COP28 Day One – Opening Welcome Plenary Address by Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company; COP28 President

By SGA Executive Director, Gary Cuneen

COP28 has officially begun, with outgoing COP27 President Sameh Shoukry highlighting progress since 2022 but providing a somber assessment of progress and warning of solutions based on speculation, increasing oil and gas exploration and the urgency to act with speed. COP28 President Al Jaber began with underscoring the significance of the Global Stocktake – the UN’s means for generating transparency in relation to NDCs and actual emissions reductions – and that COP28 if successful will increase mitigation and adaptation and implementation, particularly around finance.

COP28 President, Sultan Al Jaber

President Al Jaber pledged to run an inclusive and transparent process and asked for people to keep an open mind and develop a different mindset. Al Jaber underscored that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reflects the spirt that COP28 needs, including partnership, commitment, trust, purpose, pragmatism and a laser focus on staying within 1.5 degrees Celsius. He stated that no issue will be left off the table, and that there is room for the inclusion of the role of fossil fuels (a statement countered by the UNFCCC president).

President Al Jaber emphasized several times the importance of finance for COP28, including making good on the Loss & Damage Fund and developing new frameworks and institutions for global climate finance so the global south doesn’t have to choose between development and climate. President Al Jaber underscored that this will be the first COP to host a climate and health program emphasis, underscoring the need to address water, food, agriculture and health issues in relation to climate. He called for the tripling of renewable energy by 2030 and the doubling of energy efficiency by 2030. He encouraged oil and gas companies to establish net zero emissions goals and stated that the Methane strategy and coalition movement is critical to meeting short-term goals.

Perhaps defining his unique position as an oil executive and COP28 president, Al Jaber positioned himself as a bridge between oil & gas and climate solutions and said the negotiations will be difficult. He emphasized the need to “bring back trust in multinationalism, a no-nonsense approach with no delays and the need to follow through on commitments.” In the end, he said this task is about “saving and improving lives…it’s about people.”

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell, to the contrary, stated that we need to terminate fossil fuels or risk terminating our lives. He announced that 2024 will produce the first biennial transparency report, and that in 2025 countries will be required to deliver new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs- ghg reduction goals). Lastly, he concurred with President Al Jaber, stating that everything we do must be aligned with staying within 1.5 degrees Celsius.