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The UAE should host the Cop28 climate change conference as “one of the most ambitious countries in the world” in tackling environmental issues, an Emirates ambassador said.

The country was an ideal candidate as it understood the challenges faced by other developing nations in becoming carbon neutral, said Majid Al-Suwaidi.

As an oil rich-country, the UAE has to think about the future so it is well positioned for “when that last barrel of oil is produced”, he said.

There should also be some punishment for countries that fail to meet targets set at climate conferences, said former French president Francis Hollande, who joined Mr Al-Suwaidi at an event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of New York University Abu Dhabi [NYUAD].

The UAE’s bid to host the next Cop [Conference of the Parties] has received some encouragement from the UK, which is hosting Cop26 in November. In an interview with The National this week, Alok Sharma, the Cop26 president, said in reference to a climate conference the UAE hosted in April the country “has demonstrated that it is able to organise these events”.

Former French president Francois Hollande and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in the Emirates palace. Mr Hollande has called for countries to face sanction if they fail to meet climate goals. AFP

Mr Al-Suwaidi, who was the Emirates negotiator at the 2015 Paris climate deal, said that the UAE was a leader on environmental issues and “hosting a Cop would show how committed we are to this process”.

“We fall in the category of a developing country that has the resources to tackle these issues but is also able to understand the issues of developing countries,” he told the Tenth Talks conference that marked a decade of NYUAD.

Understanding the challenges gave the Emirates the “opportunity to be a good mediator and help make progress”.

“UAE already has been one of the most ambitious countries in the world in terms of the policies we set and the goals we have made and the actions we have actually taken,” he said.

The diplomat, who is ambassador to Spain, said he was frequently asked why as a fossil fuel producer the UAE was so interested in renewable energy.

“The answer is that we are a country that is interconnected with the world and we feel the effects of things like climate change first,” he said. “We are thinking about the future. We are thinking about how, when that last barrel of oil is produced, we will be in a much better place?”

Mr Hollande, the president of France from 2012 to 2017, said that there were “disappointments” in the Paris Agreement and its commitments to reduce global warming were “less ambitious than we would have liked”.

He urged the British hosts of Cop26 to create a mechanism whereby commitments could be “reinforced and verified”.

“What was lacking in the Paris Agreement was that … there was no sanction for failure to respect these commitments,” he said. “I was hoping in Glasgow we could find a mechanism of verification and control and possibly create some pressure.”

Tenth Talks reflect on the milestone achievements since NYUAD’s founding and examine how the Abu Dhabi-backed university has a positive effect on higher education.

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