Published: 19:45, November 30, 2023 | Updated: 09:39, December 1, 2023
Calls for accelerating global climate response as COP28 opens
By Reuters

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, center, attends the opening session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Nov 30, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (PHOTO / AP)

DUBAI – The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change kicked off here Thursday with a pressing call to accelerate collective climate action against the backdrop of a year that has seen temperatures breaching record levels and wreaking havoc on livelihoods.

Incoming COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber promised in his opening speech at Expo City of Dubai that he would connect with and run an inclusive process of having free and open discussions around climate dialogues and action, in line with the theme “UNITE. ACT. DELIVER”.

“We all know that key success factor across climate agenda is finance. Finance has not been available, accessible or affordable. This presidency is committed to finance to ensure the global south does not have to choose between development and climate action,” said Al Jaber, also Minister of Climate Change and the Environment of the United Arab Emirates .

“Let this be the year that climate finance meets the magnitude of the moment. Let this be the COP where we deliver on our promises.”

READ MORE: Ahead of COP28, the world still far behind in climate fight

The COP28 president invited everyone to be flexible and “start this COP with a different mindset” and to “adopt a different way of thinking”, adding that participants “must ensure that this COP delivers the most ambitious global stocktake”. 

I ask you all to work together, be flexible, find common ground, bring forward solutions and achieve consensus. And never lose sight of our north star of 1.5.

Sultan al-Jaber, COP28 president

The aim of bridging the climate finance gap was also high on the agenda as Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry, in his opening remarks as outgoing president, called it a worrying sign that needed to be tackled immediately and effectively by countries and international organizations. 

This year’s COP marks the conclusion of the “global stocktake”, the first assessment of global progress in implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to a United Nations press release on Nov 29. It said the findings are stark: the world is not on track to limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of this century. 

However, it does recognize that countries are developing plans for a net-zero future, and the shift to clean energy is gathering speed, but it makes clear that the transition is nowhere near fast enough yet to limit warming within the current ambitions.

“Let’s work efficiently and move the agenda, to move quickly, please,” said Al Jaber, adding there was “no time to waste”. 

“We may be a young nation but we have big ambitions and hold fast principles of collaboration through partnership, determination and commitment. These are the ingredients that make up the DNA of the United Arab Emirates,” said Al Jaber.

Al Jaber, who is also CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, acknowledged that there have been “strong views” around the inclusion of the role of fossil fuels in the climate discussions, but he said “we have the power to do something unprecedented”.

“We have no choice but to go unconventional way. I ask you all to work together, be flexible, find common ground, bring forward solutions and achieve consensus. And never lose sight of our north star of 1.5,” said Al Jaber.

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What began in Sharm El-Sheikh “must now be delivered and actioned here in Dubai”, said Al Jaber, adding that he wants this COP “to be the COP that maximizes on momentum mitigation”.  He also said the UAE “is deeply proud to be hosting climate conference at pivotal time”.

The UAE has become the second Middle Eastern country to lead the Conference of the Parties climate summit after Qatar first hosted it as COP18 in 2012. 

Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted that the year 2023 “has been the hottest year ever for humanity”, in his opening statement. 

“So many terrifying records were broken. We are paying with people’s lives and livelihoods. We’re standing at a precipice. Facing the Global Stocktake,” said Stiell.

“We are taking baby steps. Stepping far too slowly from an unstable world that lacks resilience, to working out the best responses to the complex impacts we are facing. We must teach climate action to run.”

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber speaks during the opening session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Nov 30, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (PHOTO / AP)

Stiell challenged everyone with what was going to happen in the next two years that would demand countries to submit their first Biennial Transparency Report and to finance a massive shift with a new finance goal, adaptation and mitigation to be “in line with a 1.5 degree world”.

“This will mean the reality of individual progress can’t be concealed. We will also agree at COP29 how to finance this massive shift, with the new Finance Goal. And let this be your first official notice that early in 2025, countries must deliver new Nationally Determined Contributions. Please start working on them now,” said Stiell.

COP28 is now the biggest Conference of Parties, more than 70,000 delegates from climate advocates, business leaders, climate scientists, youths, and more than 160 world leaders were expected to participate in the two-week event running until Dec 12. But according to a report by UAE English-language newspaper The National, over 97,000 delegates have already registered for event.

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“This is the biggest COP yet -- but attending a COP does not tick the climate box for the year. The badges around your necks make you responsible for delivering climate action here and at home,” said Stiell.

“To further ensure accountability, I am committing the UNFCCC to track all announcements made and initiatives launched. So that long after the cameras have gone, we can ensure our promises continue to serve the planet,” he added.

An iceberg floats near at Bransfield Strait shore, Antarctica, Nov 23, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)

Other key COP28 events include the World Climate Action Summit, which will be hosted by President of the UAE Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, with  other heads of state or government on Dec 1 and 2.

The WCAS provides Heads of State or Government with the opportunity to set the stage for COP28, build on decisions from previous Conferences of the Parties, raise climate commitments and promote coordinated action to tackle climate change.

The COP28 Presidency will hold open consultations on thematic areas, inviting inputs from the broad mix of stakeholders attending the conference.

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