Crucial climate event to begin in Saudi Arabia as Cop28 build-up continues

Ministers, policymakers and climate champions expected in Riyadh on Sunday for Middle East and North Africa Climate Week

Riyadh will host the Middle East and North Africa Climate Week, which seeks to build momentum ahead of the Cop28 summit. Photo: Four Seasons
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Ministers, policymakers, young advocates and climate champions from across the region will meet in Saudi Arabia beginning on Sunday, to discuss the climate crisis.

The Middle East and North Africa Climate Week seeks to build momentum in the lead up to the Cop28 summit in the UAE that starts in November.

The talks in Riyadh are being organised by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Leaders around the world are under increasing pressure to act decisively in the face of the escalating climate emergency.

September 2023 was the warmest for the month on record globally, with an average surface air temperature of 16.38°C, figures compiled by the EU show.

Pope Francis on Wednesday warned the world is "collapsing" due to climate change and may be "nearing breaking point".

It comes as a series of alarming reports, such as the UN’s this week that stated the world was “way off track” to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris deal, have put further pressure on leaders to act.

The Paris agreement saw countries agree to "pursue efforts" to limit temperature rises to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Efforts to keep the goal alive will be assessed for the first time at Cop28 under the “global stocktake”.

The event in Saudi Arabia will reflect on regional work done to keep the 1.5°C goal alive.

Focus on the region

Dr Zouhair Lachkar, senior scientist at the Arabian Centre for Climate and Environmental Sciences at NYUAD, said delegates in Riyadh will seek "to address knowledge gaps, discuss climate adaptation, promote collaboration on solutions and highlight challenges and opportunities", with a specific focus on the Middle East and North Africa region.

"In 2023, the world is on track for record-high temperatures, emphasising the need for global leadership and action,” he said.

“However, addressing this challenge is complex, particularly at the local level, beyond national policies. Regional approaches are essential to develop effective adaptation strategies and provide crucial data for local stakeholders."

“This action should encompass not only emissions reduction but also adaptation to climate change, which is now a necessity for cities and countries worldwide."

The Mena Climate Week will feature sessions on the importance of mangroves, tackling plastic pollution, how small farmers can help to boost food security.

Delegates will also discuss ways to address land degradation, water security, coral restoration and to ensure smart agriculture in desert climates.

Attendees can also expect ministerial panels, roundtables, workshops and a youth summit developed around four major themes that are energy systems and industry; cities, urban and rural settlements, infrastructure and transport; land, ocean, food and water; and societies, health, livelihoods, and economies.

The event is one of four regional weeks being held across the world in 2023 to galvanise action ahead of Cop28. One has already been staged in Africa, while two more – in Latin America and the Caribbean and another in Asia-Pacific - take place before the crunch talks start in Dubai. The Riyadh event is seen as crucial because of the potential of the region to tackle climate change, experts believe.

"The Middle East and North Africa are of growing importance in the global fight against climate change because many of the countries in the region are exposed and vulnerable to the impacts, while many are also potentially rich in renewable energy resources, particularly solar," said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics.

"They are even more important this year because Cop28 is being held in the region and their governments have an opportunity to drive for an ambitious outcome that accelerates a just transition away from fossil fuels. These countries will be able to lay out their agenda for action at this climate week to help set the agenda for Cop28."

Tackling emissions, ramping up climate finance, ensuring the 1.5°C goal is kept alive, and bringing the loss and damage fund agreed at Cop27 into operation are expected to dominate the negotiations during the summit that runs from November 30 to December 12 at Expo City Dubai.

“We have decided that our comprehensive and holistic plan for Cop28 is to be centred around one thing, and that is the North Star,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President-designate.

"What is our North Star at Cop28? It is keeping 1.5°C within reach."

Middle East and North Africa Climate Week runs from October 8 to October 12 in Riyadh.

Updated: October 07, 2023, 8:46 AM