Spotlight on businesses at COP28


We urgently need to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees – and the clock is ticking. Participants at COP28 in Dubai will spend two weeks discussing how to tackle climate change. The Netherlands’ consul-general in Dubai, Carel Richter, points to the important role businesses play: ‘If you’re really serious about your climate ambitions, you have to involve everyone.’

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Carel Richter speaks with His Excellency Sultan Mohammad Al Shamsi, the UAE’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for International Development Affairs.

The UN’s Conference of the Parties (COP) is a prestigious climate gathering attended by representatives from more than 200 countries, including many world leaders, negotiators, ministers, businesses and a range of organisations. They meet to negotiate and to take decisions on how to combat climate change.

Following on from Expo 2020, the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate-General in Dubai are now preparing for COP28, which starts on 30 November 2023. This event will take place in Dubai at the site used for Expo 2020.

What’s the biggest difference between the upcoming COP28 and COP27?

‘The previous climate conference, COP27, took place in Egypt. This year we’re in Dubai for COP28. And this is a special event because it’s a stocktake: a key point for taking a close look at how our planet is doing and trying to find a better way forward.

What makes this COP even more special is that the UAE has worked so hard to involve businesses and knowledge institutions. The aim is to mobilise cooperation not only between nations, but also between businesses. The Netherlands is playing an active role in this – we’re very committed. We all need to work together to tackle climate change.’

How is the Netherlands contributing?

‘During COP28 the Netherlands will be talking with other countries. And we’ll also actively reach out to representatives from civil society, businesses and knowledge institutions. Why? Because if you’re really serious about your climate ambitions, you need to look beyond governments. You have to involve everyone, including the business community. Good policy and regulations are not enough - we also need innovative solutions plus financing options that will enable us to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. The private sector can play an important role in both respects.

The idea for this emerged during the World Expo here in Dubai. While here for that event, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Liesje Schreinemacher, and the president of the business association VNO-NCW, Ingrid Thijssen, decided they would make a special effort to involve the business sector in the following COP.’

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King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visit the Netherlands Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai

Have we any hope of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement?

‘I’ll always have a positive outlook and I don’t think we should give up hope. We’ll have to do our best if we want to achieve the Paris goals and we’re committed to that. We know we’re not on track to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees, which is why the Netherlands is issuing an ambitious call for additional climate action. More than in previous years, COP28 needs to have a balanced outcome. And the Netherlands is following the course set by the EU.’

How is cooperation between the Netherlands and the UAE going?

‘It’s going very well. Our counterparts in the UAE often consult us on specific knowledge and skills, particular in the areas of Building with Nature, green hydrogen and sustainable local food production, all themes that are very popular here. And luckily these are things we have a lot of experience with, not only in our own country but around the world.

One good example of this is the Netherlands Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, which focused entirely on water, energy and food. It was also circular. Each day we extracted 1,200 litres of water from the desert air, which supplied the building with water and regulated its temperature.

The pavilion won no fewer than 14 prizes, including best pavilion. This is illustrative of the good cooperation between the Netherlands and the Emiratis. They organised a fantastic Expo, and we made a valuable contribution on the theme of sustainability.’

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Image: ©V8 Architects - Jeroen Musch
More than 950,000 people visited the pavilion, including King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. The consortium that designed and built it won a total of 14 international prizes in recognition of sustainable design and use of materials.

What can we learn from the UAE?

‘There are some valuable lessons to be learned from the way the Emiratis do things. They take an ambitious approach to innovation, and have a lot of flourishing startups. One thing that particularly stands out is their multinational, inclusive approach. Walking around here, you hardly see any Emiratis – it really is an international community. We can learn a lot from the modern ecosystems for innovation that they’ve created and the emphasis on inclusivity and international cooperation.’

How are preparations for COP28 progressing at the consulate in Dubai and the embassy in Abu Dhabi?

‘Making sure that everyone has the support they need is a big operation. With such a large delegation and each of our government representatives having their own aims for the conference, it’s not simply a case of one programme for everyone.

When I heard that COP28 was going to be held here, I immediately asked to keep the same team that helped us during Expo 2020. They have extensive experience with logistics and protocol and they know all the right people. The great thing is that COP28 is taking place at the same site as the Expo, which really simplifies things. So the people who worked on Expo are now working on COP. As the saying goes: never change a winning team!’