Climate Change and the UAE

Yes, really, Dubai is hosting the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 28) from the end of November 2023.

80,000 delegates will descend on Dubai Expo, purpose built for the covid delayed Expo 2020. Perhaps you were surprised or even distraught that a region known for its reliance upon oil & gas with plans to exponentially extend production would have the brio to bring the imperative of decarbonisation into its backyard.

To some commentators, the appointment of Sultan Ahmed al Jabar as the COP28 President was met with disbelief & dismay given his day job is CEO of ADNOC; one of the Emirates largest oil & gas operators. Critics allege that this COP, the first to measure all participants performance since the Paris accord was signed in 2015, will be a farce & simply a multi-billion dollar image washing exercise by a region in love with hydrocarbons.

All perfectly reasonable accusations, except that we predict a very different rationale and set of outcomes for COP28. Delving deeper into Mr Jaber’s activities as COP president and his resume gives us some helpful hints of what’s to come. First, he’s been clocking some serious airmiles for the last year or so visiting his critics as well as his fellow OPEC members – his grasp of the real issues; renewables, carbon capture, storage technology to name but two is reputed to be prodigious.

More important still is his little known track record in renewable energy – founding Masdar in 2006, he now presides over a vast solar and wind operation present in over 40 countries. But perhaps the most mission critical strength Jabar has and indeed the region exhibits in hosting COP is the very thing that so many have criticised; The Middle East may well be the cause of considerable climate change but it is also central to the solution. It has the power & wealth to drive lasting change globally & influence others to adapt. The contrarian in us notes that it is more motivated than any non oil & gas nation could ever be to see a move to renewables and away from fossil fuels as this secures the region’s survival in the face of crystal clear evidence that climate change is real & worsening. The detractors suggest that COP28 is only about securing an energy status quo. We predict they couldn’t be more wrong….