Jaber promises to ‘supercharge’ climate finance but focuses on cutting fossil fuel emissions rather than production

The UN COP28 climate summit incoming president has set out an agenda to “supercharge” global climate finance and finally reach a promised $100bn to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, a goal that has eluded his predecessors.

Sultan Al Jaber, the president-designate of COP28 and head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, told the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin on Tuesday that “mobilising” private finance and the reform of international finance institutions was a priority.

He also remained focused on the development of technologies to reduce emissions, rather than to phase out production of fossil fuels.

“In a pragmatic, just and well-managed energy transition, we must be laser-focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions, while phasing up viable, affordable zero-carbon alternatives,” he said.

Jaber has been on a “listening tour” since his appointment in January and in recent weeks has met climate leaders and ambassadors in China, the US and Paris. He noted that “expectations are high, trust is low”.

“We must supercharge climate finance, making it more available, more accessible and more affordable to drive delivery across every climate pillar,” he said. “Public, multilateral and private sectors must be mobilised in new and innovative ways on the critical issue of climate finance.”

His efforts were commended by Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, who has spearheaded the reform of the World Bank and multilateral development banks that will also be the focus of a summit in Paris next month, hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron

Speaking by video, Mottley told the Berlin audience that Jaber’s efforts to build consensus were essential to providing a “turning point for the world” at the COP28 summit in Dubai. She said access to finance for developing countries must be accompanied by access to technology and growth opportunities.

Mottley proposed three “not complicated” ways of raising finance to help poorer nations cope with climate change and fund growth, including a tax on oil and gas company revenues, plus a $100-a-tonne carbon tax on shipping, and stamp duty on financial transactions.

Out of the $100bn for an adaptation fund promised at the UN summit in Copenhagen 14 years ago, developed countries had raised only $83.3bn by the target date of 2020, according to the OECD.

More than 40 countries have sent representatives to the two-day conference in Berlin, also attended by US climate envoy John Kerry and German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Germany is behind in its own pledge to contribute €6bn annually by 2025. Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock told delegates that after a meeting of donor countries on Monday she believed the $100bn target could be met this year.

The slow pace of contributions from rich countries has remained a sticking point in UN climate policy negotiations.

“This is holding up progress, and as part of my outreach, I am requesting donor countries to provide a definitive assessment on the delivery of this commitment before COP28. It is vital to,” said Jaber, adding that “the real value of this commitment has eroded over time”.

The COP28 summit hosted by the United Arab Emirates in December has been earmarked as a “global stock take”, when countries provide an assessment of their progress in meeting the emissions cuts set out in the Paris accord. Under the Paris agreement, countries agreed to limit the rise in global temperature to well below 2C and ideally 1.5C.

At last year’s climate conference in Egypt, oil-producing countries led the push against efforts to phase out all fossil fuels, the leading contributor to the greenhouse gases behind global warming.

But Jaber was steadfast in his speech in Berlin that the reduction of emissions would be achieved by offering more “zero-carbon alternatives”.

This is in line with his focus on ways to reduce emissions such as carbon capture technology, rather than to cut back fossil fuel production, which has drawn criticism from many climate change experts.

Alex Scott, climate diplomacy and geopolitics programme leader at E3G, the consultancy, said the talks in Berlin were a “chance for the UAE to address the criticism they have faced and start setting out a really ambitious agenda for what countries should be preparing to bring to COP28”.