World leaders from across the globe will arrive in the UAE in 100 days for the Cop28 UN climate summit.
They are attempting to tackle the escalating emergency by trying to agree on ways to halt global warming and adapt to a changing climate, and decide who should foot the bill for the damage already caused.
The crunch talks will run from November 30 to December 12 at Expo City Dubai, against the backdrop of a series of extreme events this summer that scientists believe are linked to climate change.
Wildfires and intense heatwaves have scorched parts of Africa, America, Asia and Europe. July was the hottest month on record. Torrential rain and flash floods have hit China and Scandinavia.
The UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, has said that the UAE is dedicated to championing a future marked by climate stability and environmental protection.
"Today marks the start of a 100-day countdown to the Conference of the Parties events in the UAE. This is a moment we have been looking forward to, as it highlights the UAE's efforts in tackling climate change on both a national and international scale," she said in a press release.
"We see Cop28 in the UAE as a living testament to our achievements and a hopeful glimpse into the future. It represents a crucial juncture in our commitment to assist humanity in confronting one of its most profound challenges."
Ms Almheiri added that as the UAE gears up for Cop28, its focus "remains on forging a resilient climate and ecological future, collaborating with all stakeholders to amplify our conference's global goals".
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment will also be launching a myriad of initiatives in the lead up to Cop28.
"These endeavours will further our environmental and climate objectives across different sectors. Backed by our visionary leadership, the UAE will host Cop28 equipped with a developmental blueprint that emphasises sustainability and reinforces the UAE's leading position in this crucial domain," she said.
The era of 'global boiling'
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in July that the age of global warming had ended and the era of “global boiling” had begun.
It is against this stark backdrop that the climate summit takes place. With 100 days to go, where do things stand?
Mr Guterres laid bare the urgency of the problem by referring to a new era of 'global boiling' that has claimed lives, placed livelihoods in peril and threatened food supplies this summer with record heat.
Scientists agree the extra heat is mainly linked to an increase of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily driven by the burning of fossil fuels.
“Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning,” said Mr Guterres, urging countries – especially from the G20 countries, which are responsible for about 80 per cent of emissions – to raise their ambition in tackling the issue.
Why emissions will take centre stage at Cop28
Countries agreed to "pursue efforts" to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C on pre-industrial levels under the 2015 Paris Agreement at Cop21. Pledges to keep the goal alive would be assessed every five years. This is known as a “global stocktake” and will take place for the first time at Cop28, which Denmark and South Africa have been tasked to assist with.
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President-designate, said the 1.5°C goal will be the “north star” that guides the summit. But it won't be easy.
The UN said in 2022 that there was no “credible pathway” to keeping this target alive. For the situation to improve, it said, requires a “large-scale, rapid” and shake-up of our “electricity supply, industry, transport and buildings sectors, and the food and financial systems” to cut emissions by 45 per cent in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Scientists believe a 2°C rise would have devastating consequences, and policies currently in place point to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century.
“We know we are way off target,” Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics told The National. “It was the same last year and there has been very little progress since. I hope there will be renewed focus on cutting emissions.”
Dr Al Jaber and Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in July that Cop28 must produce an outcome that results in a “significant reduction in emissions” to tackle the crisis.
They said steps must be taken to accelerate the “inevitable phase-down of all fossil fuels in a responsible manner” and to ensure an energy system “free of unabated fossil fuels by the middle of this century”.
Jochen Flasbarth, a state secretary in Germany’s Development Ministry, told The National in July that reducing emissions was the "big task" for Cop28.
The UAE has raised its own target for emissions cuts to 40 per cent this decade, up from 31 per cent. All countries will be required to submit revised pledges - known as nationally determined contributions - in September.
“We want countries to come forward to increase action on emissions,” said Mr Ward. “That is the main game in town. Without that, we could leave Cop28 more depressed than we have been.”
What other topics could dominate the agenda?
Scaling up climate finance to drive the energy transition and help those on the front lines of the crisis to adapt is also crucial.
Finance is one of the four pillars of the UAE's Cop28 plan along with fast-tracking the energy transition, focusing on people, and full inclusivity.
Dr Al Jaber, also Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and managing director and group chief executive of UAE oil company Adnoc, has called for countries to finally deliver on the $100 billion a year funding target pledged in Copenhagen in 2009. Germany and Canada have been tasked with helping in this.
The UAE presidency is working with institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the G20 to draw up plans to unlock more funding.
Dr Al Jaber has also called for more financial support to help Caribbean nations in their fight against the impact of climate change. “The peoples of the Caribbean have been on the front lines of climate change for longer than most,” he said. “Your experience represents an early warning system for the rest of the world.”
Aside from cutting emissions and financing the transition, a third element is expected to be loss and damage. The fund was one of few wins from Cop27 last year and aims to help countries – particularly poorer ones that have not caused the crisis - deal with the consequences of disasters they cannot avoid now. But many questions remain about how it works and Dr Al Jaber has called for efforts at Cop28 to bring it into operation.
He has also called for world to triple its renewable energy capacity, as well as expand nuclear power, improve battery storage and provide carbon-capture technology.
What is the UAE's role at Cop28?
Dr Al Jaber will help to guide and direct rounds of negotiations that could drift into the night and often force the summit into extra-time. Keeping them on track amid the competing nations and their interests is seen as key to a successful outcome. But experts say there is, ultimately, only so much the host can do.
“You can’t put all the responsibility on the presidency,” said Mr Ward.
“If countries don’t want to do anything then the Cop presidency can’t change that. The Cop president-designate has been doing his bit. But there is only so much he can do.”
Cop summits tend to feature vibrant protests. The UAE has said Expo City Dubai will be a "safe and inclusive space" for climate activists able to make their voice heard.
“There will be protests,” said Mr Ward. “But they are there to put pressure on negotiators to be more ambitious."
The Cop28 presidency has come in for criticism from some activists because of Dr Al Jaber’s role at Adnoc and the UAE's role as a global oil supplier.
But Dr Al Jaber, also chairman of renewable energy company, Masdar, has been backed by key players and institutions from across the globe.
John Kerry, US climate envoy, said Dr Al Jaber had been "very public about the commitment of UAE to transition to the new energy economy", while Frans Timmermans, the EU’s top negotiator on climate change, said he had a "long track record of investing in renewables within his company".
Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said the the UAE’s Cop28 presidency was an opportunity for the oil and gas sector to show it can take an active and transparent role.
“An ambitious and successful Cop28 in Dubai can change the world’s energy and climate future for the better,” said Mr Birol.
Mr Ward, meanwhile, said fossil fuels were responsible for about 80 per cent of world energy, and it was important to talk to them.
“The idea we can get to where we need without engaging the fossil fuel industry is far-fetched," he said.
What to look out for before Cop28
The G20 meets in September, which represents a crucial signpost on the road to Cop28. The UN General Assembly in New York takes place in the same month and the UN will also convene a Climate Ambition Summit to galvanise leaders.
Meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Marrakesh in October are also important.
Mr Ward said it was good news that climate talks between the US and China – the world’s two largest emitters – had resumed, but whether that had created any momentum remains to be seen.
Four "regional climate weeks" will also be held over the next few months, including one in Saudi Arabia in October, to build momentum ahead of Cop28.
What would be a good outcome of Cop28?
Mr Ward said the best outcome of Cop28 would be for parties to agree to cut emissions quickly by 2030.
"I’m cautiously optimistic there is some movement, but not near the scale and urgency of action to put us on a path to avoid warming of 1.5°C,” he said.
“And this is against the backdrop of further extremes this summer. The climate is reminding us we are behind schedule and close to running out of time.”