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UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide and Singapore's Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu pose at a press conference at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai on December 8, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: COP28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber on Friday insisted on including phase-down of fossil fuels in the final text of the UN Climate Conference as negotiations heated up with the opening of the second week of climate deliberations.

The future of fossil fuels is a hotly debated subject at COP28 with some countries, including those in the European Union, calling for completely phasing them out and others opting for a phase-down approach.

A draft negotiating text released earlier this week had included texts about formal phase-out of fossil fuels as part of COP28’s deal to tackle global warming.

As parties returned after a break to shift gears towards drafting the final text of the summit, Dr Al Jaber addressed questions on targets on oil, coal and gas in the final text of COP28 during a press conference.

He reiterated on his stand that phase-down of fossil fuels is essential.

“One thing I’ve repeatedly said is that phase-down of fossil fuel is an embeddable that is essential and the decline of fossil fuel consumption is going to happen for sure,” said Dr Al Jaber, who is also the UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology as well as the Group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), and Chairman of Masdar.

He highlighted that COP28 has already embraced energy transition like no other COP. “Having said that, we have always been practical, realistic, pragmatic, and results-driven,” said Dr Al Jaber.

As many as 118 countries pledged to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency by 2030. Also, 50 oil and gas companies including the UAE’s ADNOC and Saudi’s Aramco, took a historic decarbonisation pledge at COP28 after the UAE and Saudi Arabia launched a landmark Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter (OGDC) on Saturday.

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Fair energy transition

Going forward, Dr Al Jaber said, Parties should ensure energy transition is fair, just, equitable, orderly and responsible.

“We must be fair, we must be just, we must be equitable, we must be orderly and responsible when it comes to the energy transition.”

Dr Al Jaber said he would “continue to stay laser-focused” on keeping 1.5 (limt global warming to 1.5-degree target) which has been his North Star.

“My job, the way I understand it, is to keep that North Star shining every step of the way. That I promise and I commit and I will maintain. Having said that, we need a collective decision. And this decision will come from the floor from all parties, represented by 198. members. My job is to ensure that I recognise the process, respect the process, enable them, facilitate the process, and of course support throughout.”

“So, in short, I have promised that I will facilitate and enable the maximum and most ambitious outcome and I will help all parties achieve the consensus,” Dr Al Jaber said.

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COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber speaks during a news conference at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) Image Credit: AP

Leaving no stone unturned

Answering a question on how he would ensure countries that are even reluctant to phase-down fossil fuels, Dr Al Jaber said he had left no stone unturned in facilitating his drive and commitment for the highest possible ambition.

“I can assure you that I have been engaging with everyone and with all parties, including relevant stakeholders, represented by NGOs, civil society and many other observers, as well as businesses and industry.”

“I certainly hope that the Parties will agree and present a recommendation to the Presidency on language, at this COP, on fossil fuels that includes renewable energy and energy efficiency in line with what I said earlier — a just, fair, equitable, responsible and orderly transition.”

Political will and support

Dr Al Jaber was hopeful of a major breakthrough at the COP28.

“Given the approach we have taken, allow me to say, the political will and the support from the leadership in the host country, and our ability to convene what we are all experiencing here in Dubai at COP 28 and our ability to receive such an overwhelming positive response from the ministers beside me and helping us drive the maximum ambition, I am quite confident that something special is going to come out of this COP.”

“In the next few days we do have the potential to deliver a paradigm shift centred around and based on the science that keeps 1.5°C within reach. Here is where the work really begins.”

Dr Al Jaber said he was sure that all agree that COP28 has been different and already made history. “There is a unique sense of momentum, a sense of inclusivity and a sense of willingness and flexibility. I also feel a sense that something unprecedented is possible, here at COP28, here in Dubai.”

He said he will meet the negotiators at a Majlis on Sunday.

Dr Al Jaber said he wanted the technical preparations to be completed by 3pm on Saturday to ensure an orderly finish to the climate conference on Tuesday.

Ministerial Pairs

Dr Al Jaber held the press conference along with the eight ministers of the COP28 Ministerial Pairs. Representing every continent, their role is to identify challenges in the negotiations and work with Parties to bridge divides and to find solutions.

For the first time, the COP28 Presidency started the Ministerial Pair engagement early and over the past six months they have worked closely with the Presidency and Parties. This early engagement has given these ministers deep insights on the political challenges they will need to solve to help expedite the process. Over the next 48 hours the Ministerial Pairs will play a crucial role in helping bring this COP to consensus around the Global Stocktake and all the other mandates.

Ministers speak

While some ministers said early texts on negotiations related to topics given to them were ready, some were yet to receive them from the Parties. The ministers hailed the exemplary job done by the COP28 Presidency in ensuring an unprecedented level of engagement by the Parties.

Canadian minister Steven Guilbeault said: “As someone who has participated in this process since COP1 in Berlin in 1995, I can’t recall a COP where on the first day we agreed on such a momentous element like we did on Loss and Damage. And for that I want to congratulate you and your team and everyone who made this possible. We’ve made some progress on finance but we know that we have more progress to make.”

Meanwhile, Danish minister Dan Jørgensen said: “We cannot negotiate with nature, but we can negotiate with each other. No argument, no political or economic reasoning, will stop the temperature from increasing.”

Australian minister Jennifer McAllister added: “Parties are very clear, agreeing on a framework for the global goal for adaptation is important to building resilience for a warming world, but it is also important for building consensus here at COP28 for ambitions to reduce emissions.