UAE’s climate summit chief pledges ‘brutally honest’ assessment on missed goals

COP28 president-designate Sultan Al Jaber tells G20 ministers in Brussels that Dubai conference will try to accelerate changeover from fossil fuels

Thierry Monasse/GettyImages

Sultan Al Jaber, president-designate of the COP28 climate conference (left), is welcomed to Brussels by European Council President Charles Michel

With less than five months until the COP28 environmental summit opens in Dubai, the event’s Emirati leader, Sultan Al Jaber, pledged to confront the world’s slow response to global warming.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Al Jaber, president-designate of the United Nations climate change conference that will be hosted by the UAE, said more pressure will be applied on governments to accelerate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. He also laid out the schedule for the two-week event that opens Nov. 30 and will include the participation of some 200 countries.

“We must be brutally honest about the gaps that need to be filled, the root causes and how we got to this place here today,” Jaber told climate ministers and senior officials from the European Union, the U.S., China and other G20 countries. “Then we must apply a far-reaching, forward-looking, action-oriented and comprehensive response to address these gaps practically.”

Jaber, who is also head of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and UAE minister of industry and advanced technology, said delegates at the conference will engage in a “global stocktake” that will indicate how far their countries lag behind goals for reduced fossil fuel use and making the transition to renewable energy production.

The stocktake exercise addresses the recognition that the current pace of replacing carbon-based fuels is insufficient to meet the target set in the U.N.’s 2015 Paris Agreement that would try to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) from preindustrial levels.

“Today I am calling on all of us to disrupt business as usual, unite around decisive action and achieve game-changing results,” he said. “We need to challenge old models that were built for the last century. We need to break down silos that are slowing progress. And we need to bridge divides that are blocking critical breakthroughs.”

Some members of Congress and European legislators have attacked the choice of Al Jaber to preside over COP28 given his company’s prominence in the fossil fuel industry. The appointment was defended by John Kerry, the White House special envoy for climate, who said Al Jaber’s connection to the industry and his role in the UAE government will make the conference more effective. Al Jaber said in Brussels that he will arrange meetings between heads of the major oil companies, government leaders, the U.N. and international energy agencies. 

Al Jaber, who serves as chairman of Masdar, the UAE’s alternative fuel company,  called for a tripling of the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 and a doubling of energy efficiency. He said all governments are being encouraged to update their emissions-cutting targets by September. The UAE’s climate ministry last month said it planned a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, raising its previous goal of 31%.

In response to growing complaints about the costs of energy transition, Al Jaber called on international financial institutions to provide more funds to help poorer countries address climate change.

He said the conference would be built around four pillars: “Fast-tracking the energy transition, fixing climate finance, focusing on lives and livelihoods, and making COP28 fully inclusive.”

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