Opinion
Climate and Nature

How we can end the alienation of developing nations when it comes to climate policies

Existing climate policies are ineffective and they alienate the very countries that are key to addressing this global challenge.

Existing climate policies are ineffective and they alienate the very countries that are key to addressing this global challenge. Image: Mohammed Nasim on Unsplash

Majid Jafar
Chief Executive Officer, Crescent Petroleum
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Climate and Nature

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  • COP28 will kick off in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in November 2023.
  • Developing countries play a central role in combating the climate crisis.
  • Climate policies must be revised to end the alienation of developing nations and give them the representation and support they deserve.

With four months to go till the next COP in Dubai, talks on the urgency to combat climate change are intensifying. The global community finds itself at a critical crossroads – we must find a way to reduce emissions and the current approach is not working. Existing climate policies are ineffective and they alienate the very countries that are key to addressing this global challenge. Amidst this division between the Global South and North, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) emerges as the prime candidate to bridge the gap.

There is a growing sense that the institutions of the world today, whether the World Bank, IMF or COP, are not representing developing countries. The UK’s Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, drew attention to this when he recently called for the reform of the UN Security Council to give the Global South greater representation. He warned of the very real risk that excluding developing nations poses in terms of provoking them to walk away from the global trading system.

The developing world is ultimately where the whole climate change battle is going to be won or lost. It is where all the net growth in emissions will take place, driven by rapid economic and population growth. So, it’s clear that these nations need to have a low-emission pathway to development if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C. This must happen by curbing global demand for energy consumption in a way that does not impede growth and development, rather than by just trying to starve energy supply.

The Western world’s preoccupation with reducing emissions often comes at the expense of social and economic development in developing nations. We saw this in action during COP-26 in Glasgow when the oil, gas, nuclear and coal industries, which together produce 90% of global energy, were de-platformed and not even allowed to be part of the conversation.

This decision was based on a fundamental misunderstanding that to pursue the net-zero agenda we don't need oil and gas anymore. In reality, there is no scenario in which that is possible, given the intermittency of renewable energy and the cost of nuclear energy. To lower emissions from the power generation, we need natural gas as a cleaner alternative to replace coal or other dirtier energy sources in developing countries where power demand is high and accelerating.

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How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

The energy trilemna

This comes down to the energy trilemma of affordability, availability and sustainability. By neglecting any one of these pillars, we risk critical collapse. When investment in gas is starved, developing countries, lacking the infrastructure of the Western world, bear the brunt of energy price shocks and supply shortages and are forced to resort to burning coal due to the lack of an affordable alternative for stable baseload power. The consequences of this misinformed move are clear. Gas prices have been driven up, causing more coal to be burned and higher global emissions.

The solution to climate change lies in more inclusive decision-making that ensures equitable representation. It also requires genuine efforts from the West to address the needs of developing nations, fulfil climate funding commitments and provide technical assistance.

The fabled $100 billion of annual climate finance that was promised to developing nations in 2009 is still nowhere to be seen. With only about 10% of financing for sustainable projects going to developing countries other than China, establishing a clear and reliable source of climate funding is critical.

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A World Carbon Bank

One solution would be a new global institution, a World Carbon Bank to channel technical assistance and climate aid to developing countries. The Carbon Bank would prioritize initiatives that address global equity and social impact, ensuring that climate action benefits those most in need, helping to create a more just transition to a low-carbon economy.

Another necessary policy would be to establish a global system of carbon pricing. This would create economic incentives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by incorporating the true cost of carbon into market decisions. This, in turn, would encourage the adoption of cleaner technologies, investment in renewable energy and implementation of energy-efficient practices, while generating revenue to fund sustainable initiatives.

This level of change can only be enacted through global cooperation. Clearly, the inherent distrust developing countries feel towards the West can make this challenging. It is, therefore, vital to find a space to host these conversations where all countries’ views will be welcomed and given an equal platform.

The UAE bridges the gap between the Global North and South

The UAE is a prime candidate. As a major investor in all forms of energy, including renewables, across 40 countries, the UAE has the resources, both in terms of finance and low-cost solar energy supply, to advance the technologies of the future. It is a global leader in investing in green energy and has this summer revealed plans to invest $54 billion in renewables over the next seven years as part of efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Its geographical location also makes it a strategic meeting point between the Global South and North, serving as a hub for trade, finance and diplomacy, with strong ties to both developed and developing nations.

The UAE is thus uniquely placed to bridge the gap between the Global North and South and facilitate considerable positive impact. That is why, despite unwarranted criticism around COP-28 being held in Dubai later this year, it is very likely to be the most inclusive and effective COP to date.

The fight against climate change requires global solidarity and concerted action. Climate policies must be revised to end the alienation of developing nations and give them the representation and support they deserve. The world should look forward to seeing some of this change in action at COP-28 in Dubai later this year.

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