BRUSSELS - Denmark said it is optimistic that the United Arab Emirates, which hosts this year's UN climate talks, will push for ambitious action to curb climate change at the conference, following criticism from activists over the oil-producing nation's role.
The UAE last week appointed Sultan al-Jaber, head of the country's oil company ADNOC and its climate envoy, as president of the COP28 climate summit in Abu Dhabi - a role that involves overseeing negotiations among the nearly 200 countries that typically attend the annual talks to address global warming.
The appointment drew criticism from activists concerned about the influence of the fossil fuel lobby on the talks, particularly after some delegates criticised last year's event in Egypt, saying fossil fuel producers had watered down emission reduction ambitions.
"I think that everything the Presidency has done so far has only given us reason to be optimistic," Dan Jorgensen, Denmark's minister for global climate policy and development told Reuters.
"If we are to stay below 1.5 degrees in temperature increase, it is totally necessary that we have a transition of all societies on this planet, also the oil producing ones," he said, adding that in his experience - which includes representing Denmark in UN climate talks since 2019 - the UAE has been "very engaged" in diplomacy on the issue.
Al-Jaber said on Saturday COP28 should forge solidarity between the global north and south, and the UAE would approach the conference with a "great sense of urgency".
Countries at COP28 will formally assess their progress towards the Paris Agreement's goal to limit global warming to 1.5C - and the far faster emissions cuts needed to do that.
Jorgensen said this stocktake must also yield a plan for how countries will get on track for the 1.5C goal - as well as more funding to help developing nations do this.
The world is already 1.2C warmer than pre-industrial times, predominantly due to greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; additional reporting by Maha El Daham; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)