World leaders have no choice but to unite to tackle climate change at Cop28 in Dubai despite rising geopolitical tension, European Council President Charles Michel has told The National.
“We need to be serious. We need a wake-up call,” said Mr Michel, speaking on the sidelines of the Paris Peace Forum.
“We have the duty, if we want a planet for our children, to make sure [we] tackle change, but in parallel, that we address pressures related to security, stability and resolve conflicts.”
The forum, convened by French President Emmanuel Macron, comes ahead of the UN-sponsored Cop28, which will be held in the UAE between November 30 and December 12.
Razan Mubarak, the UN climate change high-level champion for Cop28, addressed the forum on the roles of biodiversity and nature in the climate fight.
The Paris summit also highlighted the devastating impact of melting glaciers on water scarcity, migration, the greater release of carbon dioxide and risks of new pandemics.
It also featured intense talks on the Israel-Gaza war, as the death toll continues to climb.
In a message read by the Apostolic Nuncio to France, Celestino Migliore, Pope Francis said that the forum was held this year “in an extremely painful global context”.
And Lebanese climate activist Elsy Milan told heads of state gathered at the forum that “no land can flourish if it is watered by the blood of children”, referencing the thousands of children who have been killed in the conflict.
“Peace will not last unless there is a collective push to preserve our planet,” she said.
At Cop28, rich countries will be under pressure to deliver on past climate pledges, said Mr Michel.
“The interest of the EU is not to have an African continent with poverty and instability,” said Mr Michel. “That’s why we have a responsibility, because our economic development has been based on the use, and sometimes abuse, of nature resources.”
Examples of past pledges shared by Mr Michel, a Belgian politician, include an energy partnership announced in 2021 by the Group of Seven countries to support climate-friendly investments in countries like South Africa and Vietnam.
He also pointed at a pledge made by rich countries in 2020 to allocate $100 billion a year to vulnerable nations affected by climate change. Donors have said they are confident that they can meet the goal this year but data will not be available to demonstrate this until 2025.
“These are very concrete projects to take into account the starting point of those less developed countries to see what strategies we can mobilise together with the help of the private sector,” said Mr Michel.
With the US and the UAE, the EU hopes to clinch a deal at Cop28 to triple efforts towards expanding the production and use of renewable energies. Brussels also wants global leaders to commit to reducing fossil fuel use and to launch a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries.
But some European leaders, including Wopke Hoekstra, the European commissioner responsible for negotiating the EU’s position at Cop28,have repeatedly pointed at the geopolitical impasse that has interfered with climate negotiations.
The EU has been accused of double standards amid the Israel-Gaza war, with many Arab leaders criticising what they perceive as the bloc's pro-Israel bias. Mr Michel rejected those accusations last month, saying they were used to “instil doubts” about European credibility.
The geopolitical situation “is what it is”, but it is also “one more reason to co-operate”, Mr Michel said. Working together on challenges like climate change and biodiversity is necessary.
The EU on Friday struck a pre-Cop28 deal to restore 20 per cent of damaged land areas and 20 per cent of seas by 2030, and to have policies in place for all ecosystems by 2050. Critics say it was watered down in the negotiations that finalised the pact.