Sunjay Sudhir, India's ambassador to the UAE, has backed the Emirates to ensure Cop28 is a summit of action and called on the global community to remain united in the fight against climate change.
The envoy said it was clear the world remained “off-track” in its goal to limit global temperature rises to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as set out by the Paris Agreement at Cop21.
World leaders, senior officials and climate advocates will convene at Cop28, which will be held at Expo City Dubai from November 30 to December 12.
Mr Sudhir dismissed concerns raised in some quarters over the UAE's hosting of the event and Dr Al Jaber's role leading the summit, due to his position as head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
“I do not see any irony in UAE hosting Cop. At times, Cop will be hosted by countries who are net exporters of fossil fuels and at other times by those who are not net importers [of fossil fuels],” Mr Sudhir told The National on Monday.
“We see the UAE being fully committed to making Cop28 a Cop of action and not mere assertions. Fossil fuels cannot be wished away. Let us be realistic and make fossil fuels a part of the solution.”
It called on Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, to withdraw as the summit’s President-designate because he heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
The letter puts the signatories at odds with the US and EU’s top leadership.
“Dr Sultan Al Jaber is an experienced diplomat and business leader, including as chairman of renewable energy company Masdar,” a US government official told The National last week.
Nicholas Lyons, Lord Mayor of London, echoed those sentiments, saying the UAE had been “extraordinarily methodical” in its approach to its hosting duties.
“It's really timely this is being hosted by a hydrocarbon economy and it's being chaired by someone who chairs a hydrocarbon company with a background as the chief executive of a renewable technology company,” he said.
Mr Sudhir said Dr Jaber’s solid track record in renewables as the chief executive and chairman of Masdar and his participation in a number of previous Cop events demonstrated his credentials for the task in hand.
“It is a qualification which I do not think any single individual can ever bring to the table,” said the envoy.
“Dr Sultan’s idea of creating an inclusive discourse is actually what the world needs today for action. All reports point to one single fact – the world is off track on the 1.5°C targets and the only way we can do anything about it is if everyone works together,” he added.
Call to support developing nations
Mr Sudhir underlined the importance of addressing the disproportionate impact of climate change on developing nations, which threatens to exacerbate poverty, inequality, food security, water availability, and health challenges.
He spoke of the need for the Global North – a term used to describe more developed nations such as those in North America and Europe – to deliver support to those in the Global South, spanning Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
The diplomat welcomed the UAE's call to Global North nations to fulfil their commitment of $100 billion for the Green Climate Fund.
The lopsided nature of the current climate action agenda, he said, predominantly benefits a small percentage of the world's population and overlooks the needs of the Global South.
“For the Global South, there are challenges of energy availability, accessibility and affordability.
“It is in need of technologies and focus on adaptation which can enable them to transition and meet their energy needs simultaneously. Unfortunately, Global North has hardly paid any attention to this fact,” he said.
The ambassador stressed the critical juncture at which the world finds itself, where choices need to be balanced between the imperative to adhere to the 1.5°C pathway and the need for the Global South to grow and develop.
“The Global South, including Sids [Small Island Developing States] and other developing countries, have contributed least to climate change but they suffer some of the worst consequences and are most vulnerable,” he said.
'Carbon capture technology is effective'
When asked about the UAE's emphasis on the strategy of carbon capture and storage (CCUS) technology, Mr Sudhir said it its effective for countries still dependent on fossil fuels.
CCUS is a process in which carbon dioxide is stored permanently underground, or turned into solid minerals or other useful products.
“Expectations that energy transition in the Global South will happen directly to renewable energy are neither realistic nor within the reach of countries of the Global South,” he said.
“The role of clean fossil fuels will be an integral part of a just, fair, and equitable energy transition. Only an energy transition which considers the developmental needs of the Global South will be most effective.”
CCUS is part of India’s Long-Term Low Emissions and Development Strategies announced at Cop 27 in Sharm El Sheikh. This includes technology that can capture carbon from polluting industries, so it never reaches the atmosphere, as well as advancing similar technologies.
As India aspires to become a $10 trillion economy by 2030, Mr Sudhir said his country is committed to balancing net-zero targets with concrete climate action.
“India is a global energy transition leader. Just, fair and equitable energy transition is a critical pillar of India’s growth and development agenda.”
He said India had made significant strides in renewable energy, with doubled hydropower capacity, a 22-fold increase in solar installed capacity, and significant reductions in solar tariffs.
“India stands fourth globally in Renewable Energy installed capacity including large hydro power. Nearly 43 per cent of total installed capacity comes from non-fossil fuel sources,” he said.
“India has set a target to reduce the carbon intensity of the nation’s economy by at least 45 per cent by the end of the decade, achieve 50 per cent cumulative electric power installed by 2030 from renewables, and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.”
The National Green Hydrogen Mission launched by India with the aim to produce 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen annually will result in 50 million tonnes of cumulative CO2 emissions abatement, he said.