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COP28 Director-General speaks to CNN less than 100 days ahead of climate conference

Less than one hundred days from now, world leaders will come together in Dubai for COP28, hoping to reach an agreement on the next steps to preserve the planet. The UAE and the UN have laid out four key priorities for this year’s conference: fast tracking the energy transition, focusing on lives and livelihoods, inclusivity and climate finance.

CNN’s Becky Anderson spoke with COP28’s Director-General Majid Al Suwaidi about the massive challenges that we are facing.

Key quotes from Al Suwaidi:

On climate finance overall:

“We’ve been traveling around the world engaging with many different stakeholders, talking about what are the challenges that they face, and it comes down to a desire to take action. But in many cases, that means that we need to provide the finances for them to do so. And particularly in the developing world where they’re trying to grapple with development challenges, we need to make sure that finance is made more available, more accessible, and importantly, more affordable.”

On the UAE calling for progress on debt distress for vulnerable countries and increased financing by the private sector:

“We need to look hard at how we are providing finance globally and ensuring that finance is encouraging and boosting climate action in a way that makes sense. As you’ve rightly pointed out, we need to get to trillions of dollars of investment.

So we need that concessional finance from governments. We need that reform of the international financial institutions particularly to get the finance to the developing world. And then we need to use that to leverage the private sector. And we’ve been engaging very closely with many of the big financial institutions to try to see how we can have that the deployment of finance in the developing world where frankly, the emissions growth is going to be the most in the coming years.”

On the UAE’s moves regarding the energy transition pillar:

“We can’t address the emissions problem that we have without addressing the energy problem. And that is that we have an energy system today, that’s carbon intensive, and we need to move to a future energy system that is cleaner, and that is more net zero. To do that, we need to build up the new energy system that we want to move to.

So that’s why we have this tripling of renewable energy target. We have a doubling of hydrogen. Zero methane by 2030, we’ve set out very clear standards, which by the way, are based on actions that we’re taking at home. And then we need to decarbonize the energy system that we have today. And so how are we taking actions to decarbonize oil and gas to decarbonize heavy industry, those sectors that are emitting the most.

Today in the UAE, we have Masdar, one of the largest investors in renewable energy globally, and we have three of the largest lowest-cost solar projects in the world, in a country that is an oil and gas exporter. We’ve done this. We know that it works on the ground, and we hope that others will join us to deliver on the actions that we’re taking home in the UAE already.”

On the argument for having representatives of the fossil fuel industry at COP28:

“So we need to start to think about what should we be doing differently that will get us there. But we can’t do this with an exclusive kind of conversation. We need to have an inclusive conversation, one that includes NGOs, civil society, indigenous people, activists, but one that also includes industry, CEOs, leaders, those who have the resources, the technology, the engineers, the ability to make the changes, and to help us to solve these quite frankly, hard conversations.

We as a COP Presidency, are COP Presidency of the UAE. And yes, our oil and gas company is part of a group of companies who are working with us to try to find solutions […] We’re saying everybody is welcome to come to the UAE, but when they come, we want to make sure that they are bringing their solutions. They’re bringing their ideas, and we’re setting a very high bar for how they can participate in COP28.

2030 is seven years away. And so we need to have practical and honest conversations about how we’re going to get there. And we can only do that if we bring everybody on board.”

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