For Cop28, energy transition diplomacy must be a global priority

The Gulf and G7 countries together can forge a 'Green Marshall Plan' to bring carbon emissions down

Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant Niederaussem, Germany last November. AP Photo
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My late father in law, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, famously said: “The Stone Age came to an end not for a lack of stones, and the Oil Age will end, but not for a lack of oil.”

We are in many ways on the precipice of a new energy age. This year marks an important geopolitical and historic crossroads for our planet, with multilateralism at the brink of complete collapse and without any prospect of a collective global climate solution. Now that the UK has hosted Cop26 and an African Cop27 in Egypt is behind us, attention turns to the continued role of the Arab world in hosting Cop28 in Dubai Expo City in December. It is now crucial for the Arab world and Gulf states, in particular, to unite against the ever-worsening climate crisis and deliver both a message of peace and a civilisation-wide contribution towards creation.

As an international peace mediator, energy lawyer and green-tech entrepreneur with deep roots in the UK, US and the Arab world, I recognised the need to form a diverse impact group that would tackle pressing climate issues using the rule of law to establish legally binding standards and policies. So in 2021, in the darkness of the pandemic, I helped with the inception of the Scotia Group, an independent, neutral, non-partisan network of individuals to help make Cop26 Glasgow successful.

Through a series of online “Climate Majlis” dialogues, our members came together to deliberate and find innovative ideas that could add value to what already exists – ideas that bring radical change demanded by the looming climate emergency, which are realistic nevertheless and do not threaten existing consensus where we have it. Just like the pandemic, the issues are global, multidimensional, and intergenerational. We ultimately concluded that the challenge is in the diplomacy and not the established science that proves that it is a real crisis.

The launch of the Cop28 logo at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in January. EPA
Cop28 needs to change the way our economies function and the way we live

There were plenty of ideas and policies that fed into and helped open up the Cop process, which added broader legitimacy and access for diverse stakeholders including intergenerational dialogue. Our first call to action was addressed to the UN Secretary General and the International Parliamentary Union declaring a “global diplomatic emergency” on climate. We also worked with the G20 on a detailed proposal known as "C20", which outlined the pathways to NetZero 2050. Saudi Arabia was one of the first responders. An early success was China’s decision to pause coal production abroad and, at Glasgow, to work with the US on climate action. Scotia has now been offered observer status at the UN.

Cop28 needs to change the way our economies function and the way we live. We will not only need to manage a just energy transition that offers moon-shot challenges, but also find opportunities for all of us – development finance, energy security, breakthroughs in green energy, hydrogen and carbon capture as well as social and food security. Energy Transition Diplomacy should be formalised in the form of a Green “Marshall Plan”, a GCC- and G7-led diplomatic architecture with legal commitments to bring carbon emissions down to 45 per cent of 1990 levels, with a view to reaching “net zero” by 2050.

A GCC-G7 “Marshall Plan” would only succeed if the issue of climate ethics is an integral part of it. This includes enabling all states to achieve the transformation of their economies in line with the need for mitigation. No one can be left behind – a race to the top, not to the bottom – all states willing to participate must be enabled to do so and to reap the benefits for their societies and economies that will flow from the energy transition process. Equally, business, finance and investment, and especially oil-producing countries and companies must be part of the solution. A new spirit of climate action through an energy transition policy sequencing process can be born this year in the UAE.

Actual implementation and accountability are needed for reaching nationally and internationally agreed targets, both through domestic systems of compliance monitoring and through international processes, as well as internal corporate governance standards. There needs to be a stronger international institutional architecture towards this end, and a way to ensure meaningful involvement of initiatives from citizens, communities, cities and regions, industry and business, science and agriculture in the process of managing a green transition.

While the transition must be ignited and accelerated, development support needs to be enhanced for climate change adaptation for states specifically affected by early consequences of global warming, especially small island states. This will, at least, offer some initial help in balancing out injustices of the past that now cause environmental degradation, harm and national emergencies disproportionately affecting vulnerable states and populations.

GCC states are sure to be leaders in this process, through education, technology, investment, the law and public-private partnerships going into 2030. The UAE has a long record as a leader in diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. The GCC, under Oman’s chairmanship this year, has an important role in bringing its Gulf sisters together towards a common plan at Cop28.

As we engage with Hiroshima’s G7 Sous-Sherpa, entities such as the Scotia Group, Rand Europe and the International Bar Association are working together right now to conduct a rapid assessment of policy sequencing for accelerating the transition and to create standards for compliance based on the civil and common law systems, to think through an “Abu Dhabi Treaty”. The meaningful impact of this work will need to be developed for the December meeting in the UAE. Scotia and UN Habitat, with the support of the Sustainable Human Settlments Foundation and OCP Group in Morocco, are currently involved in the launch of a comprehensive green Africa investment initiative. This plan can be used to encourage investment in green technologies such as hydrogen, storage, early warnings systems, infrastructure and reconstruction projects where “fragility” is real in our planet.

Published: March 09, 2023, 7:00 AM