x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE beefs up team for climate talks

The UAE delegation to the Cancun conference will be the biggest the country has sent to the climate negotiations.

CANCUN, MEXICO // When Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, the Minister of Environment and Water, arrived at the UN climate change conference on Sunday, he joined the largest delegation the UAE has sent to the annual negotiations.

Dr Sultan al Jaber, the Special Envoy on Energy and Climate Change, will lead the 30-member team until Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, takes over when he arrives later in the week.

Ministers and senior officials from around the world have been arriving in the Mexican resort city ahead of today's start of the high-level segment of the climate change talks.

As with his foreign counterparts, Sheikh Abdullah will take over from expert teams that have already been in Cancun negotiating for a week. The summit began on November 29 and concludes on Friday.

Ministers must still review a number of draft decisions that their delegations agreed to on Saturday evening. Among them, an agreement seems near on making carbon capture and storage projects eligible for funding under the Clean Development Mechanism, a UN clean technology funding scheme outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.

This move would benefit the UAE and other oil producers, but has in the past been actively opposed by states such as Brazil.

At the heart of the debates is the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate global warming, rising sea levels and extreme weather. Most countries agreed to join the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change more than a decade ago, later adding stricter, legally binding measures through the Kyoto Protocol. However, the protocol only binds 37 industrialised countries to cut emissions, and it expires in 2012.

The main stumbling blocks to reaching a replacement agreement have been tensions between developed and developing countries, as well as resistance from the US to commit to reducing its own emissions.

While a new climate change treaty was not expected in Cancun, agreement on some interim measures seemed likely, said Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican foreign minister who is presiding over the Cancun conference.

"One week into the process, the conditions are in place to reach a broad and balanced package of decisions that leads to an era of increasingly effective global action on climate change," she said, while addressing delegates at an informal meeting.

Efforts were being made to ensure this year's meeting avoided a repeat of last year's summit in Copenhagen, Ms Espinosa said.

That meeting ended with little in the way of real progress when the conference failed to adopt the Copenhagen Accord, a document designed to be the basis of a new climate change agreement. One reason for the failure was that the deal, in an attempt to speed up compromise, was negotiated secretly by only a small number of powerful states.

On Sunday, Ms Espinosa reiterated the host country's commitment to "transparency and inclusiveness".

"Once again, I must state that there is no hidden text and no secret negotiations," she said. "The Mexican presidency will continue to work with full transparency and according to established United Nations procedures."

Sunday also saw a non-profit organisation co-founded by the Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson launch a public website outlining the relative energy efficiency of almost every large ocean-going vessel. The Carbon War Room website, www.shippingefficiency.org, offers information on 60,000 marine vessels such as container ships, tankers, cargo ships, ferries and cruise ships.

The rating uses methodology developed by the International Maritime Organisation and information from international ship registers. Each year, shipping produces almost a gigaton of carbon emissions, more than the total emissions of Germany.

vtodorova@thenational.ae