Climate champions awarded for efforts to ensure success of Cop28

Work of political and indigenous leaders, and policymakers from around the world recognised by Sheikh Mohamed for guiding UAE in delivering landmark climate summit

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President Sheikh Mohamed has bestowed awards on climate advocates for offering expertise and advice to help the UAE host the Cop28 climate change conference.

The awards were conferred on politicians, former heads of state, policymakers and indigenous people who supported the UAE by providing counsel on the framework and helping to build support for the climate deal.

The First Class Order of Zayed II medal was awarded to a number of climate change experts and advocates at a ceremony on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, where Sheikh Mohamed expressed his gratitude for their help in making Cop28 a success.

The climate change conference resulted in the creation of the UAE Consensus, which is widely regarded as delivering a series of firsts, including a commitment from all parties to transition from fossil fuels in energy systems, "in a just, orderly and equitable manner".

Sheikh Mohamed said the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's legacy of sustainability was a cornerstone of the country’s efforts to ensure equitable economic and social development for a better future for humanity.

He praised the co-operation and unity of countries in tackling one of the most pressing global challenges and reaffirmed the UAE’s commitment to find practical solutions to climate challenges.

The recipients described the award as an honour that recognised work at a number of levels including seeking the input of people at the heart of the climate crisis.

Voice of small communities

For the first time the role of fossil fuels was directly addressed, countries were called on to transition from fossil fuels and the loss and damage fund was launched to help the most vulnerable nations deal with the worst effects of climate change.

Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Dr Pa’olelei Luteru, chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States, said the award was critically important as it recognised the contribution of his community.

“It was a great honour to be recognised in this manner by the President of the UAE and it demonstrates the importance the UAE attaches to climate change,” Dr Luteru, the representative of Samoa to the UN, told The National.

“This acknowledgement is for the efforts of communities of all small island developing states who have been fighting for this issue for a long time.

“It’s important because the UAE has brought together all of us who have been involved. It means the voice of our communities is being heard to recognise the adverse impact of climate change and that we need to course correct.”

Cop28 also mobilised more than $85 billion in funding, including a $30 billion fund Alterra launched by the UAE.

Vera Songwe, co-chairwoman of the Independent High-Level Expert Group on Climate Finance, was instrumental in helping Cop28 deliver the Global Climate Finance Framework and climate finance outcomes.

“My sense is that getting the award today is a quiet nod and recognition that with Cop28 we were able to put out a document that has now become probably the seminal document around the conversations on climate change, what has to be done, what is the magnitude of the financing needed and who needs to do what,” she said.

Among the key developments of Cop28 was the creation of a $4.5 billion fund to help Africa unlock its clean energy potential, as well as the formation of the Alterra fund, a private investment vehicle launched during Cop28, aiming to raise $250 billion globally in the next six years to create a fairer climate finance system.

“We keep talking about the need for large investments. The $33 billion in the Alterra fund to help improve renewable energy technologies and bring down the use of fossil fuels is an important part of the conversation,” said Ms Songwe.

“And $4.5 billion dollars for Africa to enable Africa to power itself in a cleaner way is also quite important.”

Global effort

In arguably the biggest achievement since the 2015 Paris deal, the agreement also called for a tripling of renewable energy capacity globally by 2030.

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the former president of Iceland, provided political guidance as a Cop28 advisory committee member.

Among those who backed the UAE despite widespread criticism that a fossil fuel producer was hosting the climate talks, he said the award showed the Emirates appreciated the global effort behind the success of Cop28.

“We celebrated last December the extraordinary and historic success of Cop28, and His Highness with the award is telling the world it is a global effort," he said.

“This says there are a number of people from Europe, Asia, Africa, from small Pacific island states, who came together to help the UAE in this monumental effort.

“These were people who lent their reputation, their advice, who took the risk to stand with the UAE when a lot of people from different parts of the world were very sceptical of the UAE undertaking this responsibility.

“So myself and others are deeply honoured by this award.”

The ceremony also appreciated the work of the late Prof Saleemul Huq, a member of the Cop28 Presidency Advisory Committee, who died in October 2023 at the age of 71.

Sheikh Mohamed presented the award to Prof Huq’s wife, son and daughter to recognise his contribution to the loss and damage fund becoming a reality.

As founding director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, Prof Huq was known for his advocacy for low-income nations hit by climate change.

Among other recipients were Dan Jorgensen, Denmark’s Minister for Development Co-operation and Global Climate Policy; Yasmine Fouad, Egypt’s Minister of Environment; Muawieh Radaideh, Jordan’s Environment Minister; Alioune Ndoye, Senegal’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development; Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa; Hindou Ibrahim, President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad; and John Kerry, the former US presidential climate envoy.

Updated: May 26, 2024, 8:26 PM