Cop28 to deliver 'big results' and get world back on track to achieving climate goals

Major progress needed to ensure global temperatures do not breach 1.5°C limit, director general Majid Al Suwaidi says in Davos

Majid Al Suwaidi, director general of Cop28, says he is confident the event will be successful. Victor Besa / The National
Powered by automated translation

Cop28 must propel the world back on track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the event’s director general has told the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Majid Al Suwaidi said he was confident the event, to be held in November and December this year at Dubai Expo City, would deliver "big results".

Cop28 will be the second successive UN climate change conference to be held in the Middle East, following Cop27 in Egypt in November.

"We’re saying at the Cop of the Emirates we need to take huge leaps forward because we need to get back on track," said Mr Al Suwaidi.

He said by bringing together governments, the private sector, civil society and non-state actors, the conference could "deliver really big results".

"This is what we’re really good at in the UAE," he said. "We’ve always brought together government and the private sector to deliver really big projects and that’s definitely what we’re going to do here."

Priorities of Cop28

Mr Al Suwaidi, who is also special representative to Cop28 in the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change of the UAE, said the Emirates was "very excited with what we can do this year".

He highlighted that Cop28 will host the global stocktake, which would likely show that the world was off-target to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aimed to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. He said "ambitious action in mitigation" was needed.

Wealthier nations have been set a target of providing $100 billion a year to support developing countries in their transition to low-carbon economies but current contributions have fallen well short.

"For that, it’s very clear that we need to deliver real, pragmatic outcomes, practical solutions, that will get us back on track to achieving less than 1.5°C, and the financial targets of 100 billion plus, " Mr Al Suwaidi told delegates at a session moderated by Larry Madowo, a CNN correspondent.

Another focus is delivering a global goal in helping the world adapt to the consequences of climate change, which are becoming increasingly apparent.

"In the past, the effects of climate change were seen off in the future," said Mr Al Suwaidi, former UAE ambassador to Spain. Today we see it with flooding, with hurricanes, with tropical storms, and we see the poorest people are the ones most impacted. We need to address this today and this makes sense for everybody."

Another priority of Cop28 is to deliver on commitments at Cop27 over loss and damage, with an agreement struck at the Sharm El Sheikh conference over how wealthier nations would support developing countries over the harm caused by climate change.

Everybody welcome at Cop28, says director general of climate conference

Everybody welcome at Cop28, says director general of climate conference

"We really believe this is the year where we have to get serious in looking at how do we improve, how finance is getting to real projects on the ground. How can we make a difference?" he said.

"How can we look at reform of the international financial institutions? How can we look at reform of the MDBs [Multilateral Development Banks]? What can we be doing to mobilise finance more broadly?"

Business, civil society and non-state actors should all be given the chance to make a contribution at Cop28, he said, adding that "everybody is welcome" at "the Cop of the Emirates".

"We can’t just have incremental change. We need to have step-change, significant outcomes that can bridge this gap," he said.

"Any policy decision, any investment decision, any project decision has to be made today to have an impact on changing our trajectories to meet our 2030 goals."

Middle East's focus on clean energy will be key

Another panellist, Jenny Davis-Peccoud, a partner at management consultancy Bain and Company, said the most appropriate ways to achieve climate goals varied between regions.

So, in the Middle East, investment in renewables may be more effective than in nature-based solutions such as afforestation, which would likely be of greater value in, for example, Canada. She described clean energy was "a massive growth platform" for the Middle East.

"Given where the Middle East is situated, it can actually be a provider of these kinds of technologies and energy, both to Europe as well as to Asia. In terms of a growth platform, it’s very exciting," she said.

"There’s definitely not enough investment yet … the Middle East has started investment in renewables, and major projects are coming online, but actually, in terms of where the Middle East is now compared to investment globally, it’s still a small percentage and it really needs to accelerate."

Paddy Padmanathan, vice chairman and chief executive of Acwa Power Company, a Saudi Arabian company that has invested in power and desalination plants, said the Middle East had shown itself capable of investing at scale to provide energy security to the world.

This capability, coupled with new technology, would be deployed to reduce the carbon footprint of fossil fuels, he said, while also being used to invest in renewable fields, such as green hydrogen.

"Even though the Middle East is coming late to the party in terms of starting to implement big renewable investments, now we’ve started, we’re doing it at scale," he said.

He said the region could become an important contributor of renewable energy and related technology to other parts of the world, citing current feasibility studies involving Europe, India and Africa.

"The Middle East will play a very dominant role in this energy transition and it will do it because it must — it recognises its responsibility — but also because it’s a compelling value proposition," he said.

"This transition, there’s a lot of discussion around ‘it’s going to be costly.’ It is the biggest economic opportunity the world has ever seen.

"We’ve gone through transitions in the past. In each transition, there are winners and losers. Those who don’t rush in will be the losers, but the scale of opportunity is so big and the rewards will be so big, everybody will have to jump in."

He said large amounts of money could be readied to plough into various projects so, despite what is seen as a shortfall in green investment, the required level of funding should be delivered.

Sheikh Mohammed reviews hosting of Cop28 in November - in pictures

Updated: January 19, 2023, 8:38 AM