Global stocktake at Cop28 'a moment of hope', says top UAE official

Majid Al Suwaidi says the conversation around climate change can be a positive one

People walk past the entrance of the convention centre before the opening session of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Climate Week in Riyadh. AFP
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A top UAE official said the global stocktake to take place at Cop28 should be seen as a “moment of hope”.

Speaking at the Middle East and North Africa climate week on Sunday, Majid Al Suwaidi called for a focus on the “transformative” story that is taking place around climate issues since the 1.5°C goal was agreed in Paris in 2015.

Mr Al Suwaidi, director general and special representative of the UAE for the Cop28 presidency, said the world can talk about what it hasn’t done to keep the goal alive but that doesn't mean nothing has been accomplished.

“The global stocktake has to have that moment of hope,” said Mr Al Suwaidi, who was the UAE's lead negotiator at Paris in 2015.

“There is a really great transformative story there for all of us that we can be part of a really exciting future that is dynamic [and] that our development needs can be matched with climate action," he said.

"That’s the key thing the global stocktake has to tell the world. We have a challenge but it can be a really exciting opportunity.”

The stocktake, created at Cop21 in Paris and taking place at Cop28 for the first time, assesses where the world stands in trying to limit global warming to 1.5°C on pre industrial levels. The UN has repeatedly warned the world is off-track.

Reflecting on the role of the Cop28 presidency, Mr Al Suwaidi said it was not its job to say “this is the answer, take it or leave it” but instead to bring parties together to figure it out.

“I feel very excited because over the last months I can very confidently say we’ve seen that enthusiasm in the meetings and conversations we have had,” he said. “We see that step forward.”

Aside from the stocktake, leaders at Cop28 must also agree on further progress on the the loss and damage fund agreed at Cop27; scale up climate finance; and raise global ambition on adaptation. Mr Al Suwaidi said this Cop was different because of that.

“I think that makes it really powerful because since Paris we haven’t had a moment like that where we address all the issues simultaneously in one negotiation and I think that gives us a really, really powerful moment," he said.

His comments came during a high-level panel discussion at Mena Climate Week dedicated to the global stocktake.

Visitors heard keynote speeches from Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy; Shri Raj Kumar Singh, India’s Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy; and the World Economic Forum president Borge Brende. This was followed by a discussion involving Mr Al Suwaidi and Simon Stiell, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, among others.

Message must be strong

“The global stocktake needs to send a very strong message as a global community that we are not on track. So one is that political message. [And] second is then the call to action [and] how do we close those gaps,” said Mr Stiell.

He said the synthesis report, published by the UN last week and designed to help governments reach a decision on the global stocktake, showed “some convergence” among the submissions from countries in terms of targets.

“This is presenting parties with an opportunity as we approach the Cop to agree on what some of those targets should be whether tripling of renewable or doubling or energy efficiency or phasing out of fossil fuels,” said Mr Stiell.

Also speaking on the first day of Mena Climate Week was Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, who was taking part in a dedicated panel on adaptation.

'Complex but interesting' Cop

She said everyone had a different idea of what they wanted to accomplish at Cop28 and this made it "complex" but "very interesting".

Ms Almheiri said she wanted to see the $100 billion climate finance annual target achieved "hopefully before" Cop28; as well as 100 heads of state signing the food systems transformation declaration.

She also hoped to see a lot more finance on nature and adaptation.

At the same panel, Aminath Shauna, Maldives' Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, said one of the main concerns of the most vulnerable and developing countries has consistently been the lack of flow of finance on adaptation and urged parties to do more on this at Cop28.

Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Climate Envoy, reflected on the lack of climate action in the past.

"I hope we can leave the emotions in the past and hypocrisy behind us and focus more on problem solving," he said.

"We can get there if we stop looking at it as us versus them and look at it as all of us together.”

Updated: October 09, 2023, 5:53 AM