COP28 opens in Dubai with calls for accelerated climate action

Update COP28 opens in Dubai with calls for accelerated climate action
Up to 200 global leaders will join over 80,000 delegates gathered in Dubai for the UN climate conference. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
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Updated 30 January 2024
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COP28 opens in Dubai with calls for accelerated climate action

COP28 opens in Dubai with calls for accelerated climate action
  • Up to 200 global leaders will join over 80,000 delegates gathered in Dubai for the UN climate conference

DUBAI: Up to 200 global leaders will join over 80,000 delegates gathered in Dubai for the UN climate conference as governments prepare for negotiations on whether to agree, for the first time, to phase out fossil fuels – the main source of global warming.

With finance also high on the meeting agenda, the COP28 presidency has published a proposal on the eve of the summit for countries to formally adopt the outlines of a new UN fund to cover losses and damages in poor countries being hit by climate disasters like extreme flooding or persistent drought.

READ MORE: Click here for our coverage of COP28

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COP28 formally approves climate disaster fund arrangements

DUBAI: Countries at the UN COP28 climate summit on Thursday formally approved a deal on a new climate disaster fund.

The deal was adopted following the COP28 opening ceremony, drawing a standing ovation from delegates.

Representatives from developed and developing countries painstakingly crafted the agreement during negotiations this year. It will launch a fund to help vulnerable nations cope with the cost of climate-driven damage from drought, floods and rising seas.

UN weather agency says 2023 is the hottest year on record, warns of further climate extremes ahead

DUBAI: The UN weather agency said Thursday that 2023 is all but certain to be the hottest year on record, and warning of worrying trends that suggest increasing floods, wildfires, glacier melt, and heat waves in the future.

The World Meteorological Organization also warned that the average temperature for the year is up some 1.4°C from pre-industrial times – a mere one-tenth of a degree under a target limit for the end of the century as laid out by the Paris climate accord in 2015.

The WMO secretary-general said the onset earlier this year of El Niño, the weather phenomenon marked by heating in the Pacific Ocean, could tip the average temperature next year over the 1.5°C target cap set in Paris.

WATCH: Opening ceremony of COP28: UN Climate Change conference

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Jim Skea, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (AFP)

“Human activity has led to changes in climate at a magnitude that is unprecedented over centuries and thousands of years,” according to Jim Skea, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“If we do not find immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, we will not meet the goals of the Paris agreement,” he said.

“Our assessments have identified multiple options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, and these can be implemented right now. But they need to be scaled up and mainstreamed through policies and increased financing.”

“As the chair of the IPCC, the scientific community is poised for using the resources available to support the outcomes of COP28, in shaping climate actions based on science. But finally, let us recall, science by itself is no substitute for action,” Skea said.

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Simon Stiell, executive secretary of UNFCCC

“Today, we find ourselves in a rather different position, in humanity’s climate action journey. We are taking baby steps. Stepping far too slowly from an unstable world that lacks resilience, to working out the best responses to the complex impacts we are facing,” Simon Stiell, executive secretary of UNFCCC, said in his remarks at the opening of COP28.

“We must teach climate action to run. Because this has been the hottest year ever for humanity. So many terrifying records were broken. We are paying with people’s lives and livelihoods,” he said.

“If we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline. And we choose to pay with people’s lives. If this transition isn’t just, we won’t transition at all. That means justice within and between countries. Sharing benefits across society. Ensuring that everyone – women, indigenous peoples and youth, in all their diversity - have equal opportunities to benefit from these transitions.”

“In 2024, countries will submit their first Biennial Transparency Report. This will mean the reality of individual progress can’t be concealed… And let this be your first official notice that early in 2025, countries must deliver new Nationally Determined Contributions. Please start working on them now,” Stiell said.

“Science tells us we have around six years before we exhaust the planet’s ability to cope with our emissions. Before we blow through the 1.5°C limit,” the executive secretary of UNFCCC said.

“This is the biggest COP yet – but attending a COP does not tick the climate box for the year. The badges around your necks make you responsible for delivering climate action here and at home... turn the badge around your necks into a badge of honor, and a life belt for the millions of people you are working for. Accelerate climate action. Teach it to run,” added.

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COP28 President designate Sultan Al-Jaber. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)

In his opening speech, COP28 President designate Sultan Al-Jaber urged delegates as well as oil companies to work together at the UN climate summit. He said, “we must ensure that this COP delivers the most ambitious global stocktake possible.”

He stressed that the COP28 is committed to unlocking finance to ensure that the global south does not have to choose between development and climate action.

While Al-Jaber hailed the initiative of national oil companies to step up, he said “it is not enough.” “They can do more. Every nation, every sector and every one of us has an urgent role to play.”

 

 

“We can bring mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation which includes finance under one umbrella,” according to Al-Jaber, who also runs state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

“I ask you to start this COP with a new mindset, adopt different thinking, be flexible. Ensure the most ambitious global stocktake. I want this COP to be the COP that maximizes mitigation on momentum,” Al-Jaber said.

He stressed that the ‘role of fossil fuels’ must be part of climate deal. “It is essential that no issue is left off the table,” according to the UAE official. He added that “let this be the COP where we deliver our promises from the $100 billion on loss and damage.”




COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber receives a gavel from Egyptian foreign minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry during the United Nations Climate Change Conference opening in Dubai on Nov. 30, 2023. (Reuters)

“This is the presidency that made a bold choice to proactively engage oil and gas companies. We had many hard discussions. That was not easy. But today, many of these companies are committing zero methane emissions by 2030 for the first time. And now, many national oil companies have adopted net zero 2050 targets for the first time,” Al-Jaber said in his speech.

“The next two weeks will not be easy. Let us remember, our task is not about only negotiating texts. It is about improving lives, it is about people,” he added.

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Sameh Shoukry, the COP27 president

“Rather than increasing climate finance from developed countries, actually, it is decreasing in relation to growing needs and the increasing growth of financing in developing countries,” said Shoukry, the COP27 president.

The UN’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai opened Thursday with a moment of silence for the victims of the conflict in Gaza.

Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister who chaired the previous COP talks in Egypt last year, urged delegates to “stand for a moment of silence” in memory of two climate diplomats who recently died “as well as all civilians who have perished during the current conflict in Gaza”.

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An early breakthrough on the damage fund — which poorer nations have demanded for years — could help grease the wheels for other compromises to be made during the two-week summit.

The UN and hosts the UAE say the COP28 talks will be the most important since Paris in 2015, when nations agreed to limit global warming to well below 2°Celsius since the preindustrial era, and preferably to a safer limit of 1.5°C.

Scientists say the world is not on track to achieve these targets and nations must make faster and deeper cuts to emissions to avert the most disastrous impacts of climate change.

 

 

A central focus will be a stocktake of the world’s limited progress on curbing global warming, which requires an official response at these talks.

“Right now, we’re taking baby steps where we should be taking great leaps and great strides to get us to where we need to be,” said UN climate chief Simon Stiell on Wednesday.

The COP28 climate conference should aim for a complete “phaseout” of fossil fuels, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier said, warning of “total disaster” on humanity’s current trajectory.

“Obviously I am strongly in favor of language that includes (a) phaseout, even with a reasonable time framework,” Guterres said.

Climate change is the biggest threat to human health in Africa and the rest of the world, the head of the continent's public health agency said.

Mitigating that risk was top of his agenda, Jean Kaseya, the director general of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said as he headed to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

with agencies


Egypt begins process for privatization of airports

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports
Updated 04 March 2024
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Egypt begins process for privatization of airports

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports
  • Egypt is due to set an international tender for operating Egyptian airports, which include Cairo International Airport

RIYADH: Egypt began the executive process for offering the management and operation of Egyptian airports to the private sector, a Cabinet statement said on Monday.

Egypt is due to set an international tender for operating Egyptian airports, which include Cairo International Airport, the country’s Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Abbas Helmy has said.

Egypt is set to transition the management and operations of critical logistics and transportation entities to the private sector, starting with the aviation industry. 

In November 2023, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly declared that seaports, dry ports and airports would be offered to private sector management in the near future. 

Madbouly highlighted a strong commitment to fostering partnerships with private entities in the stewardship and operational aspects of mass transit systems.

An integrated strategy has been formulated by the Egyptian Transport Ministry, in collaboration with global corporations, to begin localization of the industry. 

In July 2023, Egypt’s efforts to bolster its private sector and empower small and medium enterprises received $533.7 million in support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as it undertakes massive privatization and restructuring measures for the public sector.  

Under the umbrella of Egypt 2022-2027 strategy, launched by the Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat in March 2022, the EBRD approved development financing worth $400 million for the National Bank of Egypt to support SMEs, focusing on regional companies led or owned by young entrepreneurs.  

The bank also approved funding worth $100 million for Banque Misr to improve financing for SMEs in a way that promotes inclusive and sustainable growth. In addition, it aims to increase funding to SMEs in areas with limited access to financial services.

The EBRD also approved another funding for the Mediterrania Capital IV Fund at a value of €30.2 million ($33.7 million).


NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies
Updated 04 March 2024
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NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Housing Co. signed two agreements at LEAP 2024, aiming to support real estate activities in the Kingdom by crafting unique business intelligence solutions.

The deal were signed with data science company Quant and Paseetah Tech Solutions to empower technologies in the real estate market to enhance services provided to customers interested in making investments, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The chief of solutions sector, Rayan Al-Aql, represented the National Housing Co. in signing the agreement, while Quant CEO Ahmed Bukhamseen and Omar Al-Omar, CEO of Paseetah Tech Solutions, represented their respective companies.

The agreements aim to enable modern technologies in the real estate sector by leveraging information owned by the NHC to contribute to creating unique solutions serving the market.

This includes generating more accurate real estate analytics, supporting innovation in data analysis, and creating real estate indicators that enhance the market’s reliance on data in property decisions. This facilitates informed decision-making for investors and buyers, the SPA reported.

NHC is showcasing its services and technological achievements at the LEAP conference currently underway in Riyadh. 

These achievements have benefited over 10 million people across eight government digital platforms. 

The company has also documented more than 9 million residential and commercial lease contracts, achieved over 6.5 million downloads for the “Sakani” application, operated and developed the “Balady” platform under the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, among other technological accomplishments associated with the digital platforms operated and developed by the NHC.

Earlier in February, the National Housing Co. announced that it would build a total of 3,800 homes after forging six partnership agreements worth SR2 billion ($533 million). 

These deals, which were signed with several real estate developers, aim to build residential units in the Riyadh southwestern community of Al-Asalah, with prices starting from SR475,000, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 

SPA added that this initiative is part of a comprehensive program of urban development spearheaded by the NHC aiming to revolutionize the housing landscape by introducing innovative concepts and integrated services, ultimately enhancing the quality of life across all sectors of society.


Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has received recognition as “the most improved country overall” in the 12th edition of the US Chamber of Commerce International Intellectual Property Index. 

Released on March 2, the report emphasizes the several achievements of the Kingdom, with Vice President of Middle East Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce Steve Lutes telling Arab News that Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in the technology sector over the past year.

“Specifically, I think this year the Kingdom did sign on to some important international treaties and they’ve made some other progress on both the enforcement side and some other of the indicators,” Lutes said on the sidelines of the LEAP 2024 conference.

“The Kingdom moving up in ranking gives more confidence to investors,” he added. 

Lutes went on to say that the body aims to encourage partnerships with the business community, government, and academia in Saudi Arabia to drive the establishment of a diversified, knowledge-based economy aligned with Vision 2030.

The US Chamber of Commerce considers over 50 indices when ranking countries, Lutes added. 

“Some of this looks very marginal. But really, when you think about it from an economic perspective, these are very important drivers because these are the sorts of things that companies look at. Is my IP going to be safe? Is it going to be protected? Are rules going to be enforced? And that’s where you get the investment in value and innovation,” said the vice-president.

The Kingdom allocates a total of $2 million across all funding rounds dedicated to artificial intelligence companies and over $3 billion proportional to gross domestic product with a ranking position of 31 in the Global AI index.

“We’ve been looking at this as governments around the globe start to grapple with the regulatory frameworks for artificial intelligence. The Chamber commissioned a report that was largely targeted toward a domestic audience and had some policy recommendations in that,” said Lutes.

A report by the European Centre for International Political Economy and the US Chamber of Commerce, titled “The Opportunity of Artificial Intelligence: Boosting Productivity and Growth in Saudi Arabia,” will be released in March.

The study will include a breakdown covering the benefits of AI for the Kingdom, endowments and digital industry structures, and AI policies going forward. 

“It has some sector-by-sector analysis where we think it can be the most impactful. In my mind, though, the biggest message is for policymakers,” Lutes said, adding: “One of those is investing, for example, in human capital. You have to have the workforce that’s ready to take on these technologies and bring it to government processes, to business processes and see it diffuse. So, when it comes to the sectors, I think, you know, healthcare and education are two that are highlighted in particular as having the most upside.”

Lutes added this is his first time attending LEAP, which is now in its third edition, and the Chamber has been collaborating with the Ministry of Communications and the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence. 

“We are at the LEAP Conference and IP is so fundamental to that. So, kudos to the Kingdom this year. And I guess our message is let’s not rest on our laurels. Let’s continue to work together to see if we can continue to see the Kingdom climb in that index as well,” he concluded. 

LEAP, held in Riyadh from March 4-7, is an annual premier tech event founded in 2022 by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. It convenes leading professionals from the sector to deliberate on the industry’s future and the innovative opportunities ahead.


Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties
Updated 04 March 2024
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Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties
  • South American country ‘an important trading partner’ for the Kingdom, says envoy
  • Joint council launched after Brazilian president’s visit late last year

LONDON: The Saudi-Brazilian Business Forum in Riyadh was attended by more than 150 investors from both countries on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, hosted by the Federation of Saudi Chambers and Brazil’s Lide Group, aimed to improve business and trade ties.

Dr. Faisal Ghulam, Saudi ambassador to Brazil, delivered a speech at the forum in which he praised the strong economic relations between the two countries built over 55 years.

He described Brazil as “an important trading partner” for the Kingdom. Annual trade between the two countries stands at $8 billion.

Ghulam lauded the establishment of a Saudi-Brazilian coordination council following President Lula da Silva’s visit to the Kingdom late last year.

Saudi Vision 2030 is providing Brazilian investors with significant opportunities, paving the way for improved trade ties, said Luiz Fernando Furlan, chairman of Lide’s board.

The newly established council will “work to advance the partnership, overcome challenges, and facilitate visas for the business communities from the two countries,” said its Chairman Mishal bin Hithlain.

Lide chief Joao Doria called on the Brazilian business community to explore the “great investment opportunities” available in the Kingdom through Vision 2030.

The forum covered key sectors at the heart of trade between the two countries, including aviation, energy, logistics, mining, agriculture, real estate and healthcare. It was the first event hosted by Lide after the firm opened offices in Riyadh.

The company’s Saudi representative, Malik Al-Qahtani, pledged to serve the business sectors of both countries and improve the ease of operations for Saudi and Brazilian investors.


Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

RIYADH: The number of Saudi flight attendants and fixed-wing pilots is set to increase as the localization plan for the Kingdom’s aviation sector enters its second phase.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services, has announced the implementation of the second phase of localizing licensed aviation professions in private sector establishments employing five or more individuals in targeted aviation professions.

In the second phase, the HRSD has specified the professions targeted, setting a 60 percent target for flight attendants and a 70 percent ratio for fixed-wing pilots, contingent on employees in the aviation professions obtaining the professional accreditation certificate from the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

The Ministry of Transport has reiterated its commitment to overseeing the implementation of the program’s second phase. It aims to enable private sector establishments to leverage all support and employment programs offered by the Human Resources and Social Development System to aid in the recruitment and retention of national talent.

The HRSD has issued procedural guidelines explaining the details of the decision, its implementation, and the support and employment programs provided to private sector establishments.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Saudi Airport Exhibition, held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center in December 2023, Mervat Sultan, president of the Women in Aviation Middle East Chapter, noted a significant boom, with an increase in airports, establishment of new airlines, and a rising number of tourists. 

She added that the aviation industry in Saudi Arabia is “becoming bigger and bigger and would be leading the industry in the next 20 years.”

In 2022, Ahmed Al-Rajhi, minister of HRSD, issued a notification nationalizing a number of professions and economic activities — including licensed aviation professions, opticians, and periodic inspection activity, as well as postal service outlets and more. 

The decision to localize licensed aviation professions was announced to be implemented in two phases. The first one became effective on March 15, 2023.

In line with its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is undertaking an ambitious initiative to empower its citizens and boost their global competitiveness.