A leading UAE environmental campaigner has highlighted how nature can play a crucial role in protecting the planet from the worst effects of climate change.
Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for Cop28, said there needed to be significantly more awareness of how the natural world can support key environmental goals.
Speaking in Dubai on Monday, Ms Al Mubarak said this would be one of her priorities as the build-up to the crucial climate talks continues.
“I’m heavily involved in the nature sphere,” Ms Al Mubarak said at an event titled Road to Cop28: driving collective climate action in the UAE.
“I don’t find there is enough impetus within the climate change discourse on where and how nature can help contribute and really bridge the gap between our efforts to reduce C02 emissions but also our efforts to ensure [carbon] sinks are not lost,” she said, referring to how forests, the ocean and soil absorb more carbon than they release. “You need both so I’ll be doing a lot of work on that.”
Cop28 runs from November 30 to December 12 at Expo City Dubai, where world leaders will gather to tackle the escalating climate emergency. The crucial summit will also see the first global stocktake of pledges made by countries under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The Paris deal aims to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C on pre-industrial levels and to keep them “well below” 2°C. Global emissions must halve by 2030 if this target is to be met, the UN has said, while repeatedly warning the world is way off track. The stocktake will see countries submit revised pledges – known as national determined contributions – to try to keep the 1.5°C goal alive.
“My ambition is for it [nature] to have a prominent place within the NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions],” said Ms Al Mubarak. “When countries report back on their NDCs, perhaps there needs to be a much more clear requirement on the nature-based side which isn’t present today.”
Hopes for Cop28
With about six months to go before the summit starts, Ms Al Mubarak added there was hope for “significant progress” at Cop28 on addressing the crisis but said one should not “underestimate its complexity” as it means moving to a different world of not just new energy but food, the built environment and even healthcare as temperatures climb.
“From scale and complexity – it is as complex as it gets,” she said. She said the timeline between Cop summits was “extremely short and ambitious” so the UAE was already working to ensure some of the ideas were “shared” by future presidencies. “One Cop is a process.”
Ms Al Mubarak, also president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature; managing director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, and managing director of Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, will serve a two-year term in the role along with fellow high-level champion, Egyptian Mahmoud Mohieldin. The post was established at Paris in 2015 to galvanise what is known as non-state actors – businesses; cities; financial institutions; civil society; non-government organisations; indigenous people; academia; and all other sections of society – into addressing the climate emergency across the four main areas of mitigation; adaptation; finance; and loss and damage.
Mitigation refers to cutting warming emissions; adaptation relates to dealing with the effects of climate change; finance helps to drive the switch to more sustainable systems; and loss and damage refers generally to damages paid by developed countries to developing countries to deal with climate change. A loss and damage fund was established for the first time at Cop27 in Egypt but questions as to who pays into it are set to arise at Cop28.
Monday’s event, meanwhile, was organised by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions and the Dubai Chambers in collaboration with the Cop28 Presidency. In her keynote address, Ms Al Mubarak said all society and not just governments needed to step up to tackle climate change and she highlighted the work of two UN-backed global campaigns: the “Race to Zero” and “Race to Resilience”.
The first aims to rally the private sector to raise its decarbonisation ambitions, while the second seeks to help the four billion most climate-vulnerable communities to become more climate-resilient by 2030. State news agency Wam on Monday reported that 1,000 chief executives and members of Dubai Chambers had pledged to cut global emissions by half by 2030 and bring them to net zero by 2050.
“Facing an increasingly precarious future due to climate change and nature loss, it is the role of the high-level champions to underscore, on a global level, that comprehensive climate action is an all-of-society mandate,” said Ms Al Mubarak.
Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy, told attendees that Cop28 would serve as a “global platform” to tackle climate change, reduce carbon footprints, achieve sustainable and comprehensive development and create a better future for current and future generations.
“The event will also play a key role in promoting the UAE’s attractiveness for local and international investments in new economy sectors, particularly advanced technology, infrastructure, clean energy and climate change,” he said.