COP28 Abu Dhabi 2023

The UAE is preparing to host the world’s largest environmental event toward the end of 2023.

COP 28 is going to be an ideal opportunity not only for the UAE to showcase its fine accomplishments, but also, much like COP 27, for world leaders to meet up. The conference will focus on some of the most pressing environmental challenges faced by the humanity, and its organizers hope to wrap up COP 28 with some solid results in the form of roadmaps to address the world’s existing ecological issues, if not fully-fledged accords. COP events have a reputation for delivering tangible outcomes, as was proven during COP 26 in Glasgow, in the UK, which influenced our view of climate change. However, this edition of COP is supposed to deliver more real results than any previous one. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the country’s foreign minister, has called COP 28 a “solutions COP.”

This year’s COP will be the 28th of its kind held by the United Nations within its Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Starting in 1995, the annual event is the conference of the parties (COP) signatory to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. Its main purpose is to find practical ways to fight climate change, while comparing notes on the experiences that member states may have had in this regard. COP has been receiving more media coverage in recent years, as more world leaders have started to attend.

The UAE expressed interest to host the COP in 2021. The country saw itself as a worthy candidate to host such a high-profile ecological gathering as it is a regional example for the feasibility of achieving net zero emissions. The UAE plans to achieve this sometime before 2050, per its 2050 Net Zero Pathway policy. If the UAE can accomplish this feat in one of the most challenging ecosystems in the world, there is no reason that others should not be able to follow suit. Another factor working in the UAE’s favor was its whooping USD50 billion investment in renewable energy, with the promise of yet another USD50 billion coming by 2030.

The UAE’s hosting of COP 28 has a strong symbolic significance. The UAE has a challenging—albeit beautiful—environment. Nevertheless, the country has managed to achieve surprising levels of economic development since the 1990s. The UAE has had laws for eco-friendly practices in place since 1989, meaning that the country’s well documented economic miracle happened while being mindful of the climate. This is a departure from the old scenario that many economies from the East to the West have followed: to put extra pressure on the ecosystem for a while to lift the economy off the ground and become mindful of climatic issues only when the economy is up and running. We now know that an economic transformation can be eco-friendly from the outset, and the UAE is a case in point.

There is already a growing agenda for COP 28. One of the goals is to create a framework to secure over USD100 billion from high-income nations to cover certain adaptation costs—a goal that has not been achieved since 2009. This framework will certainly be created during COP 28, helping the financing of adaptation plans, especially in less privileged parts of the world with a significant population whose livelihood directly depends on the climate such as subsistence farmers. More importantly, the World Bank’s participation in climate-related projects will be settled during COP 28. With the World Bank accepting a role in the funding of climatic projects, such enterprises will become more financially feasible than ever.

As the grand opening approaches, several announcements have been made with regard to the officials in charge of the conference. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who simultaneously serves as the UAE’s minister of industry, the country’s special envoy for climate change, and the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), has been appointed as COP 28’s president designate. Two female officials have been also named as COP 28’s climate change champions: Shamma Al Mazrui, who is currently the country’s minister of youth affairs, and Razan Al Mubarak, the managing director of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD). “One World,” meanwhile, has been announced as the conference’s motto.

EAD, incidentally, is Abu Dhabi’s go-to organization for environmental matters. It is widely regarded as the largest environmental regulator in the Middle East. “Being the largest environmental regulator in the region brings added responsibilities and expectations. We are conscious of that; however, we are also conscious of our larger goals and responsibilities: to protect our biodiversity, soil, air, and water resources and to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts,” said the organization’s secretary, Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri. And the hosting of COP 28 by the UAE will be an opportunity for the country to share such visions with hundreds of delegations from the rest of the world starting in November.