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A group of countries led by Germany and Canada has called on the United Arab Emirates, host of the UN’s climate summit COP28, to focus on the phaseout of all fossil fuels in which the emissions are not captured.
Sultan Al Jaber, president-designate of COP28, is expected to outline a plan for the summit, due to take place in Dubai in December, as climate ministers from G20 countries meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
In a letter published in the Financial Times ahead of the ministerial meeting, Germany’s climate envoy Jennifer Morgan, her Kenyan counterpart Ali Mohamed, Canada’s environment minister Steven Guilbeault, Belgium’s climate minister Zakia Khattabi and Austria’s minister for climate action Leonore Gewessler said COP28 would “not be easy” but warned countries were facing “catastrophic human, environmental and economic losses” without urgent action.
“In the face of killer heatwaves, raging wildfires and torrential floods, we must all do more, faster to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis,” they wrote.
Temperatures have already risen by at least 1.1C since pre-industrial times, leading to a cascade of weather events of increasing intensity this year.
The climate leaders called for COP28 to focus on “three broad criteria”.
These include the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels, while at the same time tripling global deployment of renewables by 2030 to reach 12 terawatts of installed capacity and improving energy efficiency.
The letter also advocated for a renewed focus on financing to deal with climate change and the energy transition, including “ambitious replenishments” of the Green Climate Fund, the UN body that finances clean energy and climate resilience projects in developing countries.
The loss and damage fund, which was agreed at last year’s COP27 in Egypt, also needed to be up and running, they added.
Canada, a major oil and gas producer, has suffered from the consequences of unusual weather conditions since June. They have fuelled wildfires that are still sweeping through British Columbia.
On Wednesday, Guilbeault announced Canada would commit C$450mn ($340mn) to the Green Climate Fund, compared with its 2019 C$300mn pledge. He encouraged “other contributors, traditional and new”, to also “raise their ambition” and commit more funds.
Climate finance must be a central part of the conversation at COP28, Guilbeault added, and progress must be made at the summit on the reform of multilateral institutions to make them better able to support vulnerable nations on climate.
The UAE’s role in COP28 has been the subject of intense scrutiny. A group of US and EU lawmakers and campaigners have raised questions about the suitability of a petrostate hosting the annual climate negotiations. In recent weeks, Al Jaber has been under pressure to set out his vision for the agenda at the summit.
In recent speeches, he has emphasised the need to triple renewable energy capacity and increase energy efficiency, but he has shied away from giving a timeline for a phaseout of fossil fuels.
Jaber, who leads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, is expected to focus on decarbonisation at COP28. The FT has previously reported that the UAE is working on an alliance of the oil and gas industry and attempting to draw in other polluting industries in order to focus on decarbonisation through the use of carbon capture and storage technology, which remains unproven at scale.
Guilbeault on Wednesday said a “great disappointment” of COP27 and the recent Bonn UN climate talks in June was “how little progress we’re making on mitigation”.
“We can’t solve climate change unless we have an ambitious mitigation agenda,” he said.
The ministers’ letter to the FT, which was also signed by Ralph Regenvanu, climate minister from the vulnerable island of Vanuatu, and Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi, said: “We believe the COP28 summit in Dubai can be a success if, as . . . al-Jaber says, the world unites and agrees to work together for the common good.”
They added: “The world cannot afford the COP28 summit to fail.”