It’s been just over a month since the record-attended COP28 UAE drew to a close and with it, a unanimous agreement that signalled what reporters referred to as ‘end of the oil age’.
Attended by an exhaustive list of world leaders - including King Charles III, President Emmanuel Macron, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and US Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as business figures such as Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and EDF CEO Luc Rémont - COP 28 almost doubled the attendance of its predecessor in Sharm El-Sheikh with 97,000 in-person badges and a further 3,000 on a virtual only basis.
The conference also yielded some significant figures in terms of demonstrable action. With $85 billion committed, including $6.8 billion towards energy, $61.8 billion in finance and $8.7 billion towards lives and livelihood, COP28 succeeded in uniting nations on several critical actions, including a declaration on climate and health, a global renewables and energy efficiency pledge, and on agriculture, food and climate.
Despite its overwhelming successes, efforts to malign the conference were still predictably deployed by the mainstream media by focusing on comments made by COP28 UAE President, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, concerning fossil fuels, his position as CEO of state-owned oil company ADNOC, and on speculation that the UAE had ‘planned to use COP28 climate talk to make oil deals’.
In response, Dr. Al Jaber clarified: “Do you think the UAE, or myself, will need the COP, or the COP presidency, to go and establish business deals or commercial relationships? This country over the past 50 years has been built around its ability to build bridges and to create relationships and partnerships.”
In a separate interview he further stated, “I have said over and over that the phase-down and the phase-out of fossil fuel is inevitable. In fact, it is essential.
“And this transition is, in fact, essential, and it needs to be orderly, fair, just, and responsible. And it needs to be well managed. I’m quite surprised at the constant attempt to undermine this message.”
Bringing together energy industry
Following an extensive vetting process by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Dr Al Jaber’s appointment as COP28 UAE President did, however, successfully unite 52 oil and gas companies (40 per cent of global oil production) to end routing flaring and zeroing out methane emissions by 2030 while aligning around net zero by 2050 through the Global Decarbonisation Accelerator (GDA).
Dr. Al Jaber commented: “The GDA also includes the Industrial Transition Accelerator to align entire sectors around decarbonisation pathways. This has been endorsed by 35 companies and six industry associations from some of the most ‘hard-to-abate’ sectors, including steel, aluminium, and cement and concrete.”
By focusing on attainable results, the UAE's successes, in particular its consensus, were only made possible through an attitude of collaboration and problem-solving; an approach placed in stark contrast to a divisive media which The Telegraph's Janet Daley aptly referred to as “climate hysteria”.
As stated by Dr. Al Jaber, a measured transition is the only way to attain our shared environmental goals, without bankrupting consumers or failing to provide any practical level of energy supply.
Contrary to Time’s poorly thought out headline – ‘Major Oil Deals Can't Stop the Green Transition - the truth is, there is no green transition without oil and gas supporting existing demand. For anyone in doubt, please read how the suspension and sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines affected gas prices in Europe and how green energy was, and still is, unavailable to pick up the slack.
In his capacity as chairman of Masdar, the Emirati state-owned renewable energy company, and member of the investment committee for Altérra, Dr. Al Jaber has also made significant progress in supporting other nations to meet their own targets through collaboration and foreign direct investment.
Through Masdar, also known as the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, its most recent activities include a $4 billion investment in Uzbekistan for 1.4GW of clean energy, an agreement to deliver 10GW of renewable projects in Malaysia and a $3 billion raise target for its Green Finance Framework.
Not only were all these announcements made within the past 60 days, they also brought the company nearer its goal of achieving 100GW of renewable energy gross capacity by 2030.
Funding in the right places
Through Altèrra, the UAE is driving a $30 billion catalytic climate investment fund, which aims to become the largest private investment vehicle for climate change action, mobilising $250 billion by 2030. Dr. Al Jaber said, “Alterra is a fund like no other, and its launch was a defining moment. This is for three reasons.
“First, because it is a truly unique and innovative contribution to the climate finance picture. It is, by far, the biggest private investor 100 per cent focused on solutions to climate change.
“Second, because it had a huge positive impact on the countries as they worked towards the UAE Consensus.
“And third, because it was part of a massive mind-shift at COP28 towards viewing climate finance as a huge opportunity instead of a cost burden.”
Beyond the fanfare of COP28, other major UAE-based companies played their role in supporting the conference’s overarching goals, particularly DP World and Emirates.
By joining the First Movers Coalition, at least 5 per cent of DP World's short-sea shipping vessels will be powered by zero-emission fuels by 2030, while Emirates Group's participation in the Air-CRAFT initiative is helping to drive the development and production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) technologies.
Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Divisional Senior VP for International Affairs, Emirates airline, said: "Emirates supports initiatives that contribute to the deployment of SAF. We’ve contributed to the development of the UAE’s National SAF Roadmap and power-to-liquids fuel roadmaps, and believe the UAE is uniquely placed to lead in this space with its policies, technology, and infrastructure capabilities.
“We see Air-CRAFT as a solid platform to progress the National SAF roadmap into reality, and we are proud to be one of the launch entities.”
Picking up key green commitments
Overseas, and particularly in the emerging economies of Africa and Asia, COP also boosted the global adoption of sustainable energy through billions of dollars in funding, including GreenCo's PPA for Zambia's first solar project, a $150 million agreement between AMEA Power and BNI of Mozambique for a new solar PV plant, and a $1 billion investment for a 300-megawatt geothermal project at Suswa, in conjunction with the Indonesian government.
COP also succeeded in developing the hydrogen sector, most notably through Masdar’s agreement with Iberdrola for a 15 billion euro partnership to evaluate the development of offshore wind and green hydrogen projects in key markets such as Germany, the UK and the US. Masdar also signed a development and investment framework agreement with Hy24 to foster large-scale hydrogen projects.
At DMCC, the recently launched Supercool Future Mobility Hub on the 10th floor of Uptown Tower provided the setting to advance critical discussions on the future of mobility and sustainability in sectors ranging from marine to aerospace and hosted approximately 3,000 buyers, sellers, innovators, and designers.
The hub also played a central role in fostering learning, facilitating the exchange of ideas, and promoting partnerships among professionals as an educational platform for different societal layers.
The Formula E founder Alejandro Agag commented on the hub, “These initiatives are crucial, and Supercool has been our partner for a long time. Sergio De La Vega has been with us since the inception of our first championship, Formula E. It’s essential to focus on real solutions.
“There are too many feel-good actions and too few change-inspiring actions, but the Supercool Future Mobility Hub is certainly one of those.”
As summarised by Dr. Al Jaber, ‘An agreement is only as good as its implementation’, and while COP28 certainly had its critics, its outcomes will stand the test of time as a turning point for our planet. In a world dominated by divisiveness, COP28's achievements will forever serve as a reminder of what is possible when exemplary leadership unites with a collective willingness to serve secular goals greater than politics or profit.