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$100 billion promised by rich countries yet to be delivered: COP28 DG

New Delhi: The COP28 Presidency has expressed skepticism on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) claim that the rich nations likely met their old promise of mobilising $100 billion every year from 2020. In an interview on critical issues of climate negotiations ahead of COP28, COP28 Director General, Ambassador Majid Al Suwaidi who is in India this week to meet Indian negotiators said the COP28 presidency cannot say yet that the $100 billion has been delivered. Excerpts from interview.

COP28 Director General, Ambassador Majid Al Suwaidi (Photo courtesy: Ambassador’s office)

Q. Has the long promised $100 billion per year since 2020 been delivered by developed parties? The OECD said yesterday that they have likely delivered it last year.

A. We as COP 28 presidency cannot say now that the $100 billion has been delivered. That from our point of view is something that should change. We have called all the alarm, the COP28 President, Sultan Al Jaber has said several times that we need to see that $100 billion that was promised to be delivered. We understand that there are challenges to that. But we still think that there is time but in finance there is time for many things. There is time for replenishment of Green Climate Fund (GCF), for early pledges of Loss and Damage, there is still time for doubling of adaptation finance.There is still time for developed countries to step up and deliver on these old promises. Lets not forget what Loss and Damage is about. It’s about how we help people in vulnerable communities, how we help those in the poorest nations who have contributed the least, how we allow people in the developing world to lift people from poverty.

Q. Is there a way to verify if that $100 billion has come through?

A. It is not our job as presidency to check these things. We have called on those parties to show us how they can deliver on the $100 billion but as I said there is still time to do that.

Q. What is the progress on global stocktake (GST)? How do you think differences in the approach of developed and developing nations to the GST particularly on equity and historical responsibility can be reconciled?

A. The GST is a really critical part of this COP, not only because it’s the first GST and sets the precedence on how we move forward but also because we know we are off track. We feel that already we had some success on this front. When we started at the beginning of the year there was like a huge difference of opinion on what the GST even would be. From some people who thought it should be a one line that noted the report and from others who wanted to be a giant, detailed thing. What we have managed to do so far is to get parties much closer together. I think we have got acceptance on the forward looking components that it needs to say something about what we are going to do now. That’s what makes it a really powerful moment.There is no doubt that it is going to be a challenging part of the outcome. It needs to say how do we get back on track to keep global warming within 1.5 degree C; what are the things we are doing to get there and how are we doing that collectively.

Also Read: World failing to get a grip on the climate crisis, says UN chief on new report

Q. Are we likely to see any consensus language on phasing out/down all fossil fuels? Or will it be cushioned as phase out of unabated fossil fuels in the outcome from Dubai?

A. We know that this is a complicated issue for all parties. We have said from the beginning that this is a party driven process, our job is to get parties together to discuss and find consensus and we will see how that is addressed in the text. Its not our job to see what the COP should or shouldn’t be. What’s also important to think about is how we are addressing the issue of keeping global temperature rise under 1.5 degree C and the 22 GT emissions reductions needed; how do we get to where we want to be in a practical, realistic, honest and equitable way. How do we provide the finance for it? How do we make it about people and lives and livelihoods? For so long we have had exclusive conversations with certain subsets very focused on ideological principles and look where we are. This is a COP about the next 7 years so this cannot be a COP on points of principle but it should be about practical action.

3. The US has objected to the outcome on operationalising the Loss and Damage fund. Do you think the matter will be reopened at COP28?

A. We had a fantastic outcome from the Transitional Committee (on Loss and Damage) 5 meeting in Abu Dhabi. For us, it was a moment to celebrate. At the end of TC 4 everyone was convinced that this was not going to work and then our COP President, Sultan Al Jaber stepped in and said we are not going to let this happen. We are going to call for an exceptional extra meeting in Abu Dhabi…we delivered a result and these results are always challenging no matter what. Parties have the right to express their concerns or objections. In our subsequent conversations with the parties we felt they are much more comfortable now than they were and we think that agreement can be landed at COP28. Anything is possible at COP and we are not naive. Anything can be opened but we hope parties can rally together. We are focused on getting early pledges, early contributions so that we start to build that trust.

Q. What are your key challenges at COP28? Last year there was much debate on who pays for climate impacts with developed countries keen on expanding the donor base to include emerging economies.

A. This is always going to be a part of the conversation. We need to mobilise capital at scale. We know that there are studies that say we need to get to USD 2 to 4 trillion of annual investment and think that where possible many countries are stepping up and providing that finance. You can make a huge pot of money but if it cannot flow to where it needs to get to then it’s not serving our purpose. Lets focus on the problem which is availability, accessibility and affordability of finance. The GCF for example takes years to deliver, 7 years in some cases. By then economics of those projects would have changed. We need to have those conversations.

Q. What are your plans in India during your visit?

A. India is a key partner for us. India is the first country we went to visit after we got the Presidency and hopefully the last country that I am going to visit before COP28. It’s really about our strong ties and relationship with India. We feel very proud to have been a part of your G20 success story and we congratulate our Indian brothers and sisters on the really successful outcome. We think that we need to see some of that transferred to COP particularly on tripling of renewables and climate outcomes. I am engaging with our Indian counterparts to see how we can make COP a success. We hope India takes a leadership position at COP28 showing the amazing, innovative things happening here.

Q. Do you think the perception of UAE’s image as a major fossil fuel producer and hence incapable of ambitious action on climate change has changed now?

A. What I really hope is that the global community comes to the UAE and sees that the UAE is not what they expect. We are diverse. We have more than 200 nationalities. We are embracing a new future but we did not come to that yesterday. We have had a zero flaring policy since 1978. Our founding father was an advocate of sustainable development. We have grown our country from the oil and gas sector. But our leadership has understood from day 1 that this is a natural resource that we need to use for the betterment of people. We were pearl divers before moving to oil and gas. We lost the economy when Japan invented the artificial pearl. Those same people who founded our country and know dependence on a natural resource can be lost due to technology. So they have invested in diversification. When we said we want to have a tourism industry in Dubai everyone criticised us and look at Dubai today. Around 70% of our economy today is non-oil and gas. When we said we want to have a renewable energy company and now MASDAR is one of the largest investors in renewables globally. When we said we wanted to host the COP, everyone criticised us (laughs). We are not the first fossil fuel country to host a COP, there have been many in the past. We are a vulnerable country, our climate, the fact that we have to get food from around the world, the fact that we have water scarcity. We understand issues of developing countries clearly because 50 years ago our citizens were living in the same vulnerable situation.

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