October 10, 2023
BEIJING – Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, president-designate of the upcoming United Nations COP28 climate conference, praised China for its leadership role in facilitating the world’s green transition and promoting renewable energy, and said he has received “overwhelming support” from the Chinese government.
Such support is crucial for making the summit a historic one with unprecedented results to be delivered, he said on Tuesday in Beijing during an exclusive interview with China Daily.
“China has always been an active participant in the COP process and a strategic partner of the UAE,” said Al Jaber, who is also the United Arab Emirates’ special envoy for climate change and its minister of industry and advanced technology.
He made the remarks during his two-day visit to Beijing, his second trip to China this year in the run-up to the 28th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Commonly known as COP28, the global climate summit will take place from Nov 30 to Dec 12 in Dubai, a constituent emirate of the UAE.
Al Jaber said that fossil fuels will continue to be harnessed to ensure global energy security despite calls to end their use. However, countries — rich or poor — must fast-track an orderly transition from oil and gas to cleaner energy sources, ranging from solar and wind to hydrogen, in order to avoid climate disasters.
“The world cannot unplug from the current energy system before we build the new energy system. Instead, we want to continue to decarbonize the oil and gas sector,” he said, noting that fossil fuels cannot be eliminated even in the most progressive plan on reducing the world’s carbon footprint. “Oil and gas will continue to be needed to meet global energy requirements.”
Al Jaber cited the decarbonization drive targeting the conventional energy sector in the UAE — now an oil-producing country with the lowest carbon intensity — as an example to illustrate the more “pragmatic” and “results-driven “approach that he has advocated to ensure the success of the upcoming summit.
Over the past two decades, the UAE commercialized renewable energy and made its oil industry more climate-friendly through methods such as electrifying operations and adopting carbon capture and storage technologies, he said.
“I want solutions. I don’t want an alarmist approach. I want to strike a balance between passion and realism,” Al Jaber said, adding that the world needs to triple renewable energy supply and bolster efficiency in the conventional energy sector to achieve a “fair, just, equitable and responsible” transition to climate-friendly energy sources.
To make this transition viable, Al Jaber said the climate finance system must be revamped so that the Global South can deliver its emission-reduction objectives.
He said he is also counting on the developed countries to deliver a promise they made in 2009 to give their developing counterparts $100 billion a year to help fulfill green transition.
“The fact that finance has not been made available, accessible or affordable has delayed progress … and that’s why the Paris Agreement has not been implemented in the right earnest,” he said, referring to the agreement reached by world leaders in 2015 to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 C compared with preindustrial levels.
Earlier this month, the UNFCCC Secretariat released a report on the first global stocktake, which measures progress toward meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The report said the window to implement existing pledges and limit warming to 1.5 C above preindustrial levels is narrowing rapidly, and international public finance must be strategically deployed to avoid climate disasters.
Unfortunately, there has not been much progress in this regard, Al Jaber said. “We are way off track.”
He said he wished to restore confidence at COP28, and use the event as a vehicle to turn rhetoric into actions and workable timelines, in the hope of successfully reducing 22 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
This is his “north star” and the baseline requirement to keep the warming target within reach, Al Jaber said. “We should no longer be pointing fingers at anybody thinking they are the problem. Our enemy is emission,” he added.