COP28 is the last chance for course correction, warns World Energy Council Chief

November 28, 2023 | By Rupkatha B

COP28 is the last chance for course correction, warns World Energy Council Chief

The upcoming COP28 is the world’s last chance to rectify its climate course, cautioned Dr Angela Wilkinson, Secretary General and CEO, World Energy Council.

Let’s take a quick look at the state of global environmental affairs in 2023 caused by ‘climate change’. Extreme heat to unexpected snowfall in parts of the US, wildfires in Canada and heatwaves across Europe. ‘Cyclone Freddy’ impacted many lives in Malawi and Mozambique. India, Pakistan, Nepal, South Korea, Japan and The Philippines have all experienced deadly floods. The Middle East and North Africa hasn’t been spared as countries including Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Kuwait have clocked record-high temperatures caused by sweltering heat.

If the World Meteorological Organization is to be believed July was the “hottest month” in recorded history. Adding further gloom to the already concerning situation, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “the era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived,” calling for immediate and bold action to reduce planet-heating emissions.

Its undeniable that climate change is a global emergency and will require collaborative effort to prevent further calamities. Especially at a time when the world stands at the brink of surpassing the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming threshold set by the Paris Agreement. For perspective on where we stand, this year the ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ fell on August 2 marking the date when our demand surpassed the earth’s biocapacity. What that means is we will be depleting the earth’s resources further for the remaining months of the year.

“Merely 7% of the world’s energy system comprises wind and solar energy, and only 2% of personal vehicles are electric. The pace of decarbonisation is much slower than necessary, and over 3 billion people worldwide lack sufficient access to affordable energy,” Dr Wilkinson pointed out.

Urgent action is imperative before climate change causes further existential threats impeding health, economies and ecosystems. A ray of hope is the fact that the first “global stocktake” on the Paris Agreement goals are slated to take place this year at COP28 – Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – with an aim to encourage nations to take immediate climate action to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“In our search for solutions, we must take stock of our expectations. COP28 represents the last chance for course correction. Our focus should be on redesigning the entire energy system and humanising the energy challenge. There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” she added.

Talking about COP28, it holds a special significance for the UAE as the country has prepared tirelessly to host this global event in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023. Covering some crucial aspects to drive meaningful climate action, COP28 President Designate Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber has focused on four Fs: fast-tracking the transition to a low-carbon world; fixing climate finance; focusing on people, lives and livelihoods; and full inclusivity.

Determined to alter the current state of affairs, the UAE and other GCC nations have started taking tangible measures to reinforce climate action as a strategic priority. To name a few, the UAE has committed to net zero emissions by 2050, becoming the first country in the MENA region to do so, and declared 2023 as the ‘Year of Sustainability’ ahead of COP28. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has committed to net zero emissions by 2060 and aims to produce 10 gigawatts of the country’s total power from renewable energy sources. Ahead of COP27 that took place in Sharm-El-Sheikh in 2022, Egypt launched the ‘Nexus of Water, Food and Energy’ (NWFE) programme linking three critical sectors in a structured manner.

Together with the public sector entities, private sector organisations are also making commitments to create an ecologically balanced, inclusive future.

“Reflecting on the last century, we must adopt a different perspective and consider the broader picture. Future and foresight are critical to energy transition. We need to bridge the gap between climate catastrophism and technological hyperbolism, fostering a new middle movement that considers what is both desirable and realistic,” Dr Wilkinson concluded.

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