Jul 13, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Head of COP28 climate summit unveils detailed plan focused on emissions cuts

an illustration of Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber in front of a group photo of the COP28 summit

Photo illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios; Photos: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images; John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, who will lead the COP28 climate summit in the United Arab Emirates, unveiled the most detailed look yet at his country's priorities for success at the meeting.

Why it matters: The UAE’s goals for the talks, which are the result of a months'-long listening tour, may shape the summit’s outcomes.

The big picture: Al-Jaber occupies a controversial triple-hatted role in the UAE government as the head of the state oil company, its top renewable energy official and climate envoy. He's called for tripling renewable energy output, and doubling energy efficiency and global hydrogen production by 2030.

  • Al-Jaber sought to use his oil and gas experience to his advantage. “As I’ve said many times, the phase down of fossil fuels is inevitable."
  • “It is in fact essential,” he said. “We must take a holistic approach that brings together both the supply and the demand side in an integrated response.”

Between the lines: The agenda for the summit later this year, detailed in a speech in Brussels Thursday morning, features a heavy emphasis on:

  • Comprehensive climate finance reform, and keeping the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature target within reach.
  • Working with all industries, including oil and gas, to change the way they do business.

Zoom in: The upcoming summit will feature the Global Stocktake, through which countries will examine the emissions reductions achieved so far, what is currently planned, and what's needed to satisfy Paris goals.

  • "We must be brutally honest about the gaps that need to be filled," al-Jaber stated in prepared remarks.

In an interview with Axios, COP28 director-general Majid al-Suwaidi said the ongoing spate of record-shattering extreme weather events is having an influence on the urgency of the climate talks.

  • "I think the public is responding to this. And we need governments to step up. And the point is, is that that's what we've been saying all along is that we if we're going to maintain our goals of Paris, we need to start to take serious action," al-Suwaidi says.
  • He said the UAE COP leadership team has been engaging with everyone from indigenous groups to fossil fuel companies in order to try to have an inclusive conversation at COP28.

What they're saying: "We believe that engaging people and including people in the conversation with all of their solutions, regardless of what they are, as long as they address the emissions gap that we need to do that we need to celebrate and support that," al-Suwaidi said.

  • He said the UAE is focused on reducing emissions during its COP tenure. This undercuts the position of environmental groups focused on cutting fossil fuel use, as well.
  • "For us, it's about how do we address emissions, we need to get to the heart of the problem. We're agnostic to the solutions," he said.

What's next: Now that the listening tour phase is over, al-Suwaidi said, it is up to countries to step up with more stringent emissions reduction commitments ahead of COP28, which begins on Nov. 30.

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