The director general of Cop28 has called for the event to propel the world back on track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The conference, set to take place in November and December 2023 at Dubai Expo City, will be the second successive UN climate change conference to be held in the Middle East, following Cop27 in Egypt in November 2022.
Majid Al Suwaidi, who is also special representative to Cop28 in the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change of the UAE, said he was confident the conference would deliver "big results" by bringing together governments, the private sector, civil society, and non-state actors.
"We’re saying at the Cop of the Emirates we need to take huge leaps forward because we need to get back on track," said Mr Al Suwaidi.
He highlighted that Cop28 will host the global stock take, which would likely show that the world was off-target to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aimed to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. He said "ambitious action in mitigation" was needed.
Wealthier nations have been set a target of providing $100 billion a year to support developing countries in their transition to low-carbon economies but current contributions have fallen well short.
"For that, it’s very clear that we need to deliver real, pragmatic outcomes, practical solutions, that will get us back on track to achieving less than 1.5°C, and the financial targets of 100 billion plus," Mr Al Suwaidi told delegates at a session moderated by Larry Madowo, a CNN correspondent.
Another focus is delivering a global goal in helping the world adapt to the consequences of climate change, which are becoming increasingly apparent.
"In the past, the effects of climate change were seen off in the future," said Mr Al Suwaidi, former UAE ambassador to Spain. Today we see it with flooding, with hurricanes, with tropical storms, and we see the poorest people are the ones most impacted. We need to address this today and this makes sense for everybody."
Another priority of Cop28 is to deliver on commitments at Cop27 over loss and damage, with an agreement struck at the Sharm El Sheikh conference over how wealthier nations would support developing countries over the harm caused by climate change.
"We really believe this is the year where we have to get serious in looking at how do we improve, how finance is getting to real projects on the ground. How can we make a difference?" he said.
"How can we look at reform of the international financial institutions? How can we look at reform of the MDBs [Multilateral Development Banks]? What can we be doing to mobilize finance more broadly?"
The director general emphasized that business, civil society, and non-state actors should all be given the chance to make a contribution at Cop28, adding that "everybody is welcome" at "the Cop of the Emirates".
"We can’t just have incremental change. We need to have step-change, significant outcomes that can bridge this gap," he said.
"Any policy decision, any investment decision, any project decision has to be made today to have an impact on changing our trajectories to meet our 2030 goals."
The Middle East is well positioned to become a key player in the global transition to clean energy. The region's investment in renewables may be more effective than in nature-based solutions such as afforestation, which would likely be of greater value in other regions. The director general said the UAE was "very excited with what we can do this year" and emphasized that the region could become an important contributor of renewable energy and related technology to other parts of the world.
Paddy Padmanathan, the Vice Chairman and CEO of Acwa Power Company, the Middle East has proven itself to be capable of investing on a large scale to provide energy security to the world. With the help of new technologies, this investment capability will be utilized to reduce the carbon footprint of fossil fuels while also investing in renewable fields, including green hydrogen.
Although the Middle East is coming late to the renewable energy investment game, Padmanathan notes that the region is now investing at scale. He believes that the Middle East could become a crucial contributor to renewable energy and its associated technologies globally, as demonstrated by current feasibility studies involving Europe, India, and Africa.
He further states that the Middle East will play a significant role in the energy transition, both out of a sense of responsibility and because of the compelling value proposition of investing in renewable energy. Despite concerns over the cost of this transition, he argues that it is the most significant economic opportunity the world has ever seen.
While there may be winners and losers during the energy transition, those who do not act quickly will be the losers. However, due to the massive scale of opportunity and the potential rewards, he believes that everyone will ultimately be compelled to participate. With large amounts of money ready to be invested in various renewable energy projects, He is confident that the required level of funding will be delivered, despite any perceived shortfalls in green investment.