Dubai gears up for COP28, amid fresh controversy surrounding UAE presidency

Concerns about weakened trust in the COP process among delegates attending the climate talks are mounting. Some say they have doubts if substantial outcomes can be reached amid a contentious presidency, but hope to be “proven wrong”.

As the world's highest decision-making process on climate issues, COP28 is expected to host over 70,000 delegates, including heads of state and world leaders, in Dubai. Image: Alex Block / Unsplash

As the city of Dubai prepares to welcome more than 70,000 delegates from across the globe attending the fortnight-long COP28 climate talks, a fresh round of controversy has hit the United Arab Emirates COP presidency, casting a long shadow over its reputation and creating doubts about the legitimacy of its leadership. 

According to reports based on documents obtained by independent journalists at the Centre for Climate Reporting working alongside the BBC, the UAE’s COP28 team had been preparing “talking points” for meetings with at least 27 foreign governments. 

One for China says that Adnoc, the UAE’s state oil firm which COP president Sultan Al Jaber also leads as company chief executive, is “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG [liquefied natural gas] opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada and Australia. Al Jaber’s dual role has been criticised widely as a conflict of interest. 

Yet the stakes are high for this year’s COP negotiations, with the United Nations’ top climate official Simon Stiell warning that world leaders must “stop dawdling and start doing” on carbon emission cuts. COP veterans and observers have been much more measured about whether the world can realistically limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, although officially, the target is kept alive. 

Ahead of the talks, delegates travelling to attend COP28 tell Eco-Business that they are still willing to participate in the process, but not without doubt about its effectiveness.

Quetin Fouesnant, managing director of climate technology start-up Zuno Carbon, said that action and stricter targets will be critical at COP28, though he isn’t optimistic about this year’s summit achieving substantial outcomes. 

“I partly lost faith that the process would have a tangible impact on climate change,” he said. “Increasingly, I know a lot of people [going to COP] can relate to this feeling. I hope COP28 can prove me wrong.” 

Sharad Somani, who leads on climate change and sustainability at professional services firm KPMG, said that past COPs have already been increasingly tedious, and showed that getting all the countries to come to a consensus on a common agenda and “sign on the dotted line” is not an easy task. 

Somani, however, said that there are positive signs that dynamics are shifting such that corporations are taking a stronger lead on climate action at COP. “What has happened is that the private sector has now come forward to say: we are ready to put weight behind some of the initiatives and measures that we have committed to.” 

Last month, a group of 131 firms, worth US$987 billion in combined annual revenue, signed an open letter to world leaders calling for them to commit to a full phase-out of fossil fuels at COP28. The letter states that businesses are feeling the impacts and cost of increasing extreme weather events resulting from climate change, and that a full phase-out of unabated fossil fuels to halve emissions this decade could boost global gross domestic product (GDP) by 4 per cent. 

Youth advocate and entrepreneur Simarna Singh told Eco-Business that the controversies and discussions around the interests of the world’s richest oil states has, in a way, shed light on the issue of how hard it will be for economies that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels to be part of the conversation on climate action.

She argued that these economies and industries should not be excluded or isolated from negotiations. “It is an opportunity to explore collaborative ways to quicken the transition…and to seek alternative technologies, so that we can achieve a net-zero future.”

COP28 will convene from this Thursday to 12 December. 

Key issues that will be discussed at the UN climate summit:

Global Stocktake 

The UN’s Global Stocktake is the first five-yearly review of countries’ progress towards meeting climate goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. The report of the stocktake, published on 8 September, found that climate action has proved insufficient to keep the global temperature rise in line with long-term targets. Nearly 200 countries meeting at COP28 will have to discuss what individual countries can do to scale up climate action. The process is akin to taking inventory and looking at where the world stands on climate action. 

Loss and damage

The world agreed to set up a loss and damage fund at last year’s COP, but countries need to come to an agreement on how much money will go to the fund at COP28, as well as hash out details on who will contribute. The funds are intended to pay for the costly consequences of extreme weather events, whose impacts disproportionately affects poorer nations. The World Bank is the provisional host of the fund and prefers to provide loans rather than grants for this purpose. Developing countries in the Global South have said they prefer an independent body to host the fund. 

Fossil fuel phaseout? 

The proposition to phase out all fossil fuels was a sticking point between developed and developing countries at COP27 in Egypt. The COP28 President has said several times that a phase “down” of all fossil fuels is “inevitable,” but the extent to which the call to phase out all fossil fuels at the COP28 will be supported will be a major question. 

Parties are likely to call for the tripling of renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and a reduction in methane emission. All of these points were raised by Al Jaber in a letter issued to all Parties, indicating they will be a priority for the Presidency.

Most popular

Featured Events

Publish your event
leaf background pattern

Transforming Innovation for Sustainability Join the Ecosystem →