Excellencies, it is a pleasure to join you today. I would like to thank Secretary General Guterres for convening us. And allow me to thank the moderators of today’s sessions Laurence Tubiana,Pablo Vieira and Fatih Birol. Being here in this chamber, it is impossible not to be inspired.
For nearly 80 years, the United Nations has brought the world together around the principles of peace, security, and human dignity on a healthy planet. Its founders urged the world to think beyond borders, beyond politics, and beyond our own lifetimes.
Today, in the face of climate change, I urge all of you to reaffirm those same principles. Climate change is our common enemy and we must unite to fight it. As the recent report on the Global Stocktake confirmed, the world is falling short and we are running short on time. But it’s not too late to correct course. We know the size of the problem. 22 gigatons. That’s the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we need to cut in the next 7 years to keep 1.5 within reach.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of this challenge, to feel hopeless in the face of the hottest year in history and the devastation of Derna. Yet we must remember that we are not powerless. When we act with solidarity, we can overcome even the most daunting challenges. This is what gives me hope.
I believe that in the face of the climate crisis, we can - and we WILL - rediscover humanity’s greatest strength: our capacity to collaborate, to overcome differences, and to harness the power of collective action. That’s precisely what we aim to achieve through the COP28 Action Agenda. We are going after gigatons. And we need everyone on board.
The first pillar of this agenda is aimed at eliminating those 22 gigatons as part of a fair, just and well managed energy transition. The phase down of fossil fuels is inevitable. It is in fact essential, and it must go hand-in-hand with a rapid phase up of zero carbon alternatives. Our plan calls for a massive expansion of renewable energy- tripling capacity by 2030. And this call to action is gathering momentum. First the European Commission Presidency signed up. Then Kenya. Then the African Union Commission. And most recently, the G20. This is a good start that we must build on.
We need to slash permitting timelines and supercharge investment in battery storage. And we must not overlook the power of efficiency, as the simplest, cheapest and fastest way to bring down emissions. At the same time, we need to be brutally honest about what it will take to transition heavy emitting sectors. There are 5,500 steel, cement and aluminum plants in the world. None of them can run on renewables alone. Hydrogen can help, if governments set smart policies to bring costs down, scale up the necessary infrastructure and put unifying market standards and specifications in place. And, as we build an energy system free of all unabated fossil fuels, including coal, we must rapidly and comprehensively decarbonize the energies we use today. That’s why I have called on the oil and gas industry to step up, eliminate methane emissions by 2030 and demonstrate clear net zero pathways by or before 2050.
Excellencies, let me be candid. Some say that you can have it all. Zero carbon economic growth with no up front costs. There is a cost either way. We must be honest and sober about this fact. Doing this right will cost trillions between 4 and 5 trillion dollars annually.
It will mean making tough choices. But doing nothing, or not doing enough will come with dramatically greater costs in human life and socio-economic development. That’s why I have been consistently calling for a pro-climate and pro-growth approach. This makes fixing climate finance critical. This must be the year that the $100 billion pledge is finally fulfilled.
And, we must go much further. If we are to unlock TRILLIONS, we need to unleash the full potential of private capital. To do this we need to reform outdated international financial institutions. Recapatilize their balance sheets. And unlock more concessional finance. In short, we need to create an ecosystem where finance is more available, more accessible and more affordable.
And this brings me to our third pillar. Over the past 9 months, I’ve seen first-hand that climate action is primarily about people, lives and livelihoods. From the young entrepreneur I met in Nairobi to the bright young students of Bangladesh. From the Indigenous community leaders of the Amazon to the shop owners right here in New York City.
People everywhere want the same things. Clean water. Clean air. Economic opportunity. Safety in the storm.
In other words, it’s not enough to focus on future climate risks, we need to deal with the climate impacts that are with us right now. Nature can help. When we protect our ecosystems, they protect us. This is why we are calling for countries to embed nature-positive investments in national climate strategies. At the same time, we must find a way to feed a growing population without overheating the planet.
I call on countries to sign up to the COP28 Declaration on Food, Agriculture, and Climate to help transform food systems for the health of the planet and its people. In addition, COP28 will be the first to put global health on the climate agenda by hosting the first climate health Ministerial, in partnership with the World Health Organization. Roughly a million lives a year could be saved worldwide by 2050 through air pollution reduction efforts alone. All of this requires funding which we should view as investments not costs. That’s why we are calling on countries to double adaptation finance by 2025, replenish the Green Climate Fund, and operationalize the fund for Loss and Damage with early pledges.
Excellencies, the final pillar of my action agenda is full inclusivity. Climate change does not recognize political divisions or national boundaries. It affects everyone, everywhere. The size of the challenge requires everyone to show up. That’s why, in partnership with Mike Bloomberg, I’m inviting 1000 mayors to share what’s working at the local level in a special summit at COP28.
We need the energy and voices of our youth. We need the talent and capital of businesses and philanthropies. We need the wisdom of Indigenous Peoples. All faiths, all communities, all peoples, working together- one planet, one ambition.
Excellencies, I want everyone who intends to come to COP28 to come with hope, with optimism and the will to deliver real results. Together, lets turn pledges into projects and let’s turn ambition into action. Let’s be brave. Let’s be bold. Let’s go after gigatons, Let’s activate a truly global response to the global stocktake,and lets unite, lets act, and lets deliver. Thank You.
H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber,
President-Designate for COP28 UAE