COP28: UN launch AI Innovation Challenge for climate action
Written by Stuart Crowley Thu 14 Dec 2023
The UN Climate Change Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and Enterprise Neurosystem, a non-profit AI community, have launched the AI Innovation Grand Challenge at COP28.
In collaboration with the COP28 Presidency, the challenge was introduced as a means to utilise AI in tackling climate change. This initiative aims to develop AI-powered solutions for climate action in developing countries.
Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, noted the value of AI in this context, but also acknowledged the challenges and risks associated with the technology.
“We are seeing increasing evidence that AI can prove an invaluable instrument in tackling climate change. While we remain mindful of the associated challenges and risks of AI, the Innovation Grand Challenge is a promising step forward in harnessing the power of AI and empowering innovators in developing countries,” said Stiell.
Omar Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, emphasised the strategic importance of integrating AI into national policies for mitigating climate change. He highlighted the need for global collaboration in this initiative, given the transnational nature of climate change.
“This integration facilitates the use of data analytics to align policy with real-time climate data, thereby enhancing its efficacy and advancing technological development and scientific discovery in the field of energy,” said Al Olama.
The event also addressed how AI is currently being used in various areas such as predicting climate patterns, improving agricultural yields, and optimising renewable energy systems. Discussions focused on using AI for transformational climate action in developing nations while avoiding widening the digital divide.
Shantal Munro-Knight, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office for Barbados, spoke about partnering with international tech companies to test AI applications in areas like disease detection and hurricane-resistant building design.
She stressed the importance of collaboration, training, and technology transfer in making AI a practical tool for climate mitigation and adaptation in small island developing states.
Senegal’s Minister of Communications, Moussa Bocar Thiam, addressed the need to adapt technology to consider the digital divide, particularly among those most vulnerable to climate change.
“Integration of chatbot voice with local languages in these emerging technology tools is one solution that would ensure the existing digital divide is taken into account,” said Thiam.
Ali Zaidi, Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor of the USA, reiterated the necessity of managing the risks while harnessing the potential of AI. He referred to President Biden’s Executive Order on AI as evidence of the USA’s commitment to this cause.
This initiative is part of the Technology Mechanism Initiative on Artificial Intelligence for Climate Action, which explores AI’s potential to scale up climate solutions in developing countries.
It aligns with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s call for safe and reliable AI to accelerate climate action towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Stig Svenningsen and Erwin Rose, Chairs of the Technology Mechanism, encouraged new collaborations and partnerships under the #AI4ClimateAction Initiative to deliver tangible results in policy and implementation.
COP28 Agreement Marks Shift Towards Ending Fossil Fuel Era
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) concluded with an agreement marking the ‘beginning of the end’ of the fossil fuel era. This agreement sets the foundation for a swift, just, and equitable transition, with deep emissions cuts and increased finance.
The Conference, attended by negotiators from nearly 200 Parties in Dubai, reached a decision on the first ‘global stocktake’ to enhance climate action before 2030. This aims to keep the global temperature limit of 1.5°C within reach.
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell recognised the progress made in Dubai as the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. He urged governments and businesses to promptly convert pledges into real-economy outcomes.
The global stocktake, considered the central outcome of COP28, comprises ‘every element that was under negotiation’ and will guide countries in developing stronger climate action plans by 2025.
It recognizes the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels. This is with the vision to limit global warming to 1.5°C. But it was noted that parties are off track when it comes to meeting their Paris Agreement goals.
The stocktake also calls for actions towards tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements by 2030, among other measures.
Short-term goals encourage parties to present ambitious emission reduction targets in their next round of climate action plans by 2025.
Strengthening Resilience to Climate Change Effects
The Conference began with the World Climate Action Summit, attended by 154 Heads of States and Government. A significant agreement was reached on the operationalisation of the loss and damage fund, with commitments exceeding £551 million ($700 million).
An agreement was also reached that the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the UN Office for Project Services will host the secretariat of the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage. This platform looks to deliver technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
Parties agreed on targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and its framework, which identify how to be resilient in the face of climate change and assesses countries’ efforts.
The GGA framework reflects a global consensus on adaptation targets and the need for finance, technology and capacity-building support to achieve them.
Increasing Climate Finance
Climate finance was also a central theme, with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) receiving pledges totaling £10 billion ($12.8 billion) from 31 countries. Additional commitments to the Least Developed Countries Fund, Special Climate Change Fund, and Adaptation Fund were also made.
However the global stocktake highlighted that these financial pledges are far short of the trillions eventually needed to support developing countries with clean energy transitions, implementing their national climate plans, and adaptation efforts.
The stocktake underscored the necessity of reforming the multilateral financial architecture and establishing new sources of finance. Discussions continuted on setting a new collective quantified goal on climate finance, starting from a baseline of £78.7 billion ($100 billion) per year.
The Critical Years Ahead
The negotiations on the ‘enhanced transparency framework’ laid the foundation for a ‘new era’ of implementing the Paris Agreement.
UN Climate Change is developing the transparency reporting and review tools for use by parties, which were showcased and tested at COP28.
The next two years are considered crucial, with governments required to establish a new climate finance goal at COP29 and present new nationally determined contributions aligned with the 1.5°C limit at COP30.
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell urged continued commitment and action: “We must get on with the job of putting the Paris Agreement fully to work … Every single commitment – on finance, adaptation, and mitigation – must bring us in line with a 1.5-degree world.
“My final message is to ordinary people everywhere raising their voices for change. Every one of you is making a real difference. In the crucial coming years your voices and determination will be more important than ever. I urge you never to relent. We are still in this race. We will be with you every single step of the way.”
COP28 President, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, said: “The world needed to find a new way. By following our North Star, we have found that path. We have worked very hard to secure a better future for our people and our planet. We should be proud of our historic achievement.”
It was agreed that Azerbaijan will the host of COP29 in 2024, and Brazil as COP30 host in 2025.
Written by Stuart Crowley Thu 14 Dec 2023
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