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Landmark announcements on food and finance, along with impassioned calls to act from global leaders, raised the ambition on the second day of Cop28.
At least 134 leaders endorsed a UAE declaration on sustainable agriculture, resilient food systems and climate action, while a separate $30 billion climate finance pledge was made that aims to find solutions to the world's funding challenges.
UAE President Sheikh Mohamed announced the $30 billion drive during his opening speech at Friday’s World Climate Action Summit in Dubai.
“The lack of financing has long been one of the biggest obstacles to advancing climate action globally,” he said.
The UAE also on Friday made a separate pledge of US$200m (Dh735 million) to help climate resilience in vulnerable countries.
The food initiative included a vow to cut emissions from farming – about a third of the world’s greenhouse gas footprint – by shifting to “more sustainable production and consumption”.
“Today signals a turning point, embedding sustainable agriculture and food systems as critical components in both dealing with climate change and building food systems fit for the future,” said Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Cop28 food systems lead. “Together we will deliver lasting change for families, farmers and the future.”
Gernot Laganda, climate director of the World Food Programme, told The National the announcement was a breakthrough.
“WFP supports the declaration,” he said. “The biggest driver of hunger in the world is still conflict, but climate, I think, is following very closely, especially in places where conflict and climate intersect.”
World leaders also addressed the summit on Friday, taking turns to lament over the state of the planet and urge more action to correct course.
'Praying with all my heart'
King Charles III said he was “praying with all my heart” that Cop28 would be a “critical turning point” in the fight against climate change.
He said the world was carrying out a “vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition all at once”.
The monarch, a lifelong advocate for the environment, seemed to chuckle in frustration at how long he had been talking about protecting the planet and pointed out he had addressed the 2015 Paris Cop that resulted in the landmark deal to try to limit temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
“The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth,” he said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who has just visited Antarctica to see melting ice scientists believe is linked to climate change, said keeping the 1.5°C threshold was only possible if the world stopped “burning all fossil fuels”.
The UN has warned that this year could be the hottest ever, and it also cautioned before Cop28 started that the world could be on track for warming of 3°C which would have devastating consequences for the lives and livelihoods of billions of people.
“Not reduce, not abate,” said Mr Guterres. “Phaseout – with a clear time frame aligned with 1.5°C.”
Jordan's King Abdullah II warned climate change will exacerbate the impact of war, amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the world didn’t have much time to correct “mistakes of the past century” while also stating India would seek to host Cop33.
The second day of the summit sought to continue the momentum of the opening day where the contentious loss and damage fund was capitalised after a fraught year-long process over its operation. But delegates still face a tough few days ahead when the future of fossil fuels is set to be debated further.
A first draft of an agreement on the global stocktake published in the early hours of Friday did include fossil fuels but it was a very early text and subject to change. The global stocktake is the first assessment of how the world is doing against the goals of the Paris deal and is a critical part of Cop28.
The opening and leader speeches injected a sense of urgency and occasion into the often dry world of UN negotiations, with the opening event featuring traditional UAE music and, after Sheikh Mohamed ended his speech, his father and UAE Founding Father – the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan – appeared in a 3D hologram with a backdrop of rolling dunes and stars.
One of the most impassioned speeches of the day came from Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who sounded a note of caution about the challenges ahead. Since he became president a year ago, Lula has brought Brazil back to the centre of the climate fight and eased destruction of the vital Amazon rainforest. Cop30 takes place there in 2025.
Mr Lula rebuked those who were not following through on their commitments and were spending a fraction on climate compared with weapons.
“The world is already convinced of the potential of renewable sources of energy,” he told attendees, his voice thundering through the auditorium.
“Now is the time to face the debate about the slow-motion pace of the decarbonisation of the planet, and to work towards an economy that will be less reliant on fossil fuel. We have to do it, and in a way that is urgent and fair.”