At the start of a new year, it is customary to look ahead. While nobody can predict the future, we do know that one topic will continue to dominate our lives: the climate crisis.
As president of the next climate Cop, the UAE will play a crucial role in shaping the global response to the climate crisis. How do we ensure that we stick to the Paris Agreement, limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, and uphold our promise to future generations?
At just 1.2°C warming, every single country in the world is already experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis, whether it’s monster storms, flash floods, extreme droughts, failed harvests, or battering heat.
We’ve seen how Pakistan has been ravaged by floods. How Eastern Africa is struggling through a drought that has no parallel. And how small island states in the Pacific or Caribbean grapple with even more existential threats as a result of monster storms and rising sea levels.
This reality should be a daily motivation to do everything we can to prevent worse. Unfortunately, it is not for everyone. Not yet.
The annual Cop is a crucial step in our work to tackle the climate crisis, and this year, the eyes of the world will therefore be on the UAE.
The latest meeting, Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh, brought a historic decision for climate justice, when parties agreed on new funding arrangements to address loss and damage, including a dedicated fund.
The EU pushed hard to ensure that this fund will support those who suffer the most as a result of climate change. They desperately need, and deserve, a fund to help address the consequences. And while the international community is responding to Pakistan’s most urgent needs, we also see that our tools can and should be strengthened.
It is important to get the funding arrangements up and running, in a way that is truly useful to the most vulnerable countries, with a broad donor base that reflects the economic realities of today. After all, several wealthy contributors to global emissions – both public and private – are not yet doing their part.
But aside from financial support, countries most vulnerable to climate change also deserve higher ambition on cutting emissions. That is still our best recipe to avoid repeat episodes and reduce costs. No amount of money will ever be enough if we allow the climate crisis to spiral out of control.
This is why our work to tackle the climate crisis has to focus on deep and drastic emission reductions during this critical decade. The science is undeniably clear on this.
And yet, despite raising the bar for climate mitigation in Glasgow, Cop27 was unable to commit to a level of ambition commensurate to the task.
The challenge of leading the world to the right level of action will, therefore, fall to the UAE, working alongside the outgoing Egyptian presidency.
There is plenty of work ahead.
To keep our planet habitable, we need more efforts from all major emitters to increase and accelerate their emissions cuts. We need a global emissions peak by 2025. We need to reduce all greenhouse gases, not just CO2. We also need to phase out all unabated fossil fuels.
And as with every target, it’s the delivery that counts: the policies, the laws and then the actual emissions reductions. This requires all countries to strengthen their 2030 climate targets before this autumn. Having a mitigation work plan that ensures national plans are aligned with a 1.5°C future is likewise crucial.
In parallel, we need to deliver on climate finance. We need major reforms to bring in private funding and multilateral development banks. Tackling climate change at a global level, in solidarity with vulnerable countries, requires a shift of trillions. Every country that is part of today’s industrial and economic elite can and should contribute to keeping our planet a safe home for humanity.
I have no doubt that under the skilful leadership of the UAE and Dr Sultan Al Jaber as Cop28 President-designate, the world can succeed in doing what is needed. After all, your country was the first in the region to set a net-zero target. You also have a deep understanding of the need to plan for a future beyond fossil fuels, and the potential of new globally tradeable commodities such as green hydrogen.
The window to stay within the limits of the Paris Agreement is closing. As humanity, we still have a shot at survival, but our chances are getting smaller every day. Our people and planet have no more time to lose.
So let this be the year where we roll up our sleeves and show to the world that the fight for ambition, for a better future, is not yet over.
Let Cop28 be the moment when we pick up speed again and conclude: we are back on track.