Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President-designate, on Friday underlined the "massive task" the world faces in protecting vulnerable regions such as the Arctic Circle from the worst effects of climate change.
Dr Al Jaber, who is also the UAE's Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and Special Envoy on Climate Change, called for "global unity" to keep environmental goals in reach during a keynote address at the opening session of the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland.
He said climate change was causing the Arctic to warm four times faster than the rest of the globe, highlighting the need for urgent action.
“For the last 10 years, the Arctic Circle has been leading the conversation around the impact of the climate on fragile Arctic ecosystems,” Dr Al Jaber told delegates via video link.
“This group has alerted the world to the fact that the Arctic is warming around four times faster than the rest of the planet.”
Scientists have warned of the stark implications of rising temperatures in the Arctic for several years.
It can lead to the thawing of once permanently frozen permafrost below ground, which can lead to previously buried carbon dioxide and methane being released.
Higher temperatures also cause land ice in the Arctic to melt more quickly, leading to a greater run-off into the ocean, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels.
The Arctic Circle Assembly is the largest annual international gathering on the Arctic, featuring about 2,000 people from more than 60 countries.
Those in attendance included Katrin Jakobsdottir, Prime Minister of Iceland, and Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Denmark’s Foreign Minister, as well as a number of scientists, activists and business leaders.
Dr Al Jaber urged the global community to greatly reduce emissions in the years ahead to meet the commitment to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the Paris Agreement.
“The world must cut 22 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions in the next seven years to keep 1.5°C in reach,” Dr Al Jaber said.
“This is a massive task that will require nothing short of global unity.”
On fast-tracking the energy transition, Dr Al Jaber said it must be fair, well-managed and responsible.
Cop28 has set a global goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030.
“We are making progress,” Dr Al Jaber said.
“Eighty-five per cent of the world’s economies have endorsed our goal of tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency by 2030.”
The Cop28 climate conference will be staged at Expo City Dubai from November 30 to December 12.
Call to action
Dr Al Jaber also called for a “massive scale-up in climate finance”, including delivering on the $100 billion pledge to developing nations, recharging the Green Climate Fund, doubling adaptation finance and bringing loss-and-damage funds into effect.
He said health, food and nature would be top of the agenda at the climate talks next month.
“At the heart of all our efforts on climate action is our collective goal of protecting people, lives, and livelihoods,” said Dr Al Jaber.
“That’s why we have put health, food and nature at the forefront of the Cop28 agenda.
“We are also urging all countries to sign the Cop28 Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action and the first ever Climate and Health Declaration, focused on how we can feed a growing population without overheating our planet."
The Cop28 head said the crucial summit must deliver meaningful action for all sections of society.
"From every region of the world – from the Arctic to Asia, from Africa to the Americas – this Cop must deliver for everyone, everywhere,” Dr Al Jaber told delegates.
“I want Cop28 to be a platform that rises above divisions and reminds the world that real progress is only possible through partnership.”