'Steep hill' to climb before next climate summit in Dubai, says Cop28 director general

Majid Al Suwaidi says countries need to have frank conversation about ambition as talks remain deadlocked in Sharm El Sheikh

Majid Al Suwaidi, director general of the Cop28 UN climate talks to be held in Dubai next year, at Cop27 in Egypt on Thursday. Photo: Office of the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change
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A top UAE official has said there is a “steep hill” to climb before the next UN climate summit in Dubai.

Majid Al Suwaidi, director general of Cop28, said countries must have an honest conversation about where they are falling short on tackling climate change.

Speaking late on Thursday at the closing plenary sessions at Cop27 in Egypt, Mr Al Suwaidi said action needed to be accelerated on “all fronts” before the crucial climate summit convenes at Expo City Dubai in the UAE.

“We need global solutions that leave no country behind,” said Mr Al Suwaidi.

“We need a new deal on climate finance, so that trillions flow to developing and vulnerable nations that need it most. We need to find a way forward on loss and damage if we are going to make the rhetoric of a just transition a reality.”

Mr Al Suwaidi was speaking as negotiators worked around the clock to clinch a deal at Cop27 in Egypt.

Countries remain at odds over issues such as loss and damage — effectively finance from wealthier countries to developing states to deal with effects of climate change; keeping the 1.5°C warming goal alive; and scaling up adaptation finance to help states adjust to changing weather.

The conference in Sharm El Sheikh is scheduled to end on Friday but many expect negotiations to grind on into the weekend with hopes for deal looking forlorn.

Looking ahead, Mr Al Suwaidi said it was important to keep the focus on mitigation — UN parlance for cutting emissions — if the world was to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5°C on pre-industrial levels.

"The progress we have made at Cop27 is the result of our shared commitment to strengthening our response to climate change," Mr Al Suwaidi said.

“To those who point to the many global economic challenges the world faces — the UAE’s message is that this is the time,” he said.

“Accelerating climate action now is our greatest collective responsibility.”

Turning to the UAE’s role as a major producer of fossil fuels, Mr Al Suwaidi said the UAE was an “important hydrocarbon producer” that has “has always lived up to its responsibilities”.

“This means producing some of the least carbon intensive fuels while the world still relies on them and it means investing in the energies of tomorrow.”

Mr Al Suwaidi pointed to the UAE’s investment in renewable energy, its development of solar plants and the construction of the Arab world’s first nuclear plant as evidence of this, along with the UAE’s development of hydrogen and its plan to have net zero emissions by 2050.

The UAE and Egypt at Cop27 announced a huge 10GW wind farm in the Red Sea. And just days before, the Emirates teamed up with the US to mobilise $100 billion in financing and investment to deploy clean energy in emerging economies around the world.

“We have to race forward with renewables. Roll out nuclear. Build the value chain for hydrogen," said Mr Al Suwaidi.

“And we have to find solutions for the highest emitting and hardest to abate industries.”

He also called for action to ensure global food systems are secure and less carbon intensive, safeguard the world’s biodiversity and protest fragile ecosystems.

Cop28 will see what it known as a “global stocktake”. These are mandated under the 2015 Paris deal to take place every five years. Stocktakes are a two-year process to examine whether pledges to cut emissions made by close to 200 countries that signed the agreement go far enough to curb warming emissions.

“We will need everyone pulling in the same direction in solidarity,” said Mr Al Suwaidi.

“We need women and young people. We need scientists and civil society. We need government and industry, including the energy industry.

“We have to leave no stone unturned. No solution unexplored. And no country or community behind.”

Updated: November 22, 2023, 12:19 PM