Cop28 in the UAE will be the most significant climate conference event since Paris, when countries pledged to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the event’s director general said on Thursday.
Majid Al Suwaidi said the Emirates would make inclusivity the hallmark of its presidency as “we need everyone to address climate change”.
“Cop28 is going to be a landmark Cop because the UAE is highly ambitious about making the moment count. And that is not just about the formal text that gets negotiated at the end,” he said.
He added that Cop21, where the Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 parties in 2015, was a milestone because, for the first time, all countries in the world agreed to set targets for cutting emissions.
“But we knew at the time those targets wouldn’t be enough to get us where we need to be, so we built into the agreement a mechanism to come back in five years to take stock and to raise ambition, he continued.
“That is what is mandated to happen for the first time at Cop28 UAE.”
Mr Al Suwaidi was delivering his keynote address at the Countdown to Cop27 event held at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort — jointly organised by The Economist and First Abu Dhabi Bank.
He said the decision to bid for Cop28, which will be held at Expo City Dubai, was driven by the “positive story” that the UAE has to tell about the benefits of embracing climate change.
“We knew that stepping into the spotlight would draw criticism. The question on many minds is, why are we doing it?” he said.
“First, because climate action is something the UAE really cares about. The UAE leadership recognised the risks of inaction on climate change.”
He added that the UAE is ahead of its time in embracing the economic potential of action on climate change.
“The global employment in renewables reached 12.7 million jobs last year, with predictions of 40 million jobs worldwide by 2030 and 122 million by 2050,” Mr Al Suwaidi said, citing recent data from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
The UAE was the first country in the region to adopt the Paris climate change action mandate and also the first to declare a target of net zero by 2050.
He said the UAE is taking on the presidency because “we believe we have the expertise to make a real difference”.
As an energy-exporting nation, he said the UAE understands the realities of what it is going to take to get to net zero.
Mr Al Suwaidi said there is a need to get the developing world to transition to clean energy as soon as possible.
“Leading by example, the UAE has provided over $1.5 billion of aid for renewable energy projects in more than 40 developing countries,” he said.
The UAE has led the way in the region by building three of the largest solar plants: the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is the largest single-site solar park in the world and will be able to generate 5,000 megawatts by 2030. The $600 million Shams 1 is the largest concentrated solar power plant outside the US.
“We are an early pioneer in the emerging hydrogen market. We have established the first nuclear plant in the region,” said Mr Al Suwaidi.
The UAE is also one the world’s largest international investors in renewable energy projects — with a total spending of $50bn in 70 countries to date and with another $50bn to invest by 2030, he pointed out.
He said the UAE wanted to host Cop28 because it is well placed to bring people together and build global consensus.
“Here in the UAE, we have been big believers in the international system,” he said.
The UAE will work hard next year to build consensus, create coalitions and bring people together before it welcomes the world to Expo City Dubai.