Davos 2023 to be springboard for Cop28 climate summit in UAE

World Economic Forum will sign a preliminary agreement with the UAE at its annual meeting in Switzerland

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, speaks before a virtual media briefing on Tuesday. Photo: EPA
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The gathering next week in Davos of more than 2,700 business and policy leaders from 130 countries, including 52 heads of state and government, will serve as a springboard for the Cop28 climate summit being held in the UAE later this year, the World Economic Forum said on Tuesday.

The forum is also expected to sign a preliminary agreement with the UAE about the UN climate conference, which will be held at Expo City in Dubai.

“The climate and energy nexus is critical,” said forum president Borge Brende.

“There are more than 30 ministers in this field [expected to be in Davos] preparing [for] the Cop28 in UAE … we're also signing an MoU [memorandum of understanding] between the World Economic Forum and the UAE on preparations for this.

“[US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate] John Kerry will be there laying out the US strategy for climate and financing.”

The agreement with the UAE “will be critical in the sense that it's also underpinning the importance of the new technologies … for having a new breakthrough on how we produce energy and electricity globally”.

“After Cop26 and Cop27, we now need to make sure that developing countries and emerging economies can afford what is necessary when it comes to adaptation and mitigation strategies,” he added.

“So [we will be] working on both those topics [and] also with the incoming [Cop] presidency.”

Gim Huay Neo, the forum's managing director, said the annual meeting would “connect leaders to understand, focus and act on the most critical environment issues facing the world”.

“One of the key conversations at [the] annual meeting will be around the business case for climate adaptation, which highlights how we will need to deal with immediate climate realities while mitigating emissions,” she said.

Key areas of focus include getting to net zero; building a nature-positive economy; regenerating food, water and ocean systems; circular use of resources and addressing waste and pollution.

“And this builds on progress at Cop27 in Sharm el Sheikh, [Cop15] in Montreal very recently and towards Cop28 in UAE,” she said.

Recognition of the Middle East and North Africa's growing role in global affairs will also be in evidence next week, officials said.

“We have record participation from the Middle East and North Africa — we have, in fact, six heads of states and governments [and] very strong delegations … This is also reflecting the importance of the Middle East in the energy transition, in the green transition,” said Mr Brende.

“We also know that Cop27 was in Egypt … and now it's moving to [UAE] … UAE will be hosting the next trade minister meeting MC13 that will take place there [in 2024].

“Also, the Middle East is always important when it comes to investments with the sovereign wealth funds that are investing all over the world and what they set as premises for their investments.”

Held between January 16-20, the forum’s theme this year is “Co-operation in a Fragmented World”.

It returns to its regular snowy January slot for the first time since 2020, after several Covid-19 pandemic-disrupted years.

Those attending the event include Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Kristalina Georgieva, the International Monetary Fund's managing director.

China is also sending a high-level delegation and Asian leaders including South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos will also attend.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will also visit Davos.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Oxfam's executive director Gabriela Bucher, World Trade Organisation director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are also set to attend.

In addition to Mr Kerry, the US will be represented by Avril Haines, US director of National Intelligence; Secretary of Labour Martin Walsh; US Trade Representative Katherine Tai; and Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development.

Celebrities will also make the trip, including actor Idris Elba and his wife Sabrina Dhowre Elba.

On Monday, the forum announced the couple would receive the 2023 Crystal Award for “their leadership in addressing food security, climate change and environmental conservation”.

The awards ceremony will be held in Davos on the eve of the annual meeting.

Updated: January 16, 2023, 4:51 AM