As global uncertainties unfold, the countdown to COP28 continues to accelerate. The path towards a collective momentum that achieves the urgent 1.5°C global warming limit is expected to be at the forefront of discussions this year.

Among the leaders of several nations expected to join the discourse from November 30 is Austria, which will engage with the UAE ahead of the climate summit in Dubai. “The UAE is a leader in the fight against climate change,” said Austrian ambassador to the UAE Dr Etienne Berchtold. “We are in a country which is well-positioned to take us steps further."

Climate financing represents a major sticking point. The Climate Justice Network claims reliance on non-binding promises has proven insufficient and lacks accountability mechanisms. However, despite enduring shortfalls on the $100 billion annual pledge to developing nations, Berchtold expressed hope, stating, "I think we could be on track this year to meet the $100 billion financing pledge."

Austria has shown its intent towards the cause through a 25 per cent increase in contributions to the Green Climate Fund, but climate action relies on public buy-in. As in many European nations, Austrian taxpayers are questioning the legitimacy of the problem and the high costs of transitioning energy systems. Responding to taxpayers' concerns, the ambassador emphasised private-sector financing and Austria's aspirational commitments.

As COP28 approaches, bolder, collective climate action will be more urgent than ever to keep the 1.5°C warming limit goal alive. The summit represents a pivotal chance to significantly "accelerate emissions reductions, through an approach of pragmatism and validity."

Austria and the UAE, as Berchtold noted, can help "drive momentum" — and the former has important expertise to share, considering 70 per cent of its electricity comes from renewables.

While climate cooperation between the UAE and Austria holds promise, geopolitical headwinds could hinder the ambitions of the COP28 summit. Though the UAE seeks to "take us [further along] the steps which are needed", ongoing conflicts have cast a shadow on the talks.

More specifically, tensions like the Israel-Palestine conflict complicate the geopolitical landscape surrounding COP28. Berchtold stressed that "we must not lose sight of what is at stake" on climate goals. Additionally, he said: “We should work on peaceful and just solutions for the conflict, protecting civilians, and ensuring sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Some analysts warn simmering conflicts are making the "global consensus" needed for ambitious climate action at COP28 even more difficult. But, as Berchtold noted, it is now — more than ever — that "peaceful and just solutions" as well as unity are imperative to save the planet.

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