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No Xi, Biden or Pope at today’s World Leaders summit but there are a few heavy hitters among the 180+ high level folk jetting their way to Dubai. India PM Modi is the big draw. His pre-flight PR note leaves little doubt he sees himself as the ‘voice’ of the Global South. Wind power in India grew fivefold in 2016-2022, so a tripling-clean-power pledge shouldn’t be a problem. Less clear is his take on coal, CCS and a fossil fuel phasedown. A planned 2,000 km UAE-India gas pipeline due in the 2030s suggests pushback on stronger fossil fuel language.

Brazil’s Lula is arguably the next biggest name on the ticket. The 2025 COP host lands in Dubai hoping to secure investment in clean technology and his 2030 zero-deforestation goal. He’s keen on his ‘Brazil can be the Saudi Arabia of green energy’ line. His position on fossil fuels is less clear – don’t expect him to mention Petrobras’ $102bn five-year spending plan, nor recent membership of OPEC. 

Loss and damage deal

  • The UN’s new loss & damage fund was agreed at COP27, but in a diplomatic win for the COP28 hosts, not only did countries sign it off on day one, they also pumped $400m into its coffers, including $100m from the hosts, $100m from Germany, $60m from the UK and $17.5m from the US.                       
  • A cynic might say $400m is less than half the cost of the UAE-owned Man City football team (£898m). They might also point out that loss and damage from climate change cost about $1.5 trillion in 2022, or that governments spent a record $1.7 trillion supporting fossil fuel industries last year.           
  • It therefore goes without saying that more cash is needed. Much more.                                                                                                                             

The President of UAE and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia kick off today with Egypt and Jordan close behind. President Herzog of Israel is in the first wave alongside Turkey’s Erdogan, Tinubu of Nigeria and Ukraine’s Zelensky. Clearly anticipating some tough talking, UN guidance stipulates rooms used by world leaders ‘should be left in the same condition as found’.

Carbon tariffs

Meanwhile African Heads of State will be a substantial contingent in the plenary today – Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and Rwanda are all marked as present. They’re likely to push fellow leaders to deliver on September’s Africa Climate Summit declaration. Kenya is leading the tripling-clean-energy charge while Mozambique is due to announce an $80bn clean energy investment plan. Not present is climate-champ Malawi after the president banned foreign travel and imposed austerity measures

Expect Chinese VP Ding Xuexiang to kick off on carbon border measures in his speech. Beijing is concerned the US and other developed economies may join the EU’s ‘Climate Club’ and adopt similar carbon border tariffs. Previous studies illustrate the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism’s direct impact on Chinese exports is limited, but no matter, it’s a big deal and one that chimes with a few other countries.

Expect the Euro crowd of Macron, von der Leyen and Sanchez to talk big without offering much new cash. Germany’s budget crisis means Scholz’s plans for a €60 billion climate fund are limited. In the mad world of UK politics, one King, one PM and three ex-PMs will be landing at COP. Sunak will pledge £1.6bn in new cash. Save The Children reckons this is creative accounting rather than new cash.

Deals to watch

  • Accelerated Partnership for Renewables in Africa: A collaboration between Kenya, Denmark, Germany, the UAE and IRENA that was launched at the African Climate Summit is expected to offer cash to countries looking to grow wind and solar. The expectations set out in Nairobi were $600bn to increase the continent’s clean energy generation capacity from 56 GW in 2022 to at least 300 GW by 2030.
  • Transforming Food Systems in the face of Climate Change: 100+ leaders are expected to pledge to put food and agriculture in their new climate plans and provide funding to support that effort. But given it’s a third of emissions, to make headway the pact will need actions, targets, timetables and funding for food systems ahead of COP30. Also look for a smaller, more ambitious coalition of countries (the ACF) willing to set targets and timetables on food for COP30.
  • Climate Club: Home to many heavy industrial concerns, Germany – along with Chile – will launch the Climate Club, aimed at decarbonising steel and cement. Now at 35 country members, could this be a club that smoothes over trade tensions that are emerging as carbon border mechanisms enter the formal agenda? 
  • Transforming Climate Finance: Keeping within the Paris Agreement threshold of 1.5C will take cash. The UAE will launch a declaration to bring all of it under a single framework, covering debt sustainability, reform of MDBs, energy transition financing and markets.