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Cop28 chief sets out UAE’s vision for climate finance

climate finance Al Jaber Cop28 Reuters/Christoph Soeder/dpa
Multilateral development banks are not supplying enough money to lower risk and attract private capital into climate finance initiatives, Al Jaber said
  • Sultan Al Jaber has outlined the Emirates’ plans for climate action
  • The Adnoc and Masdar chief has been named president of Cop28
  • Summit to focus on ‘transformational progress’ needed to hit Paris goal

The UAE intends to make financing for climate change projects “more affordable [and] much more accessible”, the country’s oil chief and Cop28 president has said.

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber said finance reforms were needed because the world was “way off track” the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord, during a speech to the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum this weekend.

Al Jaber was named last week as president of this year’s UN climate change summit, which will take place in Dubai, and said that he wants Cop28 to be “practical” and “[leave] no one behind”.

His appointment has sparked criticism from environmental activists, who point to his role in the oil industry as a conflict of interest. Al Jaber is CEO of state-owned oil giant Adnoc, the world’s 12th largest oil company by production.

However, the UAE government underlined that he is also the Emirates’ minister of industry and advanced technology and the chairman of state-owned renewable energy firm Masdar. Al Jaber will retain all three roles in the run-up to the summit.

He has served as the UAE’s special envoy for climate change for the past 10 years, playing an active role at each year’s Cop summit.

At the Atlantic Council event, Al Jaber told the audience: “On climate finance, we simply need more.

“We need it to be more affordable [and] much more accessible. We need to ensure every concessional dollar is matched by $2 or $3 of private capital.

“To make this happen, we need to answer the call of the international community for inclusive reform of the multilateral development banks and international financial institutions.” 

Such reforms are “a critical success factor,” he added.

“To encourage this process, the UAE, as chair of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund development committee, intends to play a proactive, supportive and facilitating role.”

Climate finance typically refers to any money spent on cutting emissions. In the context of the UN climate accord, it refers specifically to funds given by developed countries to finance climate action in developing countries.

Sultan Al Jaber speaks at the opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on January 16. Picture: Reuters/Rula Rouhana

Al Jaber said the UAE views climate action as “central” to the successful development of the nation.

“Over the last 15 years the UAE has invested a total of $50 billion in renewable energy and cleantech globally – and plans to invest another $50 billion in the years ahead,” he said.

“Today over 70 percent of our economy is generated outside the oil and gas sector – and as the founding CEO and chairman of Masdar, and the MD and CEO of Adnoc, I will continue to follow our leadership’s vision and guidance on making today’s energy cleaner while advancing and continuing to invest in the clean energies of tomorrow.

“We will use our experience, ambition, and deep and rich network of partnerships to inform our approach to Cop28.”

Masdar City is the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency and the first country in the region to commit to the Paris agreement, the first in the region to submit a nationally determined contribution, and the first to set out a roadmap to net zero.

Under a new partnership with TAQA, Mubadala and Adnoc, Masdar is set to become one of the largest renewable energy investors in the world, with a target of growing to at least 100GW of renewable energy capacity globally by 2030.

Al Jaber said Cop28 must fully “operationalise” the loss and damage fund adopted at Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh. He also called for adaptation finance for the global south to be doubled to $40 billion annually by 2025.

He said the UAE would help “mobilise the private sector and all other sectors to deliver greater, more meaningful impact” and “create a paradigm shift for tangible progress”.

“We must be honest with ourselves about how much progress we have actually achieved and how much further and faster we truly need to go,” he said. 

“Cop28 will have particular significance as it will mark the first global stocktake – a global comprehensive assessment of progress against the goals of the Paris agreement. 

“[But] we don’t need to wait for the stocktake to know what it will actually say. The world is playing catch-up when it comes to the key Paris goal of holding the temperature down to 1.5 degrees, and the hard reality is that in order to achieve this goal global emissions must fall 43 percent by 2030.” 

A period of economic and geopolitical uncertainty

Al Jaber told the Atlantic Council that the conversations about the Paris goal were coming at a time of economic uncertainty, heightened geopolitical tensions and increasing pressure on energy security. 

The Russia-Ukraine conflict and the resulting western sanctions, which prompted a spike in energy prices in Europe and the US, have fuelled debate on the urgency of climate action and development of renewable energy.

“We need to make transformational progress and for that to happen we must be prepared to transform the process with the support of all parties and stakeholders,” Al Jaber said.

Al Jaber called for scaling up of renewables, nuclear energy, hydrogen, carbon capture and energy efficiency – as well as new technologies yet to be deployed.

“Low-carbon growth is the future, but we must get there much faster,” he said. 

“We must triple renewable energy generation from eight to 23 terawatt-hours by 2030. We must more than double low-carbon hydrocarbon production to at least 180 million tonnes for hard-to-abate sectors.” 

As long as the world still uses hydrocarbons, they must be “the least carbon intensive possible”. 

“We will work with the energy industry on accelerating decarbonisation, reducing methane and expanding hydrogen,” he said.

“We are at a turning point in history. Reaching net zero emissions will deliver the biggest market transformation with the greatest economic and human promise since the first industrial revolution.”

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