Bulgaria Wants to Host COP28
The global climate talks COP28 are underway in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Thousands of delegates are gathered in Abu Dhabi to discuss ways to ensure that the world's net zero emission goal is met by 2050. As the talks progress, the UAE is making its case to host the next COP, but Bulgaria is also hoping to get the job.
COP28's aim is to ensure global net zero is on track by 2050
There is a growing consensus that global carbon emissions should reach "net zero" by the mid-century. This can be done through the use of renewable energy, nuclear power, or carbon capture technologies.
To make it happen, governments must carefully manage the transition to clean energy. They must set realistic long-term objectives, develop and implement a credible roadmap, and coordinate scaled clean energy technologies across borders. In doing so, they must also recognise and address the varying needs of different parts of society.
As a result, countries are working together to define and strengthen their targets for cutting emissions. This can lead to an economy-wide shift toward zero-carbon technologies. However, to do so, governments must also manage the growth of domestic job creation, carefully manage commercial advantages, and ensure that clean energy transitions are inclusive and equitable.
A number of countries have committed to reaching net zero by 2050. Some, such as France and Japan, have already adopted national targets. But to get to this goal, many more nations must step up their efforts and take bold steps.
Countries like Germany, Denmark, and Sweden have enshrined net zero targets in their national law. The United States has launched an initiative inviting governments to do the same. It will commit to a roadmap at COP28.
Getting to net zero will require significant investments in infrastructure. It will also require rapid deployment of new technologies. And, in some cases, it will involve disincentives for the use of certain technologies.
Developing countries and large economies must take stronger action to curb their emissions. The path to zero emissions is unclear without international assistance.
Net zero requires a major innovation effort to bring new technologies to market in time. This could create entirely new industries and jobs.
COP28's priority is to thrash out how the loss and damage fund will work
In June, 55 vulnerable nations estimated that their combined climate-linked losses amount to $525 billion. This is enough to make up 20% of countries' GDP.
These countries' demands for a "loss and damage" fund have intensified. For years, wealthy countries have resisted the call to compensate for climate change. But now, with global temperatures reaching new heights, they're faced with the prospect of even bigger liabilities.
Last year, the UN Climate Talks in Morocco proposed a fund to help developing countries cope with the losses they've suffered as a result of climate change. While the deal was hailed as a breakthrough, some countries tried to rebuff it.
This year, the United States and EU have signaled a change in attitude. They've committed to symbolic funding to support states facing loss and damage.
Despite the success of the Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Fund, a major challenge remains: finding a way to provide adequate money to vulnerable nations. The COP27 agreement aims to establish a new fund, but details are still scarce.
One possible solution would be for countries to create a 'loss and damage' fund, with a view to dispersing money over the next decade. However, some diplomats have suggested a'mosaic' of funding sources.
A number of development banks and other international funds already provide support to states suffering from loss and damage. Creating a fund is a key step towards better disaster protection finance.
But the scale of this new fund and the terms of reference needed to run it will need to be worked out. Countries that agree to set up such a fund will have to decide where the money is going to come from.
UAE's efforts to promote itself as a host
The UAE has been promoting itself as a host for the UN's upcoming COP28 climate conference. Last year, it secured approval to host the event from the United Kingdom and Egypt. Its plans are to showcase the latest innovations in clean energy and climate change, while also building a consensus for an energy transition.
At Cop28, which will take place in Dubai in 2023, more than 70,000 people are expected to attend, including heads of state. This could be the most significant UN climate summit yet.
UAE has been a leading player on climate action for decades. It has pioneered biodiversity conservation and renewable energy targets in the region. In 2015, it became the first Middle East country to ratify the Paris Climate Accord.
To position itself as a future host of the world's largest climate meeting, the UAE hired public relations firms to promote its role. They contacted congresspeople, senators, and media outlets.
The UAE's climate envoy Dr Sultan Ahmed al Jaber is in charge of these efforts. He has a hands-on history in both the fossil fuel and renewable energy industries. Other diplomats have welcomed his appointment.
However, he has also been criticized by climate activists. These include the Center for Biological Diversity, which argues that UAE's carbon capture project plans won't be cost-effective. Another group, Corporate Accountability, has compiled data on the Emirati delegation.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a lobbying firm, contacted US politicians on both sides of the aisle, arguing that the United Arab Emirates is a strong contender to host COP28. Michael Hartt, a FleishmanHillard lobbyist, rebuffed the suggestion that the UAE's effort was unusual.
UAE's climate credentials
When the United Arab Emirates announced its decision to host the United Nations climate summit in 2023, environmental activists were alarmed. They fear that the country's COP28 presidency will be led by an oil executive, thereby undermining the UAE's commitment to renewables and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Al Jaber, a former minister and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), has been selected as the UAE's new climate change envoy. His appointment has generated strong backlash from climate activists and organizations, who argue that Al Jaber's extensive background in the fossil fuel industry and his long career as a diplomat undermine the country's climate pledges.
Some climate groups have called for Al Jaber to step down from his position at ADNOC, arguing that he is ineligible to lead a climate summit. Environmental groups say that he has a vested interest in oil production and the government's plans to expand it.
Environmentalists also worry that the growing role of lobbyists for fossil fuel companies in the climate change debate will jeopardize the outcome of the flagship conference. In addition, the growing number of Middle Eastern operators ramping up oil production may cause a conflict of interest.
The UAE has made a big push in recent years to build a green energy economy, with billions of dollars invested in clean-energy projects. Its goal is to become a net-zero emissions country by 2050. But the country has not provided an explanation for how it will get there.
Despite its strong commitment to the energy transition, internal government documents show that Dubai has not done much to reduce carbon emissions. Activists have demanded that the UAE produce more oil and gas in the ground to prevent future greenhouse gas emissions.
Bulgaria's desire to host COP29
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) is an annual event that draws tens of thousands of delegates from around the world. It provides the setting for global climate assessments and negotiations.
Hosting the conference can be expensive. But it can bring international prestige and tourist income, along with some intense media scrutiny. That is why several countries from the region have expressed interest in hosting the event.
During the recent 27th UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt, Bulgaria's president, Rumen Radev, announced that the country would be ready to host the upcoming COP29 in two years' time. In addition to committing to mobilize serious capacity, the Bulgarian government is committed to further developing renewable energy technologies.
At the same time, the country has made great strides in boosting gas security for the region. On October 1, the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (ICGB) was inaugurated. With systemic innovation across all sectors, the new link will strengthen gas supply security.
However, Bulgaria's bid for a COP29 has been met with a degree of skepticism. Some analysts say that the decision is a political one. Others believe that it will be up to the Eastern European Group to decide on a host, which will likely yield Cop24 in 2024.
Other candidates include Australia and Germany, which both have significant contributions to climate change and have some experience in energy. Australia will likely be scrutinised for its living-up to the rhetoric pertaining to climate action, and the country is likely to seek support from its Pacific partners.
Meanwhile, Poland has hosted Cops in eastern Europe three times in the past decade. The country has also shown that it is not only a good candidate for hosting a future COP, but it has the financial clout to pull it off.