UAE COP President Al Jaber convenes majlis with world ministers to speed up climate talks

'I want everyone to come ready to be flexible and to accept compromise,' he says

By AP

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Photos: AP
Photos: AP

Published: Sun 10 Dec 2023, 5:31 PM

Last updated: Sun 10 Dec 2023, 8:43 PM

Negotiators have been urged to narrow down their options so they can agree on how to save Earth from disastrous levels of warming and help vulnerable societies adapt to weather extremes as the clock runs down on United Nations climate talks.

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber told journalists on Sunday that negotiators were “making good progress,” just not fast enough. So he was borrowing from Arab culture and convening a majlis on Sunday afternoon, a new format for talks where he was bringing ministers from all countries to sit together in a circle, more as a conversation. He asked them to leave their objections and talking points behind.

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Unlike most of the big group sessions, this one is not broadcast and closed to the public and media.

“I want everyone to come ready to be flexible and to accept compromise,” he said, as protesters could be heard nearby calling for the end of fossil fuels. “Failure or lack of progress or watering down my ambition is not an option.”

Wopke Hoekstra, the EU climate commissioner, repeated calls for a fossil fuel phase-out at the majlis.

“We all see that this will be a massive transition, make no mistake about that," he said in prepared remarks. “But postponing it simply will not help. The sooner we do it, the less painful it will be.”

There some were signs negotiators were moving forward on Sunday: A new draft agreement on global adaptation goals — which will determine how poor countries will brace themselves for climate change-fuelled weather extremes like drought, heat and storms — was released.

Some observers on Sunday were cautiously optimistic about the progress so far, with Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace International saying the talks were “close to making history.”

“Never before have I seen this level of pressure, with people saying let’s just do it," Kosonen said.

The talks even received attention at the Vatican, as Pope Francis on Sunday asked the public for prayers that the COP28 meeting “achieves good results for the care for our common home and to protect populations.”

Climate negotiators now know where they’re going next year: Baku, Azerbaijan. After more than a year of squabbling about the site of 2024 United Nations climate conference and different Eastern European nations vetoing options, the region agreed upon Baku as part of a peace deal between warring Armenia and Azerbaijan. The necessary paperwork was submitted late Saturday for a mid-November meeting.

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