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Emirati Hosts Want UN Climate Talks to Deliver ‘Game-Changing Results,’ With Big Oil at the Table

BERLIN (AP) — A senior United Arab Emirates official says the Gulf nation wants the UN climate summit it’s hosting later this year to deliver “game-changing results” for international efforts to curb global warming, but doing so will require having the fossil fuel industry at the table.

Environmental campaigners have slammed the presence of oil and gas lobbyists at previous rounds of talks, warning that their interests are opposed to the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions — caused to a large degree by the burning of fossil fuels. Last month scores of US and European lawmakers called for the summit’s designated chair, Sultan al-Jaber, to be replaced over his links to the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

The issue complicates already-delicate negotiations ahead of the Nov. 30-Dec. 12 meeting in Dubai, known as COP28. Preliminary talks starting next week in Bonn, Germany, will show whether the incoming UAE presidency can overcome skepticism among parties and civil society groups about its ability to shepherd nearly 200 nations toward a landmark deal.

“Our leadership has been very clear to me and our team and our president that they don’t want just another COP that’s incremental,” said Majid al-Suwaidi, who as director-general of the summit plays a key role in the diplomatic negotiations. “They want a COP that is going to deliver real, big, game-changing results because they see, just like all of us, that we’re not on track to achieve the goals of Paris.”

Governments agreed eight years ago in the French capital to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) — ideally no more than 1.5C (2.7F). With average global temperatures already about 1.2C (2.2F) above pre-industrial levels, experts say the window to meet the more ambitious target is closing fast and even the less stringent target would be missed if emissions aren’t slashed sharply soon.

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“We need to have everybody at the table discussing with us about how to deliver that,” al-Suwaidi told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

“We need to have oil and gas, we need to have industry, we need to have aviation, we need to have shipping, we need to have all the hard to abate sectors,” he said, adding: “We need all those who can deliver what they can, regardless of who they are.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the position of the sector has completely changed and that they are engaging with us in an active conversation,” he said.

“We welcome any kind of discussion,” said the UAE’s former ambassador to Spain. “But the parties are the ones who will decide what that discussion is and where we land.”

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this year called for a nearly two-thirds cut in carbon emissions by 2035, warning that failure to do so greatly increases the risk of droughts, flooding, sea-level rise and other short- and long-term disasters.

Al-Suwaidi, who also has a background in the oil and gas sector, said the UAE leadership is acutely aware of the existential threat global warming poses — including to their own sun-rich but water-poor nation — and is committed to shifting from fossil fuels towards renewable energy such as wind and solar.

“We want to be part of this new economy,” he said. “We’re a country that’s running head first into this future.”

“Rather than talking about what we’re stopping people from doing, let’s talk about how we’re helping them to take up solutions … that are going to help us to address the emissions problem we have,” he said.

The talks in Dubai will also see countries conduct the first ‘global stocktake’ of efforts to tackle climate change since Paris in 2015. The results are meant to inform a new round of commitments by nations to cut emissions and address the impacts of global warming.

“We need the developing world to leapfrog into this new climate system and we need to support that transition for them,” said al-Suwaidi. “Finance is going to be really fundamental at COP28.”

“They have the technology. They have the know-how. They have the financial capability. We need them to take that leadership role and show us seriousness about addressing this challenge.

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