- Where the sky is no limit
Where the sky is no limit
The United Arab Emirates is taking the lead in the latest round of UN climate change negotiations and, with a strong history of seizing opportunities, it is well placed to make progress
Dubai has come a long way over the last 200 years: Once a fishing village ringed by an oval mud wall with barely a thousand souls, according to a British naval survey of 1822, today it is a regional hub, a metropolis of 3.5 million people and home to the tallest building in the world – the half-mile high Burj Khalifa. Soaring 200 floors into the sky and clad in 330,000 m3 of concrete, 40,000 tonnes of steel and 100,000m2 of shimmering glass, it is the embodiment of modern Arab ambition.
That ambition in trade and tourism is now filling the arena of international relations, as the OPEC Fund member country United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts the latest UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) at a truly pivotal moment: The first Global Stocktake – a process for countries and stakeholders to see where they’re collectively making progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and where they’re not – is scheduled to conclude at this year’s conference. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell calls it a “moment for course correction,” an opportunity to ramp up ambition to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. The stocktake itself isn’t the game changer – it’s the global response to it that will make all the difference, says the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change.
The question now is, how can “we” maintain that momentum? How do we turn commitments into projects that will make a real difference to vulnerable people on the frontline of climate change? How can we make the concept of a Just Transition a reality for all?
Following last year’s milestone participation at COP27 in Sharm ElSheikh, Egypt, where the OPEC Fund led several high-level events featuring Director-General Abdulhamid Alkhalifa, senior management, ministers from partner countries from all over the world and various heads of global organizations, the institution now plans to step up and achieve even more — and to do so with the help of our friends.
Highlights this year include high-level discussions on flagship initiatives and announcements with, among others, the COP28 Presidency, the UNFCCC and the UN Climate Champions Team, a group of designated “climate ambassadors” who serve as liaisons between government and other stakeholders such as civil society organizations.
A range of side events and other initiatives are also planned with international partners including the Arab Coordination Group (ACG), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
In partnership with IRENA, and alongside senior leadership from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), renewable energy developer Masdar and global reinsurer Swiss Re, OPEC Fund senior management will speak on a roundtable that will showcase successful projects from the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing (ETAF) platform.
The roundtable will showcase the socio-economic and environmental impacts of projects launched within the platform, emphasizing how renewable energy initiatives can improve the lives and economies of local communities. The event will also discuss how these projects are contributing to the UN Paris Agreement goals and broader efforts to speed up the global energy transition. Finally, the hosts will invite feedback about the platform from attendees and encourage developers to submit new project proposals.
Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA, gave a snapshot of the innovative financing platform during the OPEC Fund Development Forum in June, 2023: “ETAF was launched at COP26 in Glasgow with the aim of raising up to US$1 billion to achieve 5 gigawatts worth of energy projects by 2030 in the world’s least developed countries. And thanks in part to the generous contributions of the OPEC Fund, we are actually overachieving — having now raised US$1.15 billion. But there’s more. We are extremely proud to have exceeded our targets not only for mobilized funds, but also in terms of actual project implementation. This shows the commitment of partners to mobilize funds through this platform for renewable projects worldwide.”
The OPEC Fund is set to join two events at COP28 with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The first will launch the Nature Solutions Finance Hub for climate and the environment – a new biodiversity platform that aims to create a range of nature-based projects that are bankable and scalable.
The ADB plans to use the hub to scale-up finance from private, public and philanthropic sources into a growing pipeline of nature-based projects across Asia and the Pacific, estimating that US$25 billion out of US$100 billion can be targeted to finance nature and biodiversity directly and support “nature-positive outcomes” in general.
The OPEC Fund’s second engagement with the ADB is, at time of writing, still to be finalized but will likely build on recent joint projects. For example, at the OPEC Fund Development Forum in June 2023, the ADB’s Climate Envoy Warren Evans explained our Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) initiative: “Climate impacts are increasing in frequency and intensity, so the economic impacts will just increase in turn, and Thailand is looking at innovative ways of trying to adapt to these climate impacts. The BCG initiative is designed to help them achieve that by looking at biodiversity conservation, natural resource management and resilience.
“The OPEC Fund is playing a critical role by providing a technical assistance grant, which will help Thailand design and implement the project at the initial stage. The first stage is critical for getting things off the ground. You want to see success, you want to see progress, you want to see it in a hurry, and having the grant resources from the OPEC Fund will enable Thailand to do that.”
Joining UN partners from IFAD and WFP, among others, the OPEC Fund senior management is set to speak at a side event that will dive deep into new ways of mobilizing private sector finance for climate adaptation of food systems and rural agriculture.
The event will consider ways of breaking the vicious circle between greenhouse gas emissions, global agricultural productivity and impacts on natural resources. Participants will start from the premise that while public funding is key, private sector investment is critical for scaling-up. They will then discuss barriers, innovative finance and share best practices for public-private partnerships.