In recognition to its remarkable global efforts to fight climate change and sustainable economic growth, UAE recently won its bid to host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) conference in 2023 in Abu Dhabi.
It is a historic moment for UAE and the GCC region as the climate negotiations is the largest global conference of heads of states, governments, business leaders, campaigners, NGOs, media and many others on climate change and environmental issues.
GCC countries are indeed highly exposed to the negative impacts of climate change especially sea level rise and extreme heat weaves. It is a great step that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain announced that they aim to achieve the carbon neutrality in 2060 while UAE said it aim to achieve it by year 2050.
The Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative of UAE is an initiative announced earlier this year that shows the country’s commitment to promote and accelerate climate actions. Besides, the UAE was the first country in the region to introduce emissions targets across a wide range of industries and economies.
It is worth mentioning that, UAE’s efforts are not at local or regional levels only but on the global level as well, UAE has invested around $17 billion in renewable energy projects in more than 70 countries across six continents, with a special focus on helping out low-income countries and developing nations.
In order to achieve deep decarbonisation and get to zero net emissions, a country needs to rethink how they produce, consume and export energy and operate a fundamental switch to renewable energy sources and other clean energy sources as well as systematic shifts from fossil fuels to electricity. This is not strange to a country like UAE that is a home of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
In addition to the above, UAE has a strong track record in hosting high-profile international events with modern convening and hospitality infrastructure as well as advanced communications systems.
Many things still on negotiations table with hopes to be solved either in COP27 in Egypt and/or COP28 in UAE. In general, the Paris Agreement rule book was due to be finalised three years ago at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, but a number of contentious items still remain unresolved. The UAE as a host will aim to mobilise a step up in climate action and keep hope alive of meeting the tougher goal of the Paris Agreement: limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C.
In fact, experts estimate that following our current course of action, even with improvements announced at COP26, would lead to a 2.4°C increase in global temperatures, which would spell disaster for low-lying island nations and coastal areas.
That means curbing emissions deeper and faster, adapting to a new era of climate impacts and scaling up the financial support developing nations need to build low-carbon and resilient economies.
Another important topic on negotiations table is the broken promise of climate finance. Despite that developed countries agreed in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion a year in climate finance to the developing world by 2020. Little progress have been achieved and this is still a key issue of fraction between parties negotiating at COPs.
In addition, the Paris Agreement established a global goal on adaptation to climate impacts, but till now it is still unclear what that means in practice. The agreement has a section on loss and damage in recognition of the fact that people are already losing homes, lives and livelihoods to extreme weather but practical support has been very slow.
Kyoto climate regime
These include the rules of a new global carbon market, under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. How to avoid double counting emissions reductions, the role of old credits from the Kyoto climate regime under the new system and whether to allocate a share of proceeds from the market to the Adaptation Fund.
Negotiators will also need to find agreement on the transparency rules for reporting emission reductions and whether countries’ future climate plans should all cover the same time period of 5 or 10 years.
In this critical decade for climate action, responsible and successful climate negotiations on above issues can encourage and drive investments in renewable energy, green hydrogen, industrial decarbonisation, low-carbon urban design, ecosystem-based approaches, nature-based solutions, climate-smart agriculture, carbon capture technologies, and other low-carbon solutions that will support sustainable economic growth and job creation.
With COP28 hosted in UAE, the country consolidates its position as a leader within the field of climate change and sustainability.
Dr Mohamed Abdelraouf is an independent environment researcher.