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Sameh Shoukry, President of COP 27, welcomes onstage Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, President of COP 28, during the UNFCCC Formal Opening of COP28 at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) at Expo City Dubai on Thursday Image Credit: COP28/Mahmoud Khaled

Dubai: The UAE officially assumed global climate action leadership from Egypt on Thursday, the opening day of the Conference of Parties 28 (COP28) in Dubai. Dr Sultan Al Jaber was formally appointed COP President at a ceremony marking the official transfer of the role from COP27 President Sameh Shoukry. Al Jaber urged delegates and officials to use the next two weeks wisely.

The UAE-led event, taking place at the Dubai Expo City from November 30 to December 12, hopes to lead a process for all parties to agree upon a clear roadmap to accelerate progress through a pragmatic global energy transition and a ‘leave no one behind’ approach to inclusive climate action.

After being elected President, Al Jaber said: “It is an honour to be with you today. As my first official act as COP28, I thank Sameh Shoukry. We are indebted to you for your service, accomplishments and commitment to climate progress.”

“The science has spoken,” Dr Al Jaber told delegates. “It has confirmed the moment is now to find a new road, a road wide enough for all of us, free of the obstacles and detours of the past. That new road starts with an ambitious decision on the Global Stocktake, which corrects course and accelerates action to 2030.”

Kicking off two weeks of intense climate negotiations, Al Jaber also used his first official speech as COP President to rally delegates to unite around the agenda and restore faith in multilateralism. “I pledge to run an inclusive and transparent process that encourages free and open discussion between all parties,” he added.

“Take a no-nonsense approach with delays. This will restore faith. Let us bring back multilateralism and deliver some good news to the world. Let us rise above our differences for future generations to be welcome in the UAE. I am calling you all to unite, act and deliver,” he added.

Negotiations agenda approved

Following the opening ceremony, the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference Parties approved the COP28 Presidency’s Negotiations Agenda.

“This is a key moment symbolising multinational unity in the face of climate change. The agenda is a critical step in the right direction to set the pathway towards climate ambition to be met,” said the Presidency.

The Negotiation Agenda aligns all parties on what has already been accomplished and clarifies the work to be done in the coming weeks to deliver a successful decision in response to the Global Stocktake and keep 1.5C within reach.

A moment of silence for Gaza

A moment of silence was held for the civilians who perished in Gaza ahead of the opening ceremony. Moreover, delegates offered tributes to climate veterans Pete Betts and Saleemul Huq, who passed away recently. Betts, the veteran British climate diplomat who played a pivotal role in brokering the landmark Paris Agreement at the UN climate talks in 2015, died aged 64, a year after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

Saleemul Huq, who brought to global attention the need to adapt to climate change impacts and to pay for the loss and damage people suffered, died in Dhaka on October 2. He was 71. Delegates from the UK, the EU, and Bangladesh paid their respects.