parties around inclusive and transformational problems, and make one thing absolutely clear: the goal of keeping the 1.5°C [limit for global warming] alive is non-negotiable.”
He also noted that ‘business as usual’ cannot continue, as it would be insufficient to achieve the scale of the objectives at hand. “We need a true, comprehensive paradigm shift in our approach to mitigation, adaptation, finance, and loss and damage,” he said.
He also pointed out that accelerating the global energy transition was critical: “We need to rapidly build the clean energy systems of tomorrow while making the early systems of today much clearer. We must triple renewable energy, double hydrogen production, expand nuclear power, improve battery storage, scale up and commercialize carbon capture, and enhance the implementation of efficiency across the world. We need to accelerate an energy transition that leaves no one behind, particularly the 800 million people across the global South who have no access to energy today.”
Dr. Al Jaber also explained that, in addition to the global energy transition, it was equally important to transform food and water systems around the world. “We need to transform food systems that account for one-third of global emissions, embrace agritech to feed a growing planet on a limited carbon budget, and enhance water use so that everyone on this planet has access to safe, clean drinking water,” he explained.
Speaking of how this tied in with the goals of the upcoming climate change summit in Abu Dhabi, he said: “At COP28, transforming our food and water systems will be given the same attention as transitioning our energy and industrial systems. We need to advance on all fronts and at the same time. COP28 must conclude the global goal on adaptation and finalize agreement around the doubling of adaptation finance.”
He also commended the work done by TERI thus far to help protect vulnerable communities across the Global South. Elaborating on the concept of adaptation, the UAE Climate Envoy noted: “Adaptation also means preserving all life on Earth, protecting biodiversity, natural ecosystems, and indigenous species. As a nation and as the COP28 presidency, we [in the UAE] share India’s firm belief and safeguarding and respecting nature is a fundamental obligation.”
“The UAE has always embedded environmental stewardship and environmental protection and climate action into our development as a country, as we recognize that the health of the planet, the climate, and humanity are deeply interconnected and essential for truly sustainable development,” he said.
To fight climate change and make tangible progress across the world, large amounts of capital will be required – “not just billions, we will need trillions”, said Dr. Al Jaber, continuing: “We must make sure that this capital is available, and if it’s available, it must be accessible. And if it is accessible, it must be affordable to those who need it. A key enabler will be the reform of the international financial institutions as well as the multinational development banks.”
“We must mobilize much more concessional finance to unlock more private sector capital and target investments where they are needed most,” he added. “As such, scaling and accelerating climate finance will be one of the key goals for the COP28 presidency. We will rally all the relevant parties in an effort to make it happen.”
Progressive climate action represents a true and immense opportunity, said Dr. Al Jaber. Not only does it offer a path towards a more sustainable and equitable future, but it also presents a huge potential for global economic growth and job creation. “By embracing this opportunity and investing in a sustainable future, we can pave the way for a better world for generations to come,” he said. “In fact, it will create the greatest deep and human development and prosperity since the First Industrial Revolution.”
Issuing a call to action, Dr. Al Jaber said: “Let’s ensure that progress is truly inclusive and that no one is left behind. Let’s keep [the efforts to limit global warming to] 1.5°C alive while putting an end to energy and water poverty. Let’s unite around climate action that carries humanity forward, and let’s prove that you can be pro-climate and pro-growth at the same time.”
He concluded his speech by emphasizing the ambitious goals for COP28, assuring the gathered delegates that the Climate Summit team was ready to listen to and to engage civil society, NGOs, indigenous people, the private sector, governments, women, and youth to drive climate action forward.
“Let’s unite everyone around a COP of action, a COP for all, a COP of solidarity and unity,” he said. “Let’s remember that the world makes progress through partnership, not through polarization, and let’s follow TERI’s motto: ‘The best way to predict the future is simply to create it.’ Let’s get to work and create a sustainable future together.”
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