World is 'running short on time' to stop climate change, Dr Al Jaber tells leaders at UN

UAE's Cop28 President-designate urges the international community to act with 'solidarity' and view funding as an investment rather than cost

Dr Al Jaber urges international community to act with 'solidarity'

Dr Al Jaber urges international community to act with 'solidarity'
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Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Cop28 President-designate, has urged global leaders to take action on climate change, saying the world is falling short and running out of time.

At a closing session of the Climate Ambition Summit in New York on Wednesday, Dr Al Jaber said making changes to cleaner energy sources will come at tremendous financial cost, which will require "some tough choices", but doing nothing, or not doing enough, will come at a greater cost to human life and development.

He instead urged leaders to view the massive funding required as investments into the future, rather than costs.

"Excellencies, let me be candid. Some say that you can have it all. Zero carbon economic growth with no up front costs,'' he said.

''There is a cost either way. We must be honest and sober about this fact. Doing this right will cost trillions— between $4 and $5 trillion annually.

''It will mean making tough choices. But doing nothing, or not doing enough will come with dramatically greater costs in human life and socio-economic development. That’s why I have been consistently calling for a pro-climate and pro-growth approach.''

Dr Sultan said that "it's not too late to correct course" and that "we are not powerless” to overcome the climate crisis.

"When we act with solidarity, we can overcome even the most daunting challenges," he said.

The UN talks were aimed at showcasing leaders who are “first movers and doers” and have worked towards meeting the 1.5°C global warming threshold that was set during the Paris Agreement signed in 2015.

The summit comes as the UN prepares to convene its major two-week Cop28 climate summit, which begins on November 30 in Dubai.

“We know the size of the problem at hand,” Dr Al Jaber said. “The numbers are straightforward: 22 gigatonnes. That’s the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we need to cut in the next seven years to keep 1.5°C within reach.”

Dr Al Jaber added: "That is why we are calling on all countries to help and to advance and to progress and to double adaptation finance by 2025."

Earlier on Wednesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on the attendees at the summit – world leaders, the private sector and civil society – to move quickly away from fossil fuels and transition towards renewable energy sources, echoing the same urgent message, that time is running out.

Mr Guterres invited 34 countries to speak and contribute new ideas to accelerate the transition to green energy.

Canada, Brazil, Pakistan and South Africa as well as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the US state of California and the city of London were among the participants.

“Our focus here is on climate solutions – and our task is urgent,” Mr Guterres said during his opening remarks.

“Humanity has opened the gates of hell,” he said.

He said the move from fossil fuels to renewables was happening but at too slow a pace.

“We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels,” he said.

The summit took place on the sidelines of day two of the annual UN General Assembly, where global leaders come together to lay out their visions to confront the world's most pressing challenges.

The US and China, the world's top two polluters, were not invited to speak, but US climate change envoy John Kerry was seen in the audience.

“My proposed Climate Solidarity Pact calls on major emitters – who have benefitted most from fossil fuels – to make extra efforts to cut emissions, and on wealthy countries to support emerging economies to do so,” Mr Guterres said.

Kenya's President William Ruto suggested that climate change can be tackled by a universal tax on fossil fuel traders and levies on aviation and maritime transport as well as a global financial transaction tax – all of which, he said, would raise billions of dollars.

“Neither Africa nor the developing world stands in need of charity, handouts or alms from the developed countries,” he said. “What we need is fairness.”

California's Governor Gavin Newsom said that despite being at the forefront of green energy policy in the US, his state has been suffering from climate disasters.

“You see a state that's burning up, a state that's choking up, a state that's heating up with wildfires and floods and droughts,” Mr Newson said.

He said California had imposed a ban on the sale of new petrol-powered vehicles by 2035.

“This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis,” he said. “It's the burning of oil, it's the burning of gas, it's the burning of coal – and we need to call that out.”

Updated: September 21, 2023, 3:24 PM