‘Follow the money,’ COP28 climate chief Al Jaber writes before ringing NYSE bell

The U.N. conference's president-designate teams up with New York City's former mayor Michael Bloomberg on an environmental initiative designed for local leaders that will be rolled out Dec. 1 after COP28 opens in Dubai

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

COP28 president-designate Sultan Al Jaber (L) and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg speak onstage at the Plaza Hotel in New York City

Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati oil executive and president-designate of this year’s COP28 environmental conference, called for a major overhaul of climate finance to bridge an anticipated $2.4 trillion investment gap by 2030 as he came to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

“Without major reform of the current financial system… we will not have the ability to invest in the resources and infrastructure that help developing countries – especially small island developing states and economies across the Global South – to cope with flooding, droughts, heatwaves, storms, and other climate shocks,” Al Jaber wrote in an op-ed for Fortune.

“If you want to understand the state of the world’s climate efforts, follow the money,” wrote Al Jaber, who will lead the two-week UN conference when it opens in Dubai Nov. 30. He is also CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and chairman of Masdar, a consolidated renewable energy subsidiary under ADNOC, Mubadala and TAQA.

Al Jaber’s full-throated support for climate finance reform comes as the United Arab Emirates is reportedly mulling a multibillion-dollar fund largely pulled from its sovereign wealth fund coffers for clean energy investments which it would roll out at COP28, Politico reported last month.

The Fortune piece was published hours before Al Jaber rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, becoming the first head of the UN climate conference to do so.

Following the market opening, he and the city’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced a separate initiative within the Dubai conference, the COP28 Local Climate Action Summit. Bloomberg was appointed in 2021 as the UN’s special envoy on climate ambition and solutions.

The event, scheduled for Dec. 1-2, will bring together hundreds of “subnational” climate leaders like mayors, governors and business executives who are “increasingly critical in helping national governments reach emissions reduction targets and net-zero ambitions while building resilient and future-proof economies and societies”, according to a statement.

On Friday at the UN, Al Jaber also urged nations to agree on administering a fund to compensate developing nations afflicted by damage caused by climate change ahead of COP28.

The loss and damages fund was agreed on in Egypt during COP27 and a committee was set up to finalize the details of the fund. That group has so far met three times and will meet again next month in Aswan, Egypt. But so far leaders have yet to agree on how the money should be raised or disbursed.

“We need to stay very focused on ensuring that we operationalize this fund as soon as possible,” Al Jaber said.

Subscribe now to
The Daily Circuit

The Daily Circuit newsletter (coming soon!) connects doers and dealmakers in the Middle East and those who care about the region from afar. Sign up today to be among the first in the know.