The year 2023 has only just started, and already the critical nature of the climate emergency has made itself clear. The US state of California, whose ongoing drought is well documented, has recently been inundated with rain and flooding. More positively, BloombergNEF, a strategic research provider, predicts that this year will see an 18 per cent growth in carbon-free energy.
These and many more issues will be discussed at Cop28, the UN’s climate summit that is being held in the UAE this year. It is one of the most important conferences the region will have ever held, and it is quickly taking shape.
On Wednesday, the country announced its president-designate and climate champions for the summit. Dr Sultan Al Jaber is president-designate. The Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology; who is also managing director and group chief executive of Adnoc and chairman of Masdar, has been the UAE’s special envoy for climate change since November 2020. He will essentially lead the global negotiations.
Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, will be the Youth Climate Champion, and Razan Al Mubarak, president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and managing director of Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, is the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion.
The three roles give the necessary scope to most effectively cover such a wide-ranging topic over a year of leading the Cop process. Speaking of all the constituencies that need to be involved, Dr Al Jaber stressed that: "We will take an inclusive approach that engages all stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society, scientific community, women, and youth. We must especially focus on how climate action can address the needs of the Global South, as those most impacted by climate change trends.”
With such a team, the UAE will try and create a Cop that has something for all countries and most constituencies. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fighting the climate crisis, but the green transition that the UAE is undertaking will have something to say for many nations.
It developed rapidly in the late 20th century, a process that started because of the discovery of large hydrocarbon reserves. Today, the industry remains an important part of its economy, but energy expertise built up over decades is also being transferred into innovation in renewables. It has invested tens of billions of dollars into measures to limit emissions and was the first country in the region to ratify the Paris Agreement. It was also the first to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050.
The UAE is situated in a part of the world that is feeling the effects of climate change the first and hardest. A 2022 study by the Review of Geophysics said that temperatures in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean are rising almost twice as fast as the rest of the world. Wealthier nations have more flexibility to deal with these challenges, but poorer ones are far more vulnerable.
That is why the fact that Cop28 is being held in the Middle East is so important, and it is here that the Global Stock Take on the world’s progress in tackling climate change will happen. The region will be fastest and hardest hit by climate change, and large parts of it are unprepared. Crucially, in terms of historic emissions, many of them have emitted relatively little over time, but are paying disproportionately for the high levels that developed economies have been putting out since the Industrial Revolution. Cop28 is an important moment to recognise and address this inequality on a global scale. The fact that the previous one was held in Egypt builds yet more regional momentum.
Speaking at the announcement of the roles, Dr Al Jaber emphasised that: “The UAE is approaching Cop28 with a strong sense of responsibility and the highest possible level of ambition.” It is his conviction that the Emirates will deliver this year. That is an important basis for building a strong Cop28. But it will only be a success if all members are on the same page.