The UAE is answering its sceptics at Cop28, says climate minister

Mariam Al Mheiri said there were 'a lot of people' that were unsure if the UAE could pull off the conference

Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said the world needs hope. Antonie Robertson/The National
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The UAE is answering its sceptics at Cop28 and changing international perceptions about what the country stands for, a UAE minister has said.

Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, said that before the conference there were “a lot of people” who were unsure if the UAE could pull off Cop28 or deliver during the crucial talks.

However, she said people were “looking at us a little differently” now the Cop28 presidency had delivered early wins such as the adaptation of the summit’s agenda and the launch of the loss and damage fund.

“It was a huge wake-up call for everyone to say … they are a small country but they have managed to make sure all the parties are happy with the agenda on day one,” Ms Al Mheiri told The National in an interview at Cop28.

“You want to focus more on the real work,” she said. “You don’t want to waste time on an agenda. The world is not in a good place right now and this is what people need to see – hope.”

Cop28 has entered its fourth day with many world leaders now leaving the site that is now open to the public. Many talks are continuing and climate advocates are making their voices heard.

'Let them judge'

“Having the world here is an honour,” said Ms Al Mheiri. “But it is also important for them to see who we are. A lot of people have a certain perception of what we are, what we do, and which energy sources we only rely on,” she said.

She pointed to the fact Abu Dhabi had opened a substantial solar park days ago and the country was working hard on its net-zero targets.

“At the end of the Cop, let them judge. Right now I want them to look at the deliverables.”

Cop28 has started strongly with a flurry of major announcements – outside the negotiated process of talks among close to 200 countries that culminate on December 12 – including a crucial UAE-led declaration on food.

The Emirates Declaration was signed by 134 countries and aims to cut emissions from farming, responsible for about a third of the world’s greenhouse gases, by moving to more sustainable ways.

Ms Al Mheiri said the declaration covers around 5.8 billion people, 500 million farmers, 70 per cent of the food we eat, and about 75 per cent of warming emissions from the food and agriculture sector. But the implementation was “much more important”.

“We know many countries are still not there yet,” she said. “And that’s because the climate finance issue was not working. The money wasn’t going where it was supposed to go. Those countries had to remain on energy sources they have.”

Accessible, available and affordable

The UAE made a $4.5bn dollar investment at the African Climate Summit in September and at Cop28 a further host of financial pledges have been made including a separate $30bn climate finance pledge from the UAE that aims to find solutions to the world's funding challenges. She also pointed to how the UAE and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a $200 million partnership focused on agricultural research and assistance.

“The money is one thing,” said Ms Al Mheiri. “But making sure the money is accessible, available and affordable for those who actually need it. That is what we are trying to crack right now.”

Amid all the fanfare of the announcements, parties from close to 200 countries are also engaged in talks to tackle the climate crisis. World leaders are currently in what is known as the negotiated process.

Ms Al Mheiri said she couldn’t comment on the details of what has happening in the negotiating rooms but the “pressure was on” with the separate major announcements showing what could be accomplished.

She said the UAE had ensured a well-run Cop28 along with “climate-conscious food” at the Expo City Dubai venue.

“The enabling environment is important and that’s why I am very optimistic we are going to see some great outcomes from the negotiations.”

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Updated: December 04, 2023, 3:22 AM