After the Hottest Month in History, We Need to Do More

5 minute read
Sultan Al Jaber, Ph.D., is the president-designate of COP28, the UAE’s minister for industry and advanced technology, special envoy for climate, chairman of Masdar, and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)

Our planet is getting hotter. A lot hotter. The Earth is experiencing temperatures not seen in 125,000 years and the impact is clear: wildfires from the Mediterranean to Canada that have released a staggering 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. And our weather is becoming more violent. Pakistan is still recovering from devastating floods last year, which claimed thousands of lives and damaged or destroyed 2.2 million homes. Europe alone suffered an estimated 60,000-plus heat-related deaths in 2022.

The entire international community must unite and commit to corrective action. In late July, I met in India with ministers from the G20 group of developed and major developing nations. Together these countries produce 85% of the world’s economic output and 80% of its CO2 emissions, putting them firmly in the driving seat of our collective response to climate change. Without the collective leadership of the G20, the world will remain hostage to climate inaction. With just over 100 days until this year’s COP28 meeting in the UAE, we all need to step up, make the necessary commitments and unite in concerted action.

Let me be honest: I never expected COP28 to be easy. But we all know that the later we agree and act, the harder and more expensive it will be to decarbonize our economies and embrace the green innovations and opportunities that will drive the jobs and prosperity of the future.

We cannot afford any further delay. In a few weeks, the first Global Stocktake—a process for countries and stakeholders to see where they’re collectively making progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement—will make for dire reading. We hardly need a report to tell us we’re way off track.

Yet I am optimistic that, together, we can still seize the moment and keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C within reach, if we act with unprecedented unity and solidarity. Containing climate change is a political, technological, and engineering challenge that requires a political, technological, and engineering response.

First, we need to fast-track the transformation of the world’s energy system through a just and orderly transition, with a rapid phase-up of renewable energy as we build towards an energy system free of all unabated fossil fuels. Between now and 2030, that means tripling global renewable capacity to 11,000 GW, more than eight times the total generating capacity of the U.S.

Oil and gas companies must align around net zero, eradicating methane emissions by 2030 and aligning themselves to Net Zero emissions by or before 2050. The phasing down of fossil fuels is inevitable, essential and it must be responsible. In parallel, we need to double production of low-carbon hydrogen, a fuel crucial to decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors like cement, steel, and aluminum.

Second, we need to upgrade our climate-finance architecture to unlock the public and private capital required for the transition – the developing world alone requires trillions of dollars of annual investment. The starting point must be restoring trust in the multilateral system. We need to bring private capital at scale through new innovative financing solutions in the developing world. I am confident, as I continue speaking to colleagues across the globe, that we can make good on the historic $100 billion of financing commitments to developing countries this year and continue to get significant finance flowing into the emerging and developing world.  

And third, we need to rethink the way we produce and consume food. Currently, our entire food system—from plant to platter—is responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to switch to farming that works with nature, not against it, that stores carbon, not emits it, that regenerates soil, not degrades it. And all while providing enough for all of us to eat.

Success in each area rests on leveraging every tool at our disposal—slashing red tape around everything from rooftop solar to deep-sea floating wind-farms; upgrading power grids to make them smarter, more interconnected and more flexible; deploying low-carbon baseload power like nuclear; building high-quality voluntary carbon markets; promoting the use of organic fertilizer.

Such enormous steps will push the limits of what is physically, financially, and politically feasible. Yet with the collective will of governments, the private sector, and each and every one of us, we can make it happen.

We must unite

I’m hopeful that over the coming months we will find agreement. After all, we share the same goal: to safeguard a world that we all want to live in. A world where fewer people die from heat stress; where natural disasters cause fewer casualties; where crops endure through drought; where infrastructure is climate-proof; and where climate finance is accessible, available and affordable for all.

The priorities are clear. We have to fast-track a just and orderly energy transition; fix climate finance; focus on lives and livelihoods; and mobilize the most inclusive COP. I urge my fellow leaders to set aside their differences, work together for the collective good and—trusting science as our guide—commit to a course that keeps 1.5C within reach.

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