COP28 President-Designate and UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, addressing trhe opening ceremony of the MENA Climate Week 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday (October 8). Image Credit: X/COP28_UAE

Dubai: The COP28 President-Designate and UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, has made a concerted call to all nations in the MENA region to sign up to COP28’s transformative declarations for climate action, which include a declaration on food, agriculture and climate, aimed at feeding a growing population without overheating our planet.

Addressing the five-day MENA Climate Week which opened in Riyadh today, Dr Al Jaber said, “We are partnering with the United Nations Environment Programme to deliver a global cooling pledge to reduce the energy used to cool our homes. And COP28 will also be the first to put global health on the climate agenda with a political declaration in partnership with the World Health Organisation. We call on all countries of the MENA region to sign up to these declarations.”

Urging nations to rise above national boundaries, he said, “To make a truly game-changing progress, we must separate facts from fiction, fantasies from reality and avoid the traps of division and distraction. Climate change does not recognise political divisions or national boundaries. It affects everyone, everywhere. The size of the challenge requires everyone to show up.”

Special summit with 1,000 mayors

He said taking this in cognisance, he was inviting 1,000 mayors to share what’s working at the local level at a special summit at COP28.

“I’m hosting a special summit to engage the private sector and philanthropies in driving practical, impactful climate solutions.We will include the energy and voices of our youth, the wisdom of Indigenous Peoples and the peoples of all faiths.I’m calling for global solidarity to deliver global breakthroughs," he said

Adaptation at the centre of climate agenda

He said, “We live in a region of extreme water scarcity and food insecurity. We are also suffering harsh climate impacts, from droughts to the devastating floods of Derna. To deliver for our region, we must put adaptation front and centre of the climate agenda.”

He said donors must double adaptation finance and replenish the Green Climate Fund. “Old promises must be kept, including the 100-billion-dollar pledge made over a decade ago. Old institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that were built for the realities of the last century, must update their charters for the climate realities of today. And the private sector must step up to invest not just in the opportunities of the Global North, but in the needs of the Global South.”

He said, “Over the course of my lifetime, I have seen first-hand the transformative abilities of our region. I have experienced our resilience in the face of global events and climate change. I have witnessed our desire to grow and transform our young societies and economies. And I have felt our individual motivation to drive progress, through enlightened and positive leadership.”

According to him, this leadership has inspired programmes like the Saudi and Middle East Green Initiative that is driving positive environmental impact and improving the lives of countless communities. For these reasons, he was confident that this region had the vision and the capacity to shape a better future, not just for the Middle East and North Africa, but for the entire world.

"This region has the resources, the leadership and the experience to create a climate positive future of new industries, new technologies, new jobs and new hope,” the President said. “Let’s apply our capacities, our capital, our know-how and scale to deliver positive outcomes,” he added.

“With just 53 days to go before COP28, I am determined to rally the world behind an ambitious and comprehensive climate agenda. An agenda that delivers for the people of MENA, as well as for the world,” he added.

Proud history of hosting COPs

According to Dr Al Jeber, the region has a proud history of delivering COPs to the world. He told the gathering, “Doha set a timeline for a global climate agreement. Marrakesh established the framework for greater collaboration between cities, regions, businesses and investors. Sharm El Sheikh delivered a big win for the Global South by agreeing to the Fund for Loss & Damage. And, with your help and support, COP28 will again deliver for this region, and for the world.”

Thrust on clean energy, renewables

He said of the 27 COPs so far, 17 had been hosted in fossil fuel producing nations. He said, “The fact is, energy is fundamental to everyone, everywhere. And figuring out a fair, just, equitable and well-managed energy transition is essential for economic and climate progress. We cannot unplug the energy system of today, before we build the new system of tomorrow. We must meet the energy demands of today, while providing access to the 800 million people without energy. And we must rapidly build the clean energy system of the future, while we decarbonise the system of today.”

For this to happen, he said renewables must be ramped up. “That is why I have set a global goal of tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency by 2030. I am pleased that 85 per cent of the world’s economies, including the G20, have endorsed this goal. In parallel, I’ve called on all oil and gas companies to align around net zero by or before 2050 and to zero out methane emissions by 2030. So far, over 20 companies have stepped up and I continue to engage and ask everyone to get on board by COP28.”

He said if the world is going to make a real dent in emissions at a gigaton scale, it must also partner with heavy-emitting industries to expedite their transitions and drive down their emissions. This cannot happen without the support of governments.

“We need smart policies to commercialise hydrogen, cut the cost of carbon capture and incentivise investment in other clean technologies,” he added.

Following the opening ceremony, the Dr Al Jaber participated in two high-level sessions: A regional dialogue on the global stocktake, in which policymakers and other key stakeholders, discussed regional perspectives on the progress of the stocktake, and a GCC Ministerial meeting, where he highlighted the role of COP28 in positioning the region as a climate leader and the importance of the region’s support in delivering tangible climate action.

Dr. Al Jaber also had discussions with key attendees at MENA Climate Week, including with Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy,  Jassem AlBudaiwi, Secretary General of the GCC, Ajay Banga, President of the World Bank, Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, Jim Skea, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,  Ahmad Aslam, Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination of Pakistan, and Saad Nasser Al Barrak, Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil.