Home » WGS: The UAE Consensus & turning agreement into action 

WGS: The UAE Consensus & turning agreement into action 

by Madaline Dunn

At the end of 2023, Dubai held the world’s largest-ever COP, gathering a diverse group of over 80,000 delegates. Although fraught with controversy and disagreements, the summit resulted in what has been called a “historic breakthrough,” the UAE Consensus. Through the agreement, all Parties committed to a “transition away” from fossil fuels.

While the outcome fell short of what many were hoping for – an agreement to a phase-out – for the first time, language on fossil fuels featured in the final agreement. 

But, of course, without leaders taking the next steps and proceeding with action, the agreement won’t be worth the paper it was written on. 

This week, at the World Governments Summit, on a panel titled ‘Delivering the UAE Consensus Globally – From Agreement to Action,’ talks turned to the path ahead and the factors that are critical to delivering success. ESG Mena runs through the highlights. 

A paradigm shift?

The panel, moderated by Becky Anderson, CNN, featured panelists:

  • H.E. Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, COP28 President, 
  • H.E. Dr. Muawieh Radaideh, Minister of Environment – Jordan,
  • H.E. Mukhtar Babayev, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Republic of Azerbaijan, COP29 President,
  • H.E. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund,
  • H.E. Saber Chowdhury, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Bangladesh, and
  • H.E. Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework For Climate Change.

Together, the seven discussed the achievements of the Dubai climate summit, the post-COP landscape, and the path ahead to progress and action. 

Speaking about the COP outcome, H.E. Al Jaber called the UAE Consensus a “paradigm shift,” which he said was achieved as a result of building bridges. 

“It was the UAE DNA centred around relationships, partnerships, building bridges, faith and trust that helped create a completely different ambience and helped us to have the right momentum to ensure the unity and solidarity, and if it wasn’t for that mindset, we would not have been able to deliver such a paradigm shift,” Al Jaber added.

However, while a consensus was reached, what countries do now will make or break climate goals. 

Indeed, it has been widely publicised that many countries are planning to ramp up fossil fuel production.

So, although pledging to transition away from fossil fuels, when it comes to realising this shift, many countries are not walking the talk. 

On next steps, Stiell said COP28 set out “precisely what implementation means”, and the next step is about “rolling up our sleeves.”

But what does that actually look like to keep 1.5 degrees in view? 

Here, Dr. Al Jaber said the transition will happen in different places at different paces. 

“We need to ensure that a custom-tailored approach is devised, developed, and implemented to cater to this transition.” 

Adding later: “We understand that the only source of energy that will increase over time will have to be the least carbon-intensive and renewable energy.”

Financing the transition

On the topic of financing the transition, H.E. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, said a number of shifts were delivered at COP, including the message that all parties must pull together. “There is a role for the public sector, there is a role for international institutions [and] likewise, there is a role for the private sector.”

Adding: “Only when we think collectively [and] combine these roles, we can be successful.”

Georgieva also noted the role of the IMF in bringing forward its macro policy expertise and seeing countries integrate climate in their fiscal, monetary and financial policy, and, on that basis, create the foundation for climate finance.

Further, she called for close cooperation with the World Bank and other development banks, with an open and inclusive approach to driving finance at scale.

Speaking about the role of the IMF, Georgieva explained that the U.N. agency provides policy support for macroeconomic and financial stability, growth, and employment. 

“What we do first and foremost is to bring mitigation, adaptation, and transition in our policy discussions.” 

She also noted the 50 billion in projected losses due to climate shocks and, here, introduced the IMF Resilience and Sustainability Trust, an instrument aimed at financing the long-term transformation of countries at concessional rates.

However, Georgieva also noted the importance of tackling domestic financing.

“When we look at the numbers, how much is needed for developing economies? We need three trillion: one trillion in external financing and two trillion in domestic resources.”

Georgieva added that more attention needs to be concentrated on the two trillion: “How to structure your tax system, how you use your money wisely, how you create deep capital markets.”

“We have to solve the problem faster than we are creating it”

When asked whether Bangladesh is confident it can secure the funding it needs, H.E. Saber Chowdhury said that the requirements are “huge.”

“What is absolutely critical going forward is: we have to solve the problem faster than we are creating it. We cannot keep talking about funding for adaptation and, at the same time, emit – the two don’t go together. 

“Unless we do that,” he said, “the needs are going to be simply astronomical – there will not be enough money to go around. We’re talking about loss and damage, but it is equally important that you lighten the burden of loss and damage.”

Further, Chowdhury noted that urging all the parties to peak emissions by 2025 is critical:

“Because if we don’t peak by 2025, we are going to miss out on 2030, and if you miss out on 2030, we’re never going to get to where we want to be in 2050.”

Maintaining momentum & COP29

On the importance of maintaining connectivity between climate summit and ways to effectively pass the baton between COP presidencies, H.E. Dr. Muawieh Radaideh, Ministry of Environment – Jordan, called for the three presidents (UAE, Azerbaijan, Brazil) to sit down together on a “continuous basis,” in order to listen to “divergent mindsets.”

And indeed, yesterday, the COP Presidencies’ Troika was announced, a partnership with the UAE, Azerbaijan, the host of COP29 and Brazil, the host of COP30. 

Speaking on this, Dr. Al Jaber said: “The troika will maintain momentum, lock in continuity, and anchor implementation.”

Meanwhile, looking ahead, H.E. Mukhtar Babayev, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Republic of Azerbaijan, COP29 President, called COP29 both a “big responsibility” for the country and a “big opportunity.”

When asked about the building blocks required to translate the UAE consensus into tangible implementation and COP29’s priorities, Babayev didn’t set out a clear action plan. Instead, he outlined that Azerbaijan invites “all the parties to sit together to find the solution.” 

Later, when asked what is needed to significantly move the needle on climate action, H.E. Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework For Climate Change, said there’s a lot to be done. He noted that while Dubai set out the pathway, fully realising its potential is dependent on what happens this year with finance and means of implementation. 

“The finance community has a heavy lift and responsibility,” said Stiell.

But, where the action starts, he said, is Brazil, with COP30, when countries return with their revised nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Further, Stiell noted the lack of specificity within the Global Stocktake and said countries must be specific and prescriptive in terms of what they’re implementing on an economy-wide basis and in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Right now, we cannot rest. With all that was achieved, it is never enough. We have to now build on that.”

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