UAE's dream green team for COP28 sets ambitious goals

The country's collective intent regarding climate change and sustainability leadership has been a journey in the making for at least a decade and a half

By Ehtesham Shahid

Published: Mon 16 Jan 2023, 11:45 PM

Leadership often develops alongside a nation’s tryst with transformation. In January 2011, when Ban Ki-Moon, then UN secretary-general, reached Abu Dhabi for the World Future Energy Summit, he was taken on a guided tour of Masdar City. By then, Masdar had become the epicenter of UAE’s sustainable energy solutions. On that tour, Ban Ki-Moon was accompanied by who else but Dr. Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, the founding CEO of Masdar.

With Ban Ki-Moon’s endorsement – “the future is showcased in Masdar” – Dr. Al Jaber had already arrived as a leader of the UAE’s sustainability drive. Around the same time, when I reached out to Dr. Al Jaber’s office for his comments on the UAE’s strides as a renewable energy destination, he linked it to the progress as a global community member. “We are privileged to have participated in the country’s progress, especially through creating and developing the renewable energy and clean technology industry, a completely new economic sector that is geared to benefit the global community,” he said.

Dr. Al Jaber successfully oversaw Masdar’s mandate to accelerate renewable adoption. On January 12, the Presidential Court announced the leadership team for COP28 UAE –from November 30 to December 12, 2023 – and designated him to serve as COP President.

His years of leadership in this arena had come to the fore, reflected days ago, in his first speech as COP28UAE President-Designate. “We want it to be a COP [COP28] of solidarity that bridges global north and south and includes public and private sectors, scientists and civil society, women, and youth. We want it to be a practical COP, a COP of action, a COP for all, a COP that raises ambition, and moves from goals to actually getting it done across mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and of course finance,” Dr. Al Jaber told the Atlantic Council Energy Forum.

The UAE’s collective intent regarding climate change and sustainability leadership has been a journey in the making for at least a decade and a half. During this time, leadership has emerged organically to take the process forward. Having dealt with the national and regional priorities, Dr. Al Jaber has the task of developing the COP28 agenda in partnership with the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Simon Stiell and the Egyptian COP27 President Sameh Shoukry.

As the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT), Dr. Al Jaber brings much pedigree to the role. He has served as Special Envoy for Climate Change for two terms (2010–2016, 2020–present) and also played a proactive participatory role at over 10 COPs, including the historic Paris COP21 in 2015. He brings two decades of executive business and leadership experience in government, climate policy, and across the renewable and conventional energy sectors.

He is also the first CEO ever to serve as COP President, having played a key role in shaping the country’s clean energy pathway. Throughout his career, he has pioneered a practical and responsible approach to accelerating the energy transition that embraces climate action, energy accessibility, energy security, and economic growth.

As CEO of ADNOC, Dr. Al Jaber spearheads efforts to decarbonise and diversify the company’s operations and investments. This is a drive to make today’s energies cleaner while investing in the next generation’s clean energies. As COP28 President-Designate, he will play a critical role in leading the intergovernmental process, building consensus, and driving climate outcomes with numerous partners, including business and civil society.

Dr. Al Jaber knows that the UAE is approaching COP28 with a sense of responsibility and ambition. The country champions an inclusive agenda to make progress on the mitigation front. It also needs to encourage an energy transition carrying all stakeholders and ensures climate finance for the most vulnerable. The need of the hour is accelerated funding for adaptation and building facilities to address loss and damage.

There is also a broad awareness that climate action is an immense economic opportunity for investment in sustainable growth. In other words, finance is the key to unlocking climate action. The UAE is committed to supporting and facilitating the review of international financial institutions to scale up public financing, leverage private finance, and improve access. According to Dr. Al Jaber, “this will be a critical moment to mobilize political will to respond to “what the science tells us will need to be achieved to remain on target and limit global warming to 1.5C by 2050.”

No leadership can accomplish tasks without a team, and the UAE’s COP28 team is living up to the country’s reputation. The appointment of Shamma Al Mazrui, as the Youth Climate Champion and Razan Al Mubarak as the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion are the other worthy and well-deserved nominations. While the former’s role is designed to elevate the global youth voice throughout the COP process, the latter has the mandate to strengthen engagement and mobilise efforts from non-state actors. It is a dream team geared up to deliver a promising congregation.

- The writer is a senior researcher based in Abu Dhabi


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